THE HISTORY OF TEQUILA
The drink tequila is a relatively new invention. While pre-Columbian Indians consumed various drinks made from agave plants, most notably pulque, the process did not include distillation. When the Spanish arrived they distilled the agave juice, naming the product mezcal. The mezcal produced in the town of Tequila enjoyed wide popularity, it assumed the special name of "tequila" by the end of the 19th century.
Commercial production was started in 1795 by a Spaniard, Don Jose Maria Guadalupe Cuervo, and it is now one of the most popular alcoholic drinks all over the world. Today mezcal is made from many varieties of agave, while tequila may be made only from the blue agave grown in the state of Jalisco. By the early 1900s distilleries in Jalisco were producing in the region of 8 million gallons of tequila, this increased during and after the revolution in 1910 when the drinks noterierty increased becoming a symbolic icon of the new Mexico.
Tequila really increased its popularity when it was smuggled over the border into the United States during the prohibition. Later the Margarita cocktail was born in Mexico which was then introduced in bars across North America.
In 1968 the Olympic Games were held in Mexico, advertising and marketing led to worldwide exposure which tequila gain a worldwide status and increase interest in the tipple.
Tequila is graded according to the amount of time it is aged. Blanco tequila is aged for between 0 and 2 months, reposado spends between two and 12 months in oak and anejo is aged for at least a year. The acme of mezcal is the Gran Reserva Beneva, which won a gold medal at this year's World Spirit Championship. Aged in oak barrels for four years and presented in a hand-blown bottle shaped like a pumpkin and not recommended for knocking back slammers. At $350 a bottle, clearly not.
The Tequila Distillery Process
When the agave is between eight and 10 years old, it is harvested, with its spiky leaves chopped off with a machete to get at the pineapple-shaped heart. This is boiled for 48 hours to convert the starches to sugars. The heart is then crushed and rinsed with water. The run-off is fermented, using yeasts, and distillation results in a spirit that tastes of resin and artichoke. If you double distil, filter and then age the spirit in old sherry, cognac or bourbon casks, you have a gourmet tequila with all the smoky and salty flavours of a single-malt whisky and a price tag to match.