As a tequila lover, when tasting a Blanco or silver tequila, you’ll find that it offers the purest expression of the agave plant, since it’s typically unaged and bottled immediately after distillation. Here are some flavors and tasting notes you might experience.
When tasting Blanco Tequila, it’s also important to note the mouthfeel. It should be smooth and not overly burning, with a clean finish that leaves you with the various flavors described above. The best way to fully appreciate these flavors is to sip the tequila neat, at room temperature, and from a proper tequila glass or snifter to concentrate the aromas.
Reposado Tequila, which means “rested,” is aged in wood barrels for anywhere between two months and a year. This aging process introduces new flavor profiles and softens the harshness of the alcohol. Here are some flavors and tasting notes that are commonly associated with reposado tequila:
Oak: The wood aging imparts a warm and inviting oak character that can include notes of vanilla and caramel.
Agave: While the Agave flavor is still present, it's often mellower compared to Blanco tequila, with a richer sweetness.
Spice: Cinnamon, nutmeg, and other baking spices may emerge from the interaction with the wood.
Butterscotch/Caramel: The natural sugars in the tequila can develop into deeper, sweeter flavors like butterscotch or caramel due to the aging process.
Fruit: Reposado may offer more cooked or dried fruit notes, such as cooked apple, pear, or raisins.
Honey: There's often a smooth, honey-like sweetness that wasn't present in the Blanco version.
Smoke: Depending on the type of barrel used, there can be a subtle smokiness.
Leather: Aged spirits can sometimes take on an earthy, leathery quality.
Pepper: The peppery bite of a Blanco can be softened into a gentle warmth in a reposado.
Butter: A creamy, buttery texture and flavor can become pronounced, adding to the smoothness of the tequila.
The taste of reposado tequila can also be influenced by whether the barrels used were new or previously held other spirits, like bourbon or wine, which can introduce additional layers of flavor. Reposado tequilas are versatile; they can be enjoyed neat, over ice, or in cocktails that benefit from the tequila’s complexity and depth.
Añejo tequila, which translates to “aged,” spends one to three years maturing in oak barrels, and this extended aging process imbues the spirit with a rich complexity and smoothness. Añejo tequilas are known for their deep colors and robust flavors. Here are the typical flavors and tasting notes you might experience with an Añejo tequila.
Vanilla: Due to the influence of the oak, vanilla is a prominent and often rich note in añejo tequilas.
Caramel and Toffee: The aging process can create deep, sweet flavors reminiscent of caramel or toffee, lending a dessert-like quality to the tequila.
Oak: The wood's presence is more pronounced in an añejo, contributing a full-bodied oakiness that can sometimes have a charred edge.
Dark Chocolate: Some añejos have a bitterness akin to dark chocolate, adding a sophisticated twist to the flavor profile.
Dried Fruits: The flavors of raisins, prunes, and other dried fruits are common, adding a chewy, rich fruitiness.
Spices: Añejo tequila often carries spice notes such as cinnamon, allspice, or cloves, which are enhanced by the aging process.
Nuts: You may detect the subtlety of almond or walnut, contributing to the tequila's complexity.
Agave: While still present, the agave flavor is much more subdued and intertwined with the other rich flavors from the barrel.
Butterscotch: A rich butterscotch note can often be found, along with the caramel, which can be quite pronounced.
Leather and Tobacco: These earthy notes may come through, especially in Añejos that have spent a longer time in the barrel.
Smoke: Depending on the barrels used, a smoky quality can be imparted to the tequila, similar to what's found in some whiskeys.
Añejo tequila is often best enjoyed neat or with just a small amount of ice to open up the flavors. Its complexity and depth make it comparable to fine whiskies or brandies, and it is often enjoyed in a similar fashion, perhaps after a meal or as a sophisticated sipping spirit.
Detecting Additives in Tequila
Detecting additives in tequila can be challenging, especially because they are often used to mimic the characteristics of a well-aged or higher-quality spirit. However, there are some signs and techniques you can use to get a better idea if a tequila might contain additives:
Taste and Aroma Overload: If a tequila seems to have an overwhelmingly sweet, smooth, or strong flavor that masks the natural agave taste, it might contain additives. Natural tequila should have a balance of sweetness, earthiness, and sometimes a bit of harshness, especially in younger tequilas.
Consistency Across Batches: Artisanal tequilas often have slight variations from batch to batch due to natural factors. If every bottle of a particular brand tastes exactly the same, it could be a sign of additives being used for consistency.
Legs and Tears: When you swirl the tequila in your glass, observe the legs or tears that run down the side. Tequilas with additives may have thicker, more syrupy legs.
Color: In aged tequilas, a very dark color can sometimes be a result of additives. While aging in barrels does impart color, extremely dark hues in an Añejo or extra Añejo might indicate caramel coloring.
After Effects: Pay attention to how you feel after drinking the tequila. Additives can sometimes lead to harsher hangovers or a feeling of heaviness.
Transparency of the Brand: Research the brand and their production process. Some brands are open about their use of additives, while others might be less transparent. The NOM (Norma Official Mexicana) number on the bottle can help you research the distillery and its practices.
Professional Tasting Notes: Compare your experience with professional reviews and tasting notes. If there's a significant discrepancy in the profiles, especially in terms of sweetness or smoothness, it might indicate additives.
Price Point: While not always the case, cheaper tequilas are more likely to use additives to enhance flavor and mask impurities.