One bottle of tequila usually takes about 8 years to produce, sometimes up to 20. This is because tequila is not made from ordinary grapes or fruit, from which most spirits are made. It is extracted from the roasted core (pina) of the blue agave (maguey) . Agave tequilana weber azul is one of 136 species of agave growing in Mexico. It has a life span of 8-14 years, depending on soil, climate and breeding methods, and is harvested between 8 and 10 years of age.
PLANTING AND CULTIVATION OF THE AGAVES
The Tequila process begins when the sprouts also known as “hijuelos” (small Agave plants separated from a mother plant) are planted. Agaves are cultivated for at least 5 years. During this time various tasks are done to make sure that the plants grow healthily.
Once the piña has been baked properly, it is time to shred it and extract the juice, called mosoto, from the bulb. Today, a mechanical shredder can be used to expedite this process, but some producers prefer to use a stone wheel, known as a tahona, to crush and juice the piña.
The product obtained from the fermentation must be distilled, a process that is carried out in stills or in continuous distillation towers. From the first distillation, called “shattering”, you obtain a liquid called “ordinary” (approx. 20% Alc. Vol.) is obtained, which is then subjected to “rectification” (second distillation), the resulting product (approx. 55% Alc. Vol.), is already considered silver Tequila.
Once the Agave plants are considered suitable for the production of Tequila, the harvesting begins with separating the Agave’s core, also known as “piña”, from the ground. In the process, the leaves are cut with the help of an instrument called “coa”.
In this stage, the “mostos” (agave juices) are prepared to have adequate fermentation conditions for both categories, Tequila 100% Agave and Tequila.
In the aging process of Tequilas, it is possible to use large volume tanks also called “pipones” or oak barrels. For aged and extra-aged Tequilas, only barrels with a maximum capacity of 600 liters must be used.
Boiling converts the complex carbohydrates of the “piñas” into simple sugars, suitable for fermentation. At the same time, it softens the core of the Agave making the subsequent sugar extraction process easier. This can be carried out in brick or masonry ovens through the injection of water vapor or can be developed in steel tanks known as “autoclaves”. The process can last between 8 and 72 hours.
Biological process where the sugars will be converted mainly into ethyl alcohol and where other compounds will be formed that will contribute to the final sensory characteristics of Tequila.
According to the Official Mexican Standard (NOM-006-SCFI-2012), the alcohol content can range from 35 to 55% Alc. Vol. Tequila must be packaged in new containers that are made of materials permitted by the standard.