Between the foothills of the Tequila volcano and the Rio Grande Valley sits 34,658 hectares of agave plantations and former industrial facilities. On July 24, 2006, this area of Tequila, Jalisco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The date later took on particular relevance when it became International Tequila Day.
It has been a long road for this spirit, which did not initially rank as the main product of the agave plant (a spot occupied by textiles and ropes). Its production began clandestinely, since New Spain’s legislation prohibited the production of local spirits so that they wouldn’t compete with Spanish wines and liqueurs. Then, in the middle of the 17th century, its production quantity became such that it was more profitable to legalize it and thus collect taxes from the manufacturers.
Tequila gradually gained in popularity, going from a peasant’s drink to a distinct marker of Mexican identity. In the golden age of cinema, charros, stereotypical cowboy-esque heroes, reinforced its reputation, while, nowadays, having a tequila brand is a status symbol for celebrities and international figures like Kendall Jenner, Adam Levine, and Michael Jordan.
The top five tequila consuming nations outside of Mexico last year were the United States, Germany, Spain, Australia, and Colombia. However, it is worth mentioning that our northern neighbor imported more than 10 times the rest of the countries listed – a whopping 340 million liters*.
In accordance with Mexican law, tequila can be 100% blue agave or contain a minimum of 50% sugars from the blue agave, but never less.
Tequila is matured in oak barrels after distillation and they are categorized are as follows depending on the aging process:
Blanco o plata
(White or silver): The aging process is brief, up to a couple of months, thus producing a transparent liquid with water as the only dilution.
Joven u oro
(Young or gold): The result of blending white tequila with reposado, añejo, or extra añejo tequilas.
These include tequilas aged for at least two months and blends that include aged and extra aged tequilas; the taste begins to become drier and sweeter.
Matured for at least one year in barrels of no more than 600 liters; blends with extra añejo tequilas also fit into this category.
Shares the process with añejo tequila, but its minimum maturation period is 3 years.
Although not an official classification considered by the Mexican Official Standard, it is used as a distinctive marker for each producer’s top quality batches.
Tequila has been a faithful guest at millions of parties, the inspiration for popular songs, and a source of some wild adventures, however, it could take on a different kind of significance in the field of clean energy. At UNAM’s Faculty of Engineering, processes are being developed to convert wastewater from the blue agave, which is currently not used, into hydrogen fuel. Hopefully, in the near future, we will be able to toast with a margarita and enjoy not only the pleasure of a refreshing cocktail, but also the knowledge that we’re helping to curb the rising temperatures on the planet.
*Information from the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (Tequila Regulatory Council), liters exported from June 1, 2022 to June 1, 2023.
- US – 340,278,775.15
- Germany – 12,484,540.03
- Spain – 11,250,209.58
- Australia – 4,864,522.41
- Colombia – 4,464,563.74