Tequila drinkers are part of an exclusive group. After all, only around 18% of US adults drink tequila. If you want to join the tequila drinking club, you need to know that there isn’t just one kind of tequila.
The different types of tequila come about from the various methods used to distill them. You can generally distinguish between aged and unaged tequilas. The latter category includes two different kinds of tequila that vary by age.
Think silver and gold tequilas are the only agave-based liquors out there? Then you better check out this guide to find out what are the different types of tequila.
The Three Main Tequila Types: Explained
All good bourbons come out of Kentucky. By law, Scotch brands must distill their products in Scotland. And if your tequila is coming from anywhere other than Mexico, you aren’t really drinking tequila.
The best of the best tequila comes out of Jalisco, Mexico. A few cities in Nayarit, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, and Guanajuato also produce fair-quality tequilas worthy of your attention.
Why are these the top tequila distillers in the world? Because these states are also home to the blue agave plant.
Blue agave is the primary ingredient in tequila. Always shop for tequila proudly proclaiming it’s 100% blue agave tequila.
Choosing tequilas made from agave grown in highland areas will offer a sweeter, more floral flavor profile. Meanwhile, lowland-grown agave imparts herbal notes with mineral undertones.
The tequila-making process begins with harvesting the hearts of mature agave plants. Distillers steam the plant sugars before pressing out the heart’s juices. This process transforms the agave plant into the drink we all know and love.
Steaming agave instead of heating it underground is important. The latter method produces a different agave-based spirit altogether — mezcal.
But the former method produces the raw ingredients that will become the three main types of tequila: Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo tequila.
Tequila Blanco is also known as silver tequila, Plata tequila, or white tequila. It’s the least expensive and most widely available tequila on the market. Silver tequila is also the purest, least processed type of tequila.
In Spanish, reposado means rested. This tequila’s name comes from the fact that it gets aged in barrels. A true Tequila Reposado rests for at least 2 months or up to a year before bottling.
Anejo translates to “old” or “vintage” in Spanish. Like tequila Reposado, distillers age Anejo tequila in barrels before bottling it. The difference is that Anejos rest for at least a year, if not longer.
We’ll also discuss Extra Anejo and Anejo Crystalino tequilas. These products are identical to regular Anejos, but they age for at least three years and are charcoal-filtered, respectively.
These three different tequilas and mezcal aren’t the only agave-based products you can find on the market. Tequila Joven, tequila Curados, and gold tequila are blended options that you need to know about.
Tequila gold is highly popular, especially in bottom-shelf margaritas and mixed drinks. Yet, it’s hard to actually classify tequila gold as tequila.
Many gold tequilas are agave-based. But they aren’t made from 100% blue agave. Instead, manufacturers bottle these “mixtos” with additional ingredients.
Curados is another newer entry to the tequila category. These tequilas are mixtos, containing a majority of ingredients from non-agave-based liquors.
Tequila Curados may also contain colorings, sweeteners, and added flavorings. In fact, these tequilas can legally contain up to 75mL worth of non-agave-based ingredients per liter bottle.
Joven means “young” in Spanish. Young tequilas are easily mistakable for tequila mixtos because they both share a gold color. But don’t let that fool you — Tequila Joven is a much higher quality product.
Tequila Jovens come from 100% blue agave and should list that fact on the label. These products are a mix of un-aged and aged tequila. But distillers don’t add any additional food coloring or sugars.
Everything You Need to Know About Tequila Blanco
Tequila Blanco is the least aged tequila you can buy. Most manufacturers bottle it immediately after distillation.
Since the aging process produces new and unique flavors, silver is the youngest type of tequila. Many people also consider it the best type of tequila because it retains the authentic agave flavor.
Some tequila makers age their Blancos for 30–60 days. This quick aging process allows the flavors to meld and smooth out, making for a slightly higher-quality product.
Another thing to note is that Blancos are never aged in wooden barrels. High-end Blancos may be aged briefly in stainless steel, which doesn’t impart any additional flavors on the end product.
How to Drink Tequila Blanco
If you’re ever wondering what kind of tequila to use for margaritas, tequila Blanco is always a safe bet. It has a very mild flavor that doesn’t compete with your favorite summer drink’s sweet, lime-y flavors.
Silver tequila is also great for taking shots. Its nearly non-existent flavor goes well with other traditional tequila-based mixed drink recipes like the Paloma, Tequila Sunrise, and Bloody Maria.
Everything You Need to Know About Tequila Reposado
When shopping for tequilas, you can recognize tequila Reposado by its dark, amber color. Unlike gold tequilas, Reposados don’t need food colorings to get their color. The color comes from the natural aging process.
Distillers age Reposadas in wooden barrels. The type of wood used, where that wood originated from, and how the wood is processed (e.g., charred vs. uncharred) determine the exact flavor profile of the aged spirit.
Most tequilas get aged in oak or white oak barrels made from French or American trees. In general, oak gives liquors a vanilla flavor. French oak imparts a smooth, slightly spicy flavor; American oak provides both tropical and bourbon-like flavors.
