Tequila (Spanish pronunciation: [teˈkila]) is a blue agave–based spirit made primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, 65 kilometers (40 mi) northwest of Guadalajara, and in the highlands (Los Altos) of the western Mexican state of Jalisco.
Tequila is most often made at a 38–40% alcohol content (76–80 proof), but can be produced between 35–55% alcohol content (70–110 proof). Though most tequilas are 80 proof, many distillers will distill to 100 proof and then dilute it with water to reduce its harshness. Some of the more well respected brands distill the alcohol to 80 proof without using additional water as a diluent.
There are two basic categories of tequila: mixtos and 100% agave. Mixtos use no less than 51% agave, with other sugars making up the remainder. Mixtos use both glucose and fructose sugars.
With 100% agave tequila, blanco or plata is harsher with the bold flavors of the distilled agave up front, while reposado and añejo are smoother, subtler, and more complex. As with other spirits that are aged in casks, tequila takes on the flavors of the wood, while the harshness of the alcohol mellows. The major flavor distinction with 100% agave tequila is the base ingredient, which is more vegetal than grain spirits (and often more complex).
Tequila is usually bottled in one of five categories:
- Blanco ("white") or plata ("silver"): white spirit, un-aged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels;
- Joven ("young") or oro ("gold"): is blanco or silver tequila with caramel or food coloring added. If caramel flavoring is used (versus food coloring) to create the 'Gold' color in the Tequila, the Gold tequila is less harsh when drunk as a 'shot', as the small amount of caramel flavoring slightly tones down the harshness in the mouth and throat, when compared to the silver or blanco tequila. Examples are Jose Cuervo Gold or Sauza Gold
- Reposado ("rested"): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels;
- Añejo ("aged" or "vintage"): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in oak barrels;
- Extra Añejo ("extra aged" or "ultra aged"): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. This category was established in March 2006.