Tequila is one of the most wonderful and diverse spirits on the face of this earth! The complexity, the flavor variance, the stories, the culture, and so much more is just truly one of a kind! Over the past 2-3 years I’ve been fortunate enough to talk with many different brand owners, master distillers, help play a large and small part in the growth of a variety of brands, and just enjoy a multitude of tequila expressions from numerous amazing brands.
Throughout that time, I’ve come to find that tequila has 5 main flavor profiles along with a multitude of main expressions that exist in the mainstream US market. There is also a ton of confusion about what makes a pure tequila vs an agave spirit impersonating a tequila amongst mainly tequila influencer/aficionado groups of varying types.
Honestly, I had to step away from all the mainstream bickering because it just became too much about drinking the purest form of tequila instead of just enjoying each brand’s tequila for what it is.
Look, the facts are that there is tequila labeled 100% agave that I’d consider actual tequila and there is mixto tequila, I’ll explain this more in depth later, that I consider more of a tequila based agave spirit.
Tequila can have up to 1% of 4 different additives and still legally be allowed by the CRT (Consejo Regulador del Tequila/Tequila Regulatory Council) to state 100% agave on the bottle. These additives are glycerin, caramel coloring, oak extract, and jarabe or sugar-based syrup.
A lot of people are pushing additive free tequilas on everyone and bashing anyone who doesn’t only drink additive free tequilas, but I’m definitely not one of them. The additives in tequila are no different than what you’ll find in your everyday foods, especially if you eat fast food.
So unless you’re a purely organic based extremely clean eating individual, then enjoy your tequila and fuck what the snobs are saying!
It’s your taste preference, your money, your life so don’t let anyone dictate what tequila of all things you choose to purchase and enjoy after a long day’s work or to celebrate with!
So with all that being said, I decided to break down in general terms the main/popular tequila expressions you’ll find in the mainstream market today. This way you’ll know what expression of tequila you’re drinking, what makes each one different, the main flavors you’ll find in each, and have accurate information on the expression(s) you actually prefer!
So use this as your guide, your tequila handbook, or just a reference to know what you’re drinking.
Mixto (Silver/Gold) Tequila
A mixto tequila is often mistaken as a genuine tequila to the general market/average everyday tequila drinker. It has the look, the taste, and sent of regular 100% agave tequila, but the ingredients are definitely not the same! A mixto tequila consist of 51% agave added to a cocktail of other sugars, colorings, and thickeners that the brand chooses to use.
All because these aren’t true tequilas doesn’t mean they’re not highly loved and sought after. In fact, the highest selling tequila brand in the world’s base product is a mixto tequila. It’s available world wide and in just about every single liquor store, bar, restaurant you frequent.
It’s probably the first “tequila” you’ve ever experienced as well.
The brand I’m referring too…
Jose Cuervo Tequila of course!
Yes, not an additive free tequila, not a tequila everyone talks positively about in tequila groups. In fact, I would say this is probably the most hated tequila in tequila aficionado communities but yet it sold 7.9 million cases in 2021 and 7.3 million in 2020.
All of this while having a mixto base product as the foundation of their tequila empire. Truly impressive if you ask me.
So yes, while so many Tequila Snobs hate mixto tequilas, the majority of the world has proven to love them.
They’re cheap, can be made to taste good enough to take shots with, mix in cocktails, or drink on the rocks/neat. Bars/restaurants love them because they’re extremely cheap and sale at a high volume.
So appreciate mixto tequila for what it is, but don’t hold it to the same standards you hold 100% agave tequilas.
Blanco/plata tequila is the purest form of tequila. It’s a tequila that’s either not aged or barely aged for up to 60 days. This is usually the base of most tequila brands and is often times a great indication of if a brand has a quality product or not. So there’s no wonder why it’s the highest selling expression of all tequilas.
Now it is pretty rare to find a tequila still labeled a blanco that’s been aged at all, but they definitely do exist! You can usually identify them by have a brownish/tan like tint to them instead of the clear blanco tint completely uncaged blancos feature.
My Recommended Ways Of Enjoyment
I personally find these tequilas to be great for sipping if you love fresh the taste of fresh agave and citrus or used in cocktails such as margaritas and citrus or sweet mixes.
Most others use blancos as their preferred shot tequilas though.
Aficionados prefer to stick to blancos because they feel it’s the cleanest most flavorful and complex expression of tequila
Rosa is a recently added expression to tequila that you’ll see more and more of as time goes on! This expression is produced when a tequila brand takes either their blanco or reposado and rest it in wine barrels for 60 days. The tequila then takes on the red wine tint from the barrel it’s rested in and also has hints of the wine that was previously aged in said barrels.
While I don’t know which brand created the first rosa tequila, I can the most well known rosa tequilas on the market right now are produced by Codigo 1530 Tequila and Calirosa Tequila. Both are celebrity owned/associated with George Straight partially owning Codigo and Adam Levine owning Calirosa.
Inspiro Tequila has also recently released a rosa reposado that’s aged in rosé wine barrels. I’ve yet to taste it and haven’t heard many reviews, but give it a try if the rosa tequila expression sounds up your alley.
My Recommended Ways Of Enjoyment
Every rosa I’ve had so far was best when I sipped it neat at room temperature. As a wine lover as well, I truly enjoyed the subtle wine influence on the agave. I also highly enjoyed this expression in cocktails like a paloma or a cocktail with a fresh or fruit forward flavor profile. Highly interested in all the amazing flavor combinations that’ll be produced from this expression class.
This expression of tequila is often times the most versatile expression for brands and is rapidly approach blanco sales for the highest selling tequila expression. A reposado is traditionally aged between 2-12 months usually in used bourbon or whiskey barrels.
More brands are coming to market with their tequila aged in wine, cognac, or other former spirit barrels. This change in barrel types is producing some amazing new tequilas with some extremely exciting limited releases for all consumers to enjoy!
I’ve honestly been seeing this expression talked about the most by the average consumer.
They talk about the blend of vanilla, citrus, pepper, and barrel influence that creates a deliciously sweet and smooth experience for everyone.
This has given brands like Casamigos Tequila, 818 Tequila, Teramana Tequila, and more an amazing boost in market shares by having an average tequila drinker pallet favorable reposado to enjoy.
My Recommended Ways Of Enjoyment
This is probably the most versatile expression of tequila in my book! I mostly enjoy this blend clean paired with a maduro cigar, but I literally drink it in any type of cocktail as well.
It’s the first expression I give to my wife when she wants to take shots with her friends.
The first one I reach for to take to parties/large events.
Was also my preferred daily sipper expression over this past summer!
If you haven’t tried any reposados to this point then you need to get a bottle ASAP!
Different Expressions Of Tequila Part 2
Yes, this article is long as fuck!
Because of the length of this article so far and I still have 4 more expressions to discuss, I decided to cut this into a 2 part article. We still have joven, añejo, extra añejo, and cristalino expressions to get to as well.
So a hell of a lot more to come for everyone that includes my favorite expression of tequila.
So stay tuned and keep drinking what you love TLA Fam, cheers!
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