How to Drink Tequila Reposado
Compared to silver tequila, Reposados have more complex flavor profiles. They tend to have a heavier weight in the mouth, too. Because Reposados are aged, they also have a smoother, softer taste compared to un-aged tequila.
These qualities make tequila Reposado ideal for sipping. The more robust flavor profile will add an extra kick to top-shelf margaritas, too.
When it comes to adding Reposados to mixed drinks, though, the fewer ingredients, the better. You don’t want to mask the unique flavors of your tequila Reposado. Let them shine on their own.
Everything You Need to Know About Tequila Anejo
Tequila Anejo is the oldest, longest-aged type of agave-based spirit you can get. Anejos must age for at least one year. But some high-end Anejo tequilas age for up to three years; Extra Anejo products age for even longer.
Distillers age Anejos and Extra Anejos in oak barrels with a similar method used to make Reposados. The longer aging process makes for a darker-colored and smoother flavored end product.
Though Anejo tequilas are smooth, they’re also packed with flavor. Bourbon drinkers will appreciate the complex vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar notes.
Anejo Crystalino Tequila
Crystalinos is one of the newest kinds of tequila on the market. These products start out as regular Anejo tequila before undergoing a charcoal filtration process. The charcoal filtration removes the Anejo’s amber color.
The method used to make Crystalinos also removes some of the flavors imparted by the oak barrel aging process. Crystalinos also has a lighter mouthfeel than traditional-aged tequilas, making them perfect for shots.
Extra Anejo Tequila
As we mentioned above, Extra Anejo tequilas age for at least three years. Some brands age their tequilas for up to five years. There are also Extra Anejo tequilas on the market that blend three-, four-, and five-year-aged tequilas.
Many connoisseurs consider Extra Anejos the best tequilas money can buy. And statistics show that Extra Anejo sales are growing 8x faster than the tequila category as a whole. But because it takes many years to make Extra Anejos, they’re extremely pricey.
States like Vermont, Wyoming, Arkansas, and North and South Dakota have a low volume of tequila drinkers. So, it can be difficult to find a true Extra Anejo tequila in these regions.
Tequila lovers in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois will have an easier time finding Extra Anejo products. Why? Because these states are home to the largest populations of tequila drinkers in America.
How to Drink Tequila Anejo
Anejo and especially Extra Anejo tequilas don’t need mixers. They’re perfectly sippable neat or on ice. Drinking high-end tequilas straight will help you learn to appreciate and distinguish between the different flavor profiles.
Add a twist of lime, orange, or pineapple to fruitier flavored Anejos if you must. A splash of soda and a few ice cubes are excellent mix-ins for a refreshing summer drink.
If you feel like your favorite Anejo needs a little something else, mix up a tequila Old Fashioned. The bourbon-like flavors from the oak barrel aging process lend themselves perfectly to this spin on an old classic.
Everything You Need to Know About Tequila Joven
Tequila Joven is usually a blend of Blanco and an aged tequila. More affordable Jovens will contain a blend of Blanco and Reposado tequilas. But some brands do produce Blanco-Anejo and even Blanco-Extra Anejo blend Jovens.
Some lower-quality Joven tequilas may contain added ingredients. Manufacturers may mix in food colorings and sugars, but most connoisseurs wouldn’t consider this kind of tequila a true tequila Joven.
How do you ensure the Joven you’re getting is of good quality? Search the label for key terms like “Made in Mexico” and “100% Blue Agave” to know for sure that your Joven is legitimate.
How to Drink Tequila Joven
Blended Jovens is highly versatile, offering the best of both aged and un-aged tequilas. They work perfectly in margaritas and other mixed tequila drinks. But they’re also delightfully sippable on their own.
Everything You Need to Know About Tequila Curados and Tequila Gold
Technically, a liquor only needs 51% blue agave to be legally classified as tequila. That’s why tequila Gold, Curados, and other mixtos can call themselves true tequilas even though they contain less than 100% blue agave distillate.
Gold and Curados tequilas should always be your last option when you have a choice. These products contain other types of distilled agave spirits, additives to give them their gold color, and extra sugar. Curados, specifically, include natural fruit flavorings and up to 75% alcohol from cane or corn sugars.
If you’ve ever experienced a severe hangover from tequila, odds are that you were drinking one of these mixtos. Blanco and aged tequilas might cost slightly more. But we promise that they’re completely worth it.
How to Drink Tequila Curados and Tequila Gold
We recommend avoiding Curados and gold tequilas at all costs. But if you absolutely must have a mixto, here are some tips for making it as enjoyable as possible.
Avoid drinking tequila mixtos straight. They won’t contain any of the complex flavors of aged tequilas. Mixto tequilas combined with other spirits may not offer an authentic agave taste either.
Since mixtos come with added sugar already, nix the simple syrup in margaritas and other mixed drinks. A small splash of agave syrup should suffice if you absolutely can’t live with the mixto bite.
Order Blanco and Anejo Types of Tequila Online
Blanco, Reposado, Anejos, and Joven are the best types of tequila. Steer clear of tequila Curados and Gold products. These tequilas aren’t made from 100% blue agave and may contain additives like sugar and food dye.
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