Tequila is a distilled spirit that is produced only in Mexico, and only then in the region of Tequila. Juice from the heart of the agave plant is fermented and distilled twice to make tequila. The production of Tequila has to be in compliance with stringent regulations put forth by the Mexican government.
To make tequila, you need to start with ripe blue agave plants, which that take eight to ten years to mature. When the plants have reached their peak ripeness, the leaves are stripped off and only the core or “piña” is used in the making of tequila. These cores can weigh from 40 to 80 lbs, and some can weigh even more.
The piñas are then taken to the distillery where they are cut up for roasting. The piñas are roasted in special furnaces, and the starches in the cores turn to sugar. Each piña makes approximately 8 bottles of tequila. After baking, the piñas are shredded and put through a press. The press squeezes the juice from the shredded piña pulp. The juices are then pressed from the shredded pulp and placed in fermentation tanks.
Once the juices are in the fermentation tanks, yeast is added. Distillers have their own technique for the adding of the yeast. At this point, the yeast begins to act upon the sugars of the roasted pulp, turning it in to alcohol.
Juices now ferment for 30 to 48 hours. With no additional processing, the fermented piña juice has about a 6% alcohol content. The fermented juice is distilled two or even three times in either customary copper stills or more up to date still that are made of stainless steel. The first distillation is always a rough, low-grade distillate and the second or third run is used to purify and perfect the liquor. Ultimately, distillers want to create a product that captures the aroma of the agave and, at the same time, tastes as pure as possible. Alcohol content may be between 70 and 110 Proof.
This becomes your basic tequila blanco, or silver tequila. Oro, or gold, tequila requires 2 months aging in oak barrels. Reposado tequila – or “rested tequila”- must be aged for up to a year. Tequila añejo is premium tequila and needs to be aged in oak for at least one year. Many producers age añejo for many years. This is considered to be the best tequila available and will be very expensive.
*Per Mexican government guidelines, all tequilas are required to age for at least 14-21 days. To be called a “Tequila”, It must be made from 100 percent natural ingredients, and be at least 38% alcohol. Most importantly, it must be made from blue agave grown and harvested only in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit or Tamaulipas.