WRITTEN BY: KEEGAN SMITH

Qualified Tequila sommelier Keegan Smith takes us through the art and craft of processing of a 100% puro de agave tequila, from harvesting to distillation.

In this article, we will run through the processing of a true 100% puro de agave tequila. While most mass market tequilas are made with a diffuser (basically a machine that does everything except harvest the agave), true authentic tequila is a laborious love affair. Let’s take a look at the craft and art of making a tequila worth sipping neat.

HARVESTING

The Webber blue Agave (Webber tequilana) is hand harvested by individuals known as Jimadores (ghim-a-door-es) by using a round blade mounted on a 5-foot pole known as a “Koa”. These gentlemen can harvest as many as 100 pina’s per day. Agaves are only harvested when ripe which happens between 7 and 10 years old.

COOKING

Once the pinas are collected and transported to the distillery, the cooking process begins. The pina are cut into smaller pieces and placed in a large brick oven known as a Horno. Steam is fed into the oven and the agaves are cooked from 48 hours to 72 hours to convert the sugars into fermentable sugars. The temperature will sit around 95°C.

CRUSHING

Once the agave is cooked through, it is crushed or juiced by using a “tahona wheel” which is a large cement or stone wheel that sits in a circular pit and is drawn by either donkeys or a mechanical motor. This process gently crushes the pinas to extract the liquid that will be fermented known as the Mosto.

FERMENTATION

The Mosto is sent to traditional wooden vats for fermentation, most tequilas are made using a natural fermentation in open tanks and is fermented for up to 72 hours, once the Mosto is properly fermented it is called Mosto Muerto (Dead yeast).

DISTILLATION

Although the law in Mexico recently excused the need for tequila to be double distilled, authentic tequila still use this practice. The first distillation is called Ordinario and results in an ABV of about 30-35% with the second distillation “Rectificado” having around 60 to 65% ABV. Only at this point is the liquid referred to as Tequila! Tequila is distilled in small batch copper pot stills.

After the distillation, a blanco tequila will be bottled almost immediately however some producers prefer to rest the tequila for up to 60 days. If the spirit is aged in oak for 60 days or less, it’s a blanco/plata/silver Tequila.
If aged from 60 days to 1 year it becomes a reposado (rested) and from 1 year to 3 years it becomes an Anejo. Anything over 3 years? An extra Anejo!

In our next article we’ll look at blended tequila and how best to enjoy an authentic tequila.

Keegan Smith is the only qualified Tequila Sommelier in Africa and one of only 8 worldwide.

For more information about private or group tastings,

please contact tequilakeegs@gmail.com