SUNRISE of TEQUILA
he mere word tequila can strike fear and horror into the hearts of much of the U.S. population, almost invariably due to an incident, or two, in younger days. This is an understandable response to any product—food or drink—and is presumably a subliminal defense mechanism to protect ourselves from selfharm. If it was bad before, it might be so again. For those affected by over-refreshing on tequila, this is truly a tragedy, as they are missing out on some wonderful sensory experiences. Tequila does not need to be shot back or confounded with other strong flavors such as salt or lime, and can be sipped unadulterated. (There are of course bottom-shelf tequilas that perhaps are best enjoyed in a margarita.) The common experience of tequila is one that belies the history and culture that underpin this venerable category of distilled spirits. So what is tequila? It is a subset of the broader mezcal category. Not all mezcals are tequilas, but all tequilas are mezcals. As a mezcal subcategory, tequila is arguably the most legislated spirit on the globe. It is considered explicitly in the regulations of Mexico, NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. Its alcohol must be made from at least 51% agave that is grown, fermented and distilled only in certain parts of Mexico, mainly Jalisco but also parts of four other states. 100% agave tequilas are considered to be premium relative to those supplemented with other sugar sources, which are known as mixtos. On every bottle of tequila a NOM number is found, which is unique to each distillery and is assigned by the Mexican government to what they consider to be authentic tequila producers. Other legislative details concern the movement of bulk tequila for bottling overseas, something that was also addressed in the Scotch whisky regulations of 2009, both with the same motivation: to keep tighter control over the movement of the spirits. The process for manufacturing tequila is arduous. The period of time between the planting of the raw material to achieving the final product in bottle can take eight years or more, a similar time-frame to that required for typical single malt Scotch whiskies. In the case of tequila though, most of that eight years is the time taken to grow the agave plants, whereas for Scotch whiskies most of the production time is maturation in warehouses. Both industries have challenges when trying to forecast demand, about two presidential elections ahead. However the position of tequila producers is far more precarious. The agave fields are subject to greater risks (e.g. adverse climatic conditions, spread of pests and diseases) than Scotch whisky in a warehouse, where the main risks are fires and, perhaps, roof collapses caused by heavy snowfall. Because of this and the legislative constraints on manufacture, tequila WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Written by Paul Hughes, Ph.D. & Sebastian Ramirez
The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.