Get Schooled!

The Tequila Classroom

Tequila is a highly regulated spirit from Mexico. Grown & produced primarly the Jalisco, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Nayarit, & Michoacan states, which are typically inland, lowland and highland mountains regions located in the pacific center of the country. Highly regulated because it is a profitable export to the county, the quality regulations are sprawling and complicated. Each bottle of tequila recognizes the process through the label. Each label prints a NOM number. The NOM is the Mexican government’s regulatory organization, it assigns an unique number to each distillery. The NOM governs, manages, & licenses all growers and manufactures of tequila in the country. They also govern marketing and business practices.

Examples of their requirements:

To be called Tequila the final product (bottle on the shelf) must contain 51% Blue Weber Agave.

  • There are many (around 30) agave plants native to Mexico. Only the Blue Weber plant is used in tequila.

It can only be grown in specific areas of Mexico

It must be bottled in Mexico

  • This had been highly contested. US bottlers have claimed this opposed trade laws.

Labels on types must follow the aging process

To be called Blanco, Silver, or Plata tequila it must be an unaged product. Meaning, bottled following distillation or after less than two months. If not bottled immediately it can only be stored in stainless or natural (unused for any prior liquor storage & untreated with heat) oak for less than two months. The flavor profile of blancos imparts the most agave forward flavor of all categories because it does not have time to absorb oak, air, moisture, or other environmental modifications.

To be called Gold, or Joven (young) it must be a blend of blanco and reposado. The most common bottle in the U.S. is cuervo gold. The quality of this product can be high regardless of this common association. To be called Reposado (rested in Spanish), it must be left for a minimum of two months and less than a year in oak only, either used or unused. Reposados retain a more agave than anejos and less than blancos. They certainly pick up much of their flavor profile from containers.

To be called Anejo (old) it must be aged a minimum of one year but less than three years in oak, used or unused.

  • The reasons for aging in used oak barrels are varied from price (used barrels can be cheaper) to final product and flavor profile (used jack daniels casks impart a charcoal flavor, used port casks give off residual sugar and color, used brandy casks mellow the plant and add color). Overall the end result is color and flavor, sometimes anejo barrels have been used for reposado resting. The typical goal is to impart more agave flavor into the final product.

A new category, Ultra Anejo was created recently, 2006 I believe. This can also be called Extra Anejo and by law it must be aged a minimum of three years. Most premium bottlers exceed this minimum. Some examples are Patron Bordeos, Don Julio Real, Asombroso 11 year, Tiki Vodoo, Cuervo la familia. Gran Centanario produced the first premium anejo with Leyenda in the 1990’s.

Within these requirements, there are just under 200 families producing tequila. Each family produces at minimum three bottles. This means there are thousands of tequilas available. To tone down this madness, some are not exported and are only available on the domestic market. At The Worm, we have chosen to represent around thirty of these families. There are a few unavailable in Nebraska which we would love to showcase and enjoy and there are a few available in Nebraska which we do not believe highlight the best of the plant and declined to carry.