What if we told you that there exists a spirit as delicate and nuanced as a single malt Scotch, regulated in the same way as Champagne, and so pure and smooth that it doesn't give you a hangover.
Then, what if we then told you that spirit was tequila.
An iconic tipple in popular culture – particularly catchy pop songs and music videos from the noughties – tequila has sadly suffered somewhat from a case of mistaken identity.
We can all hazily recall either the shots drank at university while trying to impress new friends; the tequila slammers you really didn't want at the end of a night out; or at least one badly-executed Mexican-themed party.
However, the resulting blurred vision, salt-covered floor and the declarations involving "never drinking again" weren't actually the result of too many tequilas.
At least, not strictly speaking.
Because it's highly unlikely that you were actually slamming true tequila.
So let's clear a few things up.
Fun fact number one:
tequila is not made from a cactus.
It's in fact distilled from the Blue Weber agave plant, which is part of the same botanical family as asparagus.
Fun fact number two:
there are two very different types of tequila – and you’ve been drinking the wrong one.
The tequila that we've all "suffered" from is inevitably a mixed concoction containing just 51% agave with industrial sugarcane, alcohol, additives and colourings making up the other 49%.
No wonder you swore off it so readily.
But the real deal tequila can legally only be made in Jalisco, Mexico and is strictly regulated by the Origin of Appellation law.
Made from 100% agave, the plant is left to mature to maximum sweetness (for 6 to 10 years) after which the plant’s heart, or piña, is pulled up, stripped of its leaves then cooked, mashed, and milked. The resulting liquid is fermented and distilled (resulting in tequila Blanco) and, if it’s being made into aged tequila (either ‘Repsado’, rested for two to twelve months, or ‘Añejo’, aged for one to three years), it is then stored in oak barrels.
Which means tequila really isn’t too different to a Scotch, cognac or fine wine...
And it seems (finally) more of us are beginning to appreciate tequila’s nuances as a sipping spirit.
Take, for example, the concept of terroir.
A buzz-word in wine tasting, tequila too is affected by soil and weather.
As a general rule, tequila made from agave fields in the mountains, referred to as highland tequilas, have a gentler, sweeter, and more floral flavour; which many find approachable as ‘entry-level’ sipping tequila.
Lowland tequilas are a little more powerful and pungent: the agave is stronger, which leads to a richer, rounder, earthier taste. The weather and the proximity to the equator also means that six months in Mexico is like eight years in Scotland. The result? A three-year aged añejo tequila is as rich in flavour and complexity as any aged Scotch.
And you wouldn’t shoot a single malt now, would you?
No, for to taste true tequila is to taste Mexico; you’re sipping a hand-crafted history of a spirit that is painstakingly produced and deserves a little more respect.
A spirit that is so reliant on the creator’s knowledge of ageing processes (of both the agave plant and the resulting spirit), of growing techniques, and of distillation best-practice.
So put the lime away, save the salt for steaks and discover a new dawn for tequila – a spirit that's strictly not for shots.
(Trust us. A sip is not going tequilya…)