Waking up with a tequila feels like a bad decision the next day. But you can’t deny that as lethal as the aftereffects are, tequila is one of the best liquors out there. This Mexican liquor is a public favorite with a smooth taste and a pleasant burning sensation.
However, if you are just starting to explore alcohol at parties, wondering what tequila tastes like is a common thought. You aren’t the only person with a similar mindset. Given that there are different types of tequila available, distinguishing the flavors and taste becomes even more complicated.
Don’t worry, though, because we have got your back. This guide will walk you through everything you need about tequila, its types, and its taste and finish.
Flavor Profile of Tequila
To understand tequila’s flavor profile, you must understand the manufacturing process. Ask anyone, and they will tell you that downing tequila shots aren’t the most pleasant experience.
The bitter aftertaste is not very soothing on the palate. For those who aren’t aware, tequila is made from the sap of blue agave, filtered, distilled, bottled, and shipped to be sold.
The prominent flavor profile of tequila includes:
Earthy and herbaceous notes
Sweetness and bitterness
Citrus and fruit notes
If we had to base things on the above flavor profile, we need to understand how this liquor is made. You’d be surprised to know that it is a four-step process.
Tequila is made from the sap of the blue agave plant, which takes around 5-7 years to mature to produce the sap, called honey water or aquamiel.
The second step is harvesting the heart of the agave plant, alternatively known as the piña, since it mimics the look of a pineapple. These harvested hearts are steamed in a clay oven.
The third step is the most extensive. The cooked agave hearts are shredded and later pressed to extract all the sweet juice. Following this, the distillation process of the juice happens. During this process, the tequila’s early, herbaceous, and smoky flavor profile develops.
Once done, the last step is collecting the tequila and bottling them for shipping.
You’d be surprised to know that tequila’s flavor profile is location-specific too. The altitude and region where the blue agave is harvested greatly affect the flavor profile.
Types of Tequila and Their Taste
Tequila isn’t available in a single variant. Instead, there are four variants or types of tequila, each with a unique taste and flavor profile.
In most cases, the type of tequila is distinguished based on the duration of aging and the form of distillation it has undergone. Following are the top four types of tequila and their unique taste and flavor profile:
1.Blanco (Silver) Tequila
Commonly known as Plata, and is the one that’s not aged in oak. It has the highest sweetness, and you can taste the natural sweetness and flavor of agave.
This type is made from the blue agave sap grown in the region’s terroir, retaining the plant’s sharp sweetness and flavor. Many distillers age this tequila in steel barrels for up to two months to strengthen the flavor profile.
The blend of herbal, citrus, and peppery notes is the highest in this type of tequila. This type of tequila is best consumed in cocktails rather than neat.
The second variant is a long-aged Blanco, stored and aged in oak barrels. The aging process can range somewhere between two months to one year. When it comes to the flavor profile, it has a prominent taste of agave.
Extensive aging imparts the dark gold and honey color of tequila. The wood tannins from the oak barrel contribute to the dark color.
If you are wondering about the flavor profile, this type blends complex flavors with sweetness, citrus notes, cinnamon, and even a hint of vanilla.
3. Añejo (Aged) Tequila
A more profound-tasting tequila with over three years of aging is Añejo (Aged) Tequila. These tequila are distilled and aged in larger oak barrels for longer, making the flavors more robust.
Since it ages in oak wood barrels, tequila has a darker color and a richer flavor. You can feel the acidity of the aged tequila with a single shot.
4. Extra Añejo (Extra Aged) Tequila
If the name wasn’t a giveaway, Extra Añejo is the fourth and final type of tequila with maximum aging and the strongest flavor profile.
This type of tequila has been left in the barrel for over three years and has a very high proof. It can be lethal when drinking it neat and not advisable at all. The sharp spiciness from this particular tequila burns the throat, so it’s best to dilute it with some water.
Since it has a long aging time, this tequila is also fairly expensive. So, if you plan on ordering it at restaurants, keep that in consideration.
Factors that Affect the Taste of Tequila
Tequila’s taste will vary from one brand to the other and also from one type to another. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, several factors influence the taste of the tequila you are downing, one after the other.
From the duration of aging to the type of agave plant used in preparing the tequila, several factors affect the liquor’s flavor and taste.
The following are a few worth considering:
Agave plant variety and age – Tequila is made from the heart of the Weber azul agave plant, a unique type of agave plant. This liquor’s vegetal and earthy flavor heavily relies on the type of agave plant the manufacturer uses. The premium tequila is made with 100% heart of the Weber azul agave plant, while the standard ones contain 55% of the plant in concentration.
Soil and climate where the agave was grown – Since the agave heart is the main ingredient of tequila, it isn’t surprising that the soil and climate where the agave plant is grown make a huge difference in the taste and flavor of the liquor.
Roasting and cooking method – Once the agave heart is collected and cleaned, the next step is to boil or bake the hearts. The flavor will change depending on the cooking method. Baked or roasted variants have a richer and more complex flavor than boiled hearts.
Fermentation process – Any liquor relies on the fermentation process to develop the alcohol content in it, and the same applies to tequila. Since agave has a high sugar content, the fermentation is quick and impacts the flavor profile, leading to the tequila’s sugary, cinnamon, and vanilla notes.
Distillation and aging process – The last factor that drastically affects the taste of tequila is the aging process. As we discussed under the types of tequila, the duration of aging heavily influences the taste. For example, Blanco has the least developed flavor, while Extra Añejo has the strongest flavor.
Besides these common factors, even the way you taste your tequila makes a huge difference in the way the tequila tastes.
How to Taste Tequila?
When it comes to drinking tequila, there are two routes you can go – take a shot or mix it into cocktails.
Tasting tequila, or any liquor, for that matter, is a lot similar to wine tasting. You have to follow the four standard steps:
For a better mouthfeel, get a proper tequila glass to pour the liquor in.
Swirl and swish the tequila around the glass to get a whiff of the drink and the flavor.
Take a small sip and let the tequila coat your tongue and linger in your mouth for some time.
Swallow the drink and enjoy the aftertaste.
Tasting tequila the right way contributes to the overall drinking experience. If you want to enjoy the liquor, following these takeaways is crucial.
This is a subjective question because everyone’s love for liquor stems from personal choices. Some like tequila for the aftertaste, and some like it due to the robust flavors. It all boils down to the kind of liquor one loves and how tequila checks those boxes for them.
How Is Tequila Usually Served?
In most cases, the least-aged tequila types serve as shots. But, if you drink a more aged and refined tequila, they are best served in cocktails.
Who Might Not Like Tequila?
If you aren’t particularly fond of stronger-tasting alcohols with a very complex flavor profile, tequila isn’t for you. Tequila has a mix of earthy, herbaceous, and citrus notes with a burning mouthfeel, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Is Tequila Sweeter Than Vodka?
The taste of tequila depends on the fermentation and aging process. When compared to vodka, tequila has a slightly sweeter taste.
That concludes our article discussing everything you need to know about tequila, its types, and its taste and flavor profile. If you are venturing into exploring different types of alcohol, we hope this gives you a taste of tequila and what you can expect from this golden liquid.