Where Is Tequila Made?
Under Mexican law, tequila must be made in a location certified by a Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) in one of five Mexican states: Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. Most of the 150-plus distilleries that meet these requirements are located in Jalisco, which can be divided into two main production regions: the highlands and the lowlands. Tequilas from the highlands are known for their natural sweetness while lowlands tequilas are much spicier.
The highlands are rich with red clay soil and experience more rainfall than the lowlands. The higher altitude also means cooler nights, which produces blue agave that is larger and sweeter. Tequilas from the highlands are typically more delicate with floral and mineral notes on both the nose and palate. If you’re looking to get a taste of tequila from the lowlands, there are a ton of great bottlings from which to choose. Some of our favorites include Espolon, Milagro, El Tesoro and Cazadores.
Jalisco’s lowlands boast volcanic soils, which results in Blue Weber agave that has spicier and more herbaceous flavors and aromas. Brands like Casa Noble, 1800 and Herradura produce great expressions. If you’re looking to get a feel for lowlands tequila, we suggest trying it in cocktails first before moving on to neat or chilled pours.
Silver/White/Blanco: The purest way to get the sweet, vegetal flavor of blue agave, silver (or white or blanco) tequila is bottled or stored immediately after distillation. It is either ready to go right then and there, or aged for less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels. We suggest Casamigos Tequila Blanco, Familia Camarena Silver Tequila, Pueblo Viejo Blanco and 1800 Silver.
Gold/Oro: Silver tequila that has not been aged may be blended with aged or extra-aged tequila to create gold tequila (which would maintain its 100 percent agave certification), or it may be flavored with caramel coloring, oak extract, glycerin, or sugar syrup (making it a mixto). These younger tequilas are often less expensive and used in cocktails.
Reposado: Reposado refers to tequila aged a minimum of two months—but less than a year— in wooden barrels (usually American or French oak) or storage tanks. During this aging process, the tequila takes on a golden color and toasty flavors. Reposado tequilas can also be referred to "rested" and "aged." If you’re looking for a great bottle to try, pick up Lunazul Reposado, Corralejo Tequila Reposado, Ayate Reposado or Calle 23 Reposado.
Añejo: Añejo tequila is aged a minimum of one year—but less than three years—in oak barrels. Distillers must age tequila in barrels that do not exceed 600 liters for at least one year in order to earn the añejo classification. During this aging process, the color of the tequila darkens to a richer amber color, and the flavors become richer, smoother and more complex. We love bottles like Tres Agaves Añejo, Codigo 1530 Añejo, Casamigos Añejo and Tequila Tapatio Añejo.
Extra Añejo/Ultra Añejo: This category was established in 2006 and refers to tequila aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. This style almost resembles scotch in the peatyness and caramel flavor it acquires.