Perhaps the most ‘organic’ of all is Tequila…
Tequila seems to be quietly awaiting some attention as the interest in barrel aged spirits continues to grow. Mostly left behind in the market today Tequila exists for many as a youthful memory of an upset stomach. The category has also been lead for many years by a well-known brand which barley qualifies as Tequila and isn’t the traditionally crafted spirit that Mexico is so proud of.
In short, Tequila is amazing. It’s a must try. Tequila production is limited to a relatively small area in the western central highlands of Mexico in and around the city of Tequila. It is made exclusively from the agave plant (always be sure that the bottle you choose is labeled ‘100% agave) and shows the unique characteristics of the land where the plant was grown (the growing region is about twice as large as the production region). In few spirits is terroir as evident as it is in tequila.
Agave is a hardy, earthy, herbaceous dessert plant that takes around ten years to mature to where it is ready for harvest.
Harvesting is hard work and after the pointed leaves are cut away the heart of the plant resembles a pineapple (and is called a piña) weighing in at as much as 200 pounds. These enormous piñas are packed into an oven and slowly baked. When cooking completes the piñas must be mashed, traditionally done with large stone wheels. The pulp is a great compost / livestock feed and the agave juice is the nectar of Tequila.
Tequila has been around since the 16th century and is one of the first native spirits of our continent. From sweet and fruity to rich herbaceous earthiness the character of Tequila is rich in history and the land from which it is born. Most Tequila is sold in is natural clear ‘blanco’ state but flavors are further developed in ‘Reposado’ and ‘Añejo’ offerings which are, respectively ‘rested’ from 2 to 12 months or ‘aged’ from 1 to 3 years in oak barrels. Reposado Tequilas are my favorite, maintaining the boldness of the agave with more complexity and a more mellow alcohol. It’s not unreasonable to mix a reposado, but they are perfect for sipping.
Tequila is a world class spirit.