Tequila Tasting Mexican Style

Degustación de Tequila al Estilo Mexicano

Many people believe that tequila is only drunk in shots or margaritas and do not know that there is more than one type of tequila. However, quality tequila is a drink to be savored like cognac or brandy. If you want to learn to differentiate one tequila from another it is recommended to attend a tequila tasting. The tequila tasting combines several small but important details to make the flavor stand out on your palate.

Before we unveil the tequila tasting process, let’s read some history:

Tequila has its origins in the pre-Hispanic drink “octili poliqhui”, the fermented pulp of “mexcalmetl” or maguey (Spanish for Agave americana). The pre-Hispanic peoples discovered that in the center or heart of the magueyes there is abundant liquid or pulp and when the pulp is exposed to air it ferments producing a delicious soft drink that we now know as pulque.

When the Spanish learned this process, just after the conquest in the 16th century, they began to experiment distilling pulque just like they did with wine to make brandy, their favorite drink. The result was a stronger alcoholic beverage called mezcal, which is obtained from many species of maguey. Later, they discovered that a local variety of maguey, Agave tequilana Weber or blue agave, grew around the town of Tequila, which produced a milder version with a unique flavor and thus tequila, the liquor, was born. And as the Mexicans say: its name is tequila, but its last name is mezcal.

This region became the official place for tequila production, which later spread to other regions of the state of Jalisco, where the town of Tequila is located, and the states of Nayarit, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Tamaulipas. Today, tequila production is regulated by the Norma Oficial Mexicana (Mexican Official Norm) or NOM. To be labeled as tequila, it must contain at least 51% pure blue agave; 100% agave tequila can only be made in Mexico.


Five Tequila Categories

The five official categories of tequila based on their age and color as determined by NOM:

  • Blanco or plata (white or silver): young tequila, clear color, robust flavor; good for mixed drinks and shots.
  • Joven or oro (young or gold): not aged, light gold color, smoother flavor; good for mixed drinks and shots.
  • Reposado (rested or aged): aged between 2 months and 1 year, the most popular tequila type, golden color, slightly smoother flavor; good for mixed drinks and shots.
  • Añejo (aged or vintage): aged between 1 and 3 years, amber color, exceptional quality, and smooth flavor; best consumed neat, chilled, and sipped like brandy.
  • Extra Añejo (ultra-aged or mature): aged a minimum of 3 years, dark amber color, superior
    quality, and a smooth, complex flavor; best consumed neat, chilled, and sipped like cognac.


Guía Básica para Degustar un Tequila

Tequila Tasting Process

1st − Hold the glass up to the light, appreciate the tequila color, then swirl it around. Check the consistency of the tequila as it drips down the inside the glass. Does it run down quickly or slowly? Is the liquid thinner or thicker?

2nd − Next, bring the glass to your nose and smell the medley of scents. Before sipping the tequila, count to three, inhale, and hold your breath since exposure to air contaminates the flavor. Take a sip immediately, swirl it around in your mouth, swallow, and exhale. What flavors do you detect? Citrus, spice, wood, floral, vanilla, caramel, chocolate…?

3rd − And the process continues sampling many tequilas within each category. Each type is unique and each one has distinctive notes.

4th − For the final taste, a special tomato, orange, lime, and pepper blend called Sangrita (little blood) is served, made specially to pair with a Blanco or Reposado tequila. Guests first take a sip of Sangrita alternating with a sip of tequila, which accentuates the delicious tequila taste.

Although tequila is already an internationally accessible drink, if you are traveling to Mexico, you can’t miss a tequila tasting. Salud!