Whether it’s a round of shots with friends on a Saturday night or happy hour margaritas on a Friday afternoon, everyone has fond memories (or sore heads) associated with tequila. A spirit that has really come into its own in recent years, its popularity has now soared across the globe.
While this was initially great, the high demand for the drink coupled with the effects of the pandemic has made this tipple harder to come by. We talk about all things aged tequila and why it’s difficult to find nowadays.
All tequila is made from the Agave Tequilana plant a.k.a Blue Agave found in Mexico, in particular an area called Jalisco. It’s a spikey plant that favours altitudes of over 1,500 metres and is planted in rich, sandy soils for anywhere between five to ten years. Once the plant is harvested, the leaves are cut away so that only the heart of the agave remains. And this is where our friend tequila is born!
There are several different types of tequila on the market, and they all refer to the maturity of each variety. Tequila Blanco is unaged, and bottled and sold immediately after it’s been distilled, whereas Tequila Reposado (which means ‘rested’) is bottled for at least two months and Tequila Anejo (which translates to ‘aged’) is bottled for at least one year. The idea behind the longer bottling period is to mellow out the drink to create a richer, smoother taste that includes subtle notes from the barrel it’s matured in. The barrel and length of ‘rest’ will significantly affect the resulting taste of each tequila.
With the increasing popularity of tequila, and consumers getting more knowledgeable of how it is made and what brands they like, having different tequila for a variety of drinks is becoming more commonplace. Because of its age and lower price point, Tequila Blanco is often what you’ll find in your shot glass or favourite margarita, however, because of its smoother flavour, aged tequila is suggested to be enjoyed like you would a whiskey, sipped slowly either neat or on the rocks. As aged tequila is more on the pricey side, it’s the ingredient you’ll find in more premium cocktails such as a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.
Since early 2020, reports were showing that a tequila shortage was on the horizon. High global demand for the spirit coupled with challenges arising from the pandemic resulted in Agave farmers being under immense pressure to meet orders. This has not only skyrocketed the price of Agave but it’s also left farmers in a difficult position where they are harvesting plants long before they’re supposed to (remember the five to ten-year growth cycle we mentioned?). Tequila is being produced at a faster rate but it’s also running out at the same time.
We’ve become accustomed to enjoying the ‘finer things in life’, but is it wreaking havoc on the tequila industry? Consumers are continually being encouraged to take the ‘less is more’ route by brands, where alcohol enthusiasts are told to enjoy premium drinks in moderation. In the US, this approach resulted in premium tequila growing almost 200% alone in 2020, while cheaper blends only grew 11%, all while production in Mexico was in decline.
Like the wine of Champagne, Tequila is quintessential to Mexico, and the conditions of the soil and altitude are imperative for the Agave plant to flourish. While some parts of the U.S and even Australia have been earmarked as suitable areas for growth, to drink real tequila it needs to come from the source. Luckily the strain of the tequila shortage doesn’t seem to be affecting every producer yet, as Patron and Sauza are still operating as normal. While premium, aged tequila is delicious, remember, there is still a world of delicious blends and flavours on the market at lower price points.
To the tequila lovers out there, there’s no need to panic just yet, we know of a craft beer bottle shop in West Brunswick that still has a vast range of tequila for you to try. Get it while you can from the expert team at Sessions.