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Spirits: Tequila

Don’t swear it off forever

M

exico’s national drink happens to

be one of the things most wrong

with the drinks trade. I speak of

Tequila of course, rather than beer. Its

mysterious hold over the humble weekend

drinker has curiously not been the subject of

closer scrutiny. Like its Scottish kissingcousin,

Buckfast, its consumption appears to

precede outbreaks of daftness,

obnoxiousness and, occasionally, violence. A

brief poll of Edinburghers suggested that

behaviour of a less than sensible nature was

usually the direct outcome of an evening

spent imbibing the liquid. Some of the

respondents went further, claiming that the

drink ‘isn’t the tastiest, but makes for

interesting conversation later in the night’,

some participants simply turned pale at the

mere mention of Tequila. It would appear

that one disastrous encounter means a

lifetime of fear and avoidance of both

straight Tequila and cocktails which contain

it. A million students have proven that there

is nothing particularly pleasant about rivers

of cheap Tequila, but there is plenty of

quality spirit about, and it’s worth knowing

what to look for in order to get over your

fear of the spirit.

Tequila’s production from blue agave dates

back to the 16th Century – so our fate was

sealed some time ago. The area around the

city of Tequila is delineated, and only spirits

from the specific regions are allowed to

carry the name ‘Tequila’. The juice from the

hand-harvested plants is fermented and then

distilled in large pot stills. The resultant

liquid is clear, with the darker types a result

either of the addition of caramel or oak

ageing. Tequila must legally be 51% blue

agave (the rest can be made up with sugar

and water), but quality spirit is made from

100% agave and will usually indicate this on

the label.

The spirit is sold as four types –

Silver/White Tequila has no aging and

has been kept in stainless steel for a

maximum of 60 days, if at all. This is the

most basic type, and is used mostly for

mixing. Gold/Joven Tequila is simply

silver tequila sweetened with caramel,

making it ideal for specific cocktails and

shots. Reposado Tequila spends at least 2

months in oak, taking on a rounder texture

and smoother taste; these are popular in

Mexico and are markedly higher in quality

than the Silver and Gold types. Finally there

is Añejo Tequila, which spends at least

one year in oak, giving a more robust and

complex taste and aroma. These are often

described as being akin to high quality rums,

whiskies et al; with the high-end spirit

certainly meriting a serious taste. The

application of these spirits in decent

cocktails is also worth noting, with bar staff

still championing the use of tequila with its

unique flavour profile and texture.

Tequila is a much misunderstood drink which

deserves another look; regardless of what

happened the last time you went near it.

Frances Bentley is the Scottish Sales

Manager for Champagne Duval-Leroy and

can be contacted on 07824 775862.

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