Tequila is all the rage these days. New brands and styles keep popping up, and there are more options than ever before. With all the new bottles on the market, you might wonder: How can you know you’re drinking real tequila? It’s actually pretty easy because all you have to do is properly read the label. There, you can find out where the tequila is from, who made it and what style of tequila is inside.
The first thing that you should look for on the front label is the type of tequila. Clear, unaged tequila will be labeled blanco, plata, platinum or silver. Reposado means it’s been aged in oak casks for two months to a year, and añejo tells you it’s been aged for more than a year. Extra añejo was introduced as a category in 2006 and describes tequilas that are aged for at least three years. Finally, gold and oro tequilas are mixtos with artificial coloring added.
The front label will also state what percent of the tequila is made from agave. Look for either “100 percent blue Weber agave” or “100 percent agave.” If it doesn’t say that, then the tequila is most likely a mixto. By law, tequila must be made with 51 percent agave, and producers can technically add whatever cheaper spirit they want to fill out the other 49 percent. Tequilas that aren’t 100 percent agave are called mixtos and are generally low quality.
Don’t buy a tequila unless it says “Product of Mexico” or “Hecho en Mexico.” If it’s not made in Mexico, then it’s not real tequila.
CRT stands for Consejo Regulador del Tequila, which is the regulatory agency that makes sure companies follow the rules when it comes to making the spirit. Like the “Product of Mexico” statement, if it doesn’t have the letters CRT, then it’s not tequila.
Printed on the front label, you’ll also find the brand name, size of the bottle (standard size is 750 milliliters), percent alcohol by volume and proof (which is simply double the ABV). Tequila sold in the United States must be at least 40-percent ABV (80 proof). If it’s a flavored tequila, the flavor will also be on the front label.
One of the most telling parts of a tequila label is one that you’ve probably never noticed before: the Normas Oficial Mexicana, or NOM, number. The NOM listing on the label means that the tequila was made following the regulations set by the Tequila Regulatory Council, or TRC. There are four numbers after the letters “NOM,” and those numbers are the distillery code. The vast majority of distilleries produce more than one brand. Casamigos, for example, is made at the distillery labeled NOM 1416, which is the same as Avion, Clase Azul and others. You can find which NOM number pairs with which distillery simply by Googling it or checking tequila.net.
Next time you pick up a bottle, look for all of these signifiers to make sure you’re getting a real bottle of tequila.