Different types of maguey are what distinguish a tequila from a mezcal and there is often more than a bit of confusion associated with both. [Tequila is a type of mezcal and is correctly called mezcal de tequila, just as rye is a type of whiskey. True tequila is made only from agave tequiliana, also known as Weber’s maguey, the blue agave of mezcal azul. Mezcal can be made from many different types of maguey.]
Maguey is mah-gay. Mexicans are fond of saying “Okay, Maguey,” an easy way to remember its pronunciation, if so inclined. Maguey and other “tequila plants” with sword like leaves are agaves, or succulents. They are not cacti, as is often mistaken. They’re more closely related to the orchid family.
There is no worm in the tequila bottle so if someone tells you he ate it, you should probably question what else he’s told you. However, the type of grub worm found in mezcal lives in the maguey plant and customarily is added to each bottle. Known as a gusano de maguey, it is devoured by whoever is so lucky to get the last drop. We’ve personally witnessed no one honestly complete this act but have heard that if hungry and very, very drunk, there are much better alternatives.
Raicilla is the traditional moonshine, although all three liquors are made legally and not. Distilled from the agave lechuguilla, a smaller and greener variety, raicilla has gained a huge popularity in recent years, though tequila remains the favorite, with mezcal running in the middle of the popularity zone.
Traditional processing starts with cutting the spiked leaves off the plant to reveal a pineapple-like heart. These hearts, called piñas, are then roasted, shred and fermented, an arduous process, before they are distilled.
It’s been said that aging tequila is an art and requires many years of experience. White tequila, straight from the still, is said to be like having a beautiful woman. Then comes the chance to dress her. Blanco tequilas and jovens (young ones) are not aged. Reposado, añejo and extra añejo are distilled in wooden barrels. We feel with age comes wisdom in all forms and tastes; therefore a golden aged añejo is our preference.
The town of Tequila is a pleasant excursion from Puerto Vallarta. If you have the luxury of traveling by car, it’s only three hours drive or you can choose to take the journey by bus. Once there, we highly recommend informative tours of the distilleries. Tickets can be purchased in the plaza and on street corners. Don’t try entering a property on your own, regardless of how inviting it might look from the road, as distillery owners vary in their comfort with guests.
Que es cómo es.
Thanks to our guest blogger Adam Garcia for this article!
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