The Difference Between Tequila and Blue Agave Spirits
Did you know….there are six different blue agave spirits produced in Mexico? Tequila, Mezcal, Sotol, Raicilla, Bacanora, and Comiteca. The only two that exported in great numbers to the U.S. are Tequila and Mezcal; the others remain mostly a local treat. At least so far… Tequila is just one of many agave spirits that is native to Mexico. Few people think to ask how a single drink, from a single region, made from a local plant came to represent the thought of an entire country… that is, until they start discovering Mexico’s other spirits.
Mezcal is the mother of tequila: a spirit distilled from the agave plant, a perennial succulent that looks like oversized aloe and grows in semi-arid climates. There are more than 200 types of agave, and most of them are native to Mexico. Since pre-Hispanic times, the Agave plant has been considered sacred and used for everything from food to shelter, its leaves dried to make clothes, thatch roofs and more. Once early Mexicans learned to distill, they applied their new technology to agave plants. Today 26 of Mexico’s 31 states make mezcal, but only eight states are officially sanctioned to market and export mezcal.
Mezcal is made in 8 specific regions of Mexico: Oaxaca, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, and the recently approved Michoacan. Oaxaca is the center of the mexcal world, as 80-90% of mezcals are made in Oaxaca.
Tequila is made in 5 specific regions: Jalisco, Michoacan, Guanajuato, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Jalisco is definitely the center of the tequila universe and where the town of Tequila is (yes there’s a town called Tequila). Over time, it earned a reputation for excellence and became wildly popular on both sides of the border. As the tequila industry grew into the global multibillion-dollar business it is today, it eclipsed other Mexican spirits. But today, blue agave spirits of many kinds are making their way to the forefront.
While tequila is made from one type of agave, the blue Weber, the country’s many mezcals can be made from dozens of agave varieties. Los Osuna is made with 100% all natural Blue Weber Agave. As you know, we can’t technically call Los Osuna mezcal or tequila, but Los Osuna is made with the same rules and regulations that place it in the top 1% of all tequilas. Aged in tradition of the Osuna family, Los Osuna Blue Agave Spirits is a truly unique product that comes from the State of Sinaloa in Mexico. It is made with the same care and historical attention to detail that the Osuna family has refined since the late 1800s. Because of its seperation from the defined area of Mexico in which the government recognizes “Tequila” to be produced, we have adopted and emerged in the trending category of “Blue Agave Spirits”.
Tequila is a product of Mexico and can be made only in the state of Jalisco and small denominated portions of surrounding states. If it’s not from the delimited area, it’s not Tequila according to the Mexican government. Hence Los Osuna’s motto “Tequila in the Process, but not from the region“.
The base spirit of Tequila must be made from Tequila Weber Azul Agave, commonly known as “Blue Agave”. Agave is a member of the same succulent family that includes the amaryllis and lily flowers.
The agave root bulb is roasted, shredded, mixed with water to create a wash and then fermented. Following fermentation the product is distilled twice until it becomes clear, or silver, Tequila.
100% Blue Agave Azul vs. Tequila. Tequila has two types. When labeled simply ‘Tequila’, it is required to contain at least 51% blue agave spirit; the remainder can be derived from any fermentable substance, but is most usually made of sugar cane products. In other words, a type of rum. When the Tequila is made from 100% Blue Agave (Agave Azul) it is labeled either 100% Agave or Puro de Agave. Naturally the higher quality and greater price is associated with the Puro de Agave…the pure expression of Agave.
Regular Tequila is often used for frozen margaritas and college frat parties, but it still represents the bulk of Tequila consumed in the U.S. The largest recent growth however, has been in the “Blue Agave Spirits” sector – typically a more refined and aged product, akin to a nice whiskey or scotch.
The Final Word…
Tequila continues to try to recover from a reputation long-built as the drink of bad choices and blacked-out college years. Many vow never to drink “Tequila” again. But, 100% Blue Agave Azul, Mezcal and Blue Agave Spirits has sashayed onto craft cocktail menus, opening the door for lesser-known agave-based spirits and a more refined appeal to female consumers and connoisseurs of drink. In addition to a growing acceptance and spread of mezcal-devoted bars, more bartenders and mixologists are looking outside what they know, and stocking shelves with hard-to-find agave alternatives like Los Osuna.