Decatur Wine and Spirits Spirits Aisles

Priming for a Tequila Sunrise

When Summer is just around the corner, visions of margarita pitchers start appearing in our heads as a way to beat the heat and enjoy the lazy days.

Not a tequila aficionado? Had a bad experience? More than likely, you simply drank a bad tequila. Time to upgrade to the real thing.

Agave tequilana, a.k.a. blue agave. Tequila is made from sap extracted from the hearts (the core beneath the leaves) of plants which are eight or more years old.

The Myth and Gist
Tequila is made from the roasted hearts of the blue agave plant, a spiky leaved desert plant that grows best in Mexico. In order to be called tequila, the liquor must contain at least 51% of the blue agave plant’s fermented juice.

If your bottle has a worm, tarantula or scorpion, it’s not tequila. It is mezcal.

There are hundreds of species of agave plants, but the blue agave plant is the only species used to produce real tequila.

Real tequila must also be made in the “Tequila” region of Mexico. Any liquor made outside of Tequila, Mexico, or made out of another species of the agave plant is instead called mezcal.

The Best and Rest
Since tequila must only contain 51% blue agave juice to be called tequila, the first thing to consider is the tequila’s overall purity if you truly want a decent drink.

Good tequilas will be made from 100% blue agave — no extra sweeteners, caramel coloring, or fillers like those found in the less expensive "jug" tequilas. As a result, these tequilas will also taste cleaner, fresher, and are less likely to cause a gagging reflex.

Types of Tequila


Oro ("gold"): Unaged tequila which is "abogado" (adulterated) with caramel, fructose, glycerin and/or wood flavoring to resemble aged tequila. Used for frozen margaritas.

Blanco ("white") or Plata ("silver"): Unaged tequila. Best used for shooting and mixing.

Repasado ("rested"): Aged for at least sixty days and as long as a year. Best used for mixing and sipping.

Añejo ("aged"): Aged a minimum of one year but less than three years in oak barrels. Best for sipping.

Oh Dear, it’s not all clear
Okay, you’ve gone to the tequila shelf and you are now staring at all the various brands of 100% blue agave tequila. Some are white, some are dark. Some are expensive, and others more value priced. So, what do you choose?

After quantity of blue agave, the next factor that determines the taste (and price) of tequila is age.

White, or “blanco”, tequila is unaged. Unlike some other spirits, this doesn’t mean that it will taste raw and harsh. Instead, blanco tequila is the one that embodies the greatest pure flavor of the agave plant. As a result, it will be crisp, sharp, peppery, and slightly sweet with an herbal quality.

White tequilas are great for shooting and mixing.

Reposado tequilas represent the next level of aging. These tequilas are aged for a minimum of sixty days and for as long as a year with most aged between two and nine months.

Aging the tequila subdues some of the peppery and herbal notes while preserving the basic flavor profile and introducing new flavors from the wood such as vanilla, spice, cedar and smoke. In general, the aging process will also make the tequila a little smoother and darker in color.

Resposado tequilas are great for sipping, shooting, and mixing.

If tequila is aged longer than a reposado, then it is called an añejo, or “old”, tequila. These tequilas are aged for at least a year with many aged up to three years or even longer. The extra time in the wood smoothes out the tequila even more and subdues much of the pepperiness and herbal nature of the spirit.

Almost all anejos are also aged in used bourbon barrels, adding a cherry fruitiness to the taste profile.

Aged tequilas are best sipped like single barrel bourbons and cognac.

Some of the brands of tequila available at our store. Ask our staff for assistance in finding the variety you're in the mood for.

But What About the Brand
There are many nice añejos, repasados and blancos with various, unique flavors depending upon the origin, type and aging process. Some are fruitier like the Corazón, while others are woodier and dry.

One example of tequila that preserves more of the agave flavor is the Don Julio brand. Another very smooth tequila is the ever-popular Patrón brand.

But if you want to try a rich, dark tequila, you might want to sample a Herradura.

Given that each brand is different, there is no right or wrong brand.

Back to Margaritaville
There is, of course, also a time and place for the jug, especially if you’re making frozen drinks or having a big party.

But if you take the opportunity to try some of the other tequilas, it might help you understand what all the fuss is about. If you already enjoy nice snifter of añejo, keep exploring… there are lots of great tequilas out there!

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