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The Right Way to Taste Tequila

29 Feb

The Right Way to Taste Tequila

There are many great reasons to drink tequila, but people commonly only choose it for shots or margaritas. Most Americans are used to drinking tequila that is a blended product (mixto) of at least 51 percent distilled agave and as much as 49 percent alcohol from another source. This is what probably started the tradition of licking salt and sucking on a lime with a shot of straight tequila, since the tequila mixto is harsh.

However, when you sip a tequila that is 100 percent agave, you can enjoy one of the most sophisticated spirits available. In fact, tequila has more than twice the identifiable flavor profiles of a really sophisticated, big red wine (the wine has approximately 300 flavor profiles, and tequila has 630). And the whole thing about a glass of red wine to help your health? Tequila has been shown to harbor medicinal qualities and help fight chronic diseases such as diabetes and IBS. Really!

To get the most out of your tequila tasting, follow these steps:

  1. Start with a long, narrow tequila glass to experience the full complexity. A champagne flute will do, but you should not taste fine tequila in a shot glass. Pour enough tequila for 2-4 sips.
  2. Observe the color. Whether the tequila is blanco, gold, reposado, anejo or extra anejo, it will have a different color. The extra anejo will be dark and golden, like a cognac or brandy, while the gold, reposado and anejo will vary in tones from golden tawny to caramel. The blanco, not surprisingly, should be clear.
  3. Sniff the aroma. This is the most particular part about the right way to taste tequila. You want to get the maximum amount of surface area, so turn the glass on its side so that the tequila is as close to the rim as possible. Bring your nose to the lower rim, so that it’s almost touching the bottom rim of the glass, and take little sniffs. It’s 80-proof alcohol, so you don’t want to inhale deeply – you will oversaturate your nose.
  4. Note the differences. There’s still more sniffing to do! After noting the aromas at the bottom rim, raise your nose to the middle of the glass to see what you can identify there. You will likely note more light, citrusy, fruity, and floral smells. Don’t bother sniffing at the top rim, since you’ll get the more alcoholic, volatile vapors there.
  5. Taste! Tell your tongue what to be looking for when you actually taste it. It’s a way to identify far more of how the tequila starts and finishes. Inhale before you take your first sip, and once you have the tequila in your mouth, inhale through your nose, swallow it over the tongue, and then exhale hard over your tongue to really excite your taste buds. Take a couple more sips to confirm or expand upon your original findings.

Like with wine, the best way to taste tequila is from light to dark, so if you are doing a side-by-side comparison, go from blanco to the extra anejos, in order of age.

Photo labelled for reuse.

Enjoy!