2015 MAR – TEQUILA

The large heart of the agave with leaves protrudin

The large heart of the agave with leaves protrudin

Who knew there is actually a town called Tequila?! The drink is named after the town where it all originated.

We visited a distillery and Francisco translated everything the Spanish speaking guide said. I have found that not too many Mexicans know gringo-speak, so it is super useful having Francisco with me all the time.

Agave plants stretching to the horizon

Agave plants stretching to the horizon

Tequila is made from the agave plant. The agave are grown in neat rows that cover the hills and stretch as far as the eye can see. The plants are carefully tended and by the time the agave is about 5-6 years old, it develops a large pineapple base which is the heart of the plant. The agave fronds are then chopped off and the heart removed. The expected sugar content of the heart determines the harvest time. Hundreds of hearts are piled in a large oven and heated until the pineapple hearts are mush. This also makes it easier to extract the sugar.

Then the mushy hearts are placed in crushers and the tequila juice is extracted. During the fermentation process the sugar is converted to alcohol.

Hearts of agave ready for their initial heating.

Hearts of agave ready for their initial heating.

It is then mixed with water and moved to a large steel vat where the fermented pulp is super-heated. The vat then contains 3 layers – the top layer is floating mush, the middle layer is the tequila, and the bottom layer is fibrous stuff left over from the agave plant. The middle layer of tequila is extracted and the rest discarded.

Vats used for the fermentation process

Vats used for the fermentation process

The 55% pure (middle layer) tequila is then aged in barrels stored underground for anywhere up to 5 years. All the barrels are French oak barrels and were previously used to age bourbon.

Tequila fermenting in huge steel vats - the bubbles rotates the tequila strongly!

Tequila fermenting in huge steel vats – the bubbles rotates the tequila strongly!

In the distillery we visited, the tequila of different ages was placed in different colored bottles.

Tequila aged in barrels underground where it is a constant 65 degrees

Tequila aged in barrels underground where it is a constant 65 degrees

The least aged tequila (1 month) is placed in clear glass bottles.
The tequila aged for 1-10 months is in blue glass bottles.
The tequila aged for 1-3 years is in green glass bottles.
And finally the tequila aged for 3-5 years is in red glass bottles. .

Tequila tasting room underground

Tequila tasting room underground

The longer it ages, the LESS alcohol it contains. So the 5-year tequila is considerably smoother than the raw tequila straight out of the super-heated vats.

Of course, you get drunker faster on the 55% pure stuff.

 

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