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Preview – Tequila: Not Just For Frat Boys Anymore

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Photos by Patrick Vuong

Tips on Selecting a Complex and Worthy Beverage from South of the Border

Safety Disclaimer: It is common sense, but bears repeating: Alcohol and firearms do not mix. Always do your drinking after you’re finished with your shooting.

Many memories of tequila consist of the hard-learned lesson of a fun-filled night, pounding shots of some cheap, harsh, fiery liquid. A glorious evening that quickly blurs into a dark and twisted netherworld — and like a nightmare so often does, ends with a plaintive wail, our dizzy, pounding heads buried inside putrid smelling porcelain receptacles. Meanwhile, a friend or two hovers above us giggling, snapping selfies for prosperity and blackmail, and pointing out our inconsistent aim. As if our extreme lack of judgment and self-control were the fault of the tequila, most of us vowed to never drink it again.

Tequila has been plagued with this bad rap for hundreds of years — and yet it has evolved into a refined sipping beverage. History records the Aztecs as the first to process the agave plant into a fermented beverage they called octli, later becoming known as pulque. Along with the 16th century came Spanish conquistadors, who kicked ass, took names, and arrived with knowledge of the distillation process. Oh, and smallpox.

The people of Tequila embraced distillation (because pox-ridden ass-kickings were not much of an alternative, but we digress) and, along with the conquistadors, began to process fermented agave, producing the first distilled beverage indigenous to North America. Only spirits distilled in the vicinity of the city of Tequila can legally claim the title of tequila, and the powers that be will fight it out in court to ensure its authenticity. This early distillation process has become an art form, birthing the emergence of four different levels of aging that add to the mystique and complexity. To fully understand the complexity of tequila, one must first understand the four levels of the aging process: blanco or silver, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo.


Popular for mixed drinks because it’s bottled as soon as the distillation process is completed. There’s no additional aging involved before bottling, so the flavor profile is complete from the distillation process. Its character is unmarred by outside influences, and at this stage, it’s ready to drink.

Aged a minimum of two months to a year in oak casks or barrels. Sometimes companies will char the wood for a smoky flavor, while others use new barrels to turn the finished product around more quickly. This category often leaves a bit of an unrefined heat that can be invigorating, letting you know that you’re drinking a true unmolested spirit and not some watered down foo-foo drink.

Aged a minimum of one year in barrels that were sometimes used to rest reposados. However, many of the barrels come from whiskey distilleries in the USA — Jack Daniels barrels are extremely popular. As you’d expect, this imbues many of the characteristics that flavor and color the previous occupant, adding complexity to the tequila. Aging helps quiet the heat of the tequila, giving it a smoother finish with delicious depth of flavor, and allowing the taster to experience a truly special beverage.

Extra Añejo
Treated the same way as añejo, but the aging process is a lot longer…try a minimum of three years and continuing up to whatever the market and/or the company can bear. (Dayum! Hurry up!…uh, please pardon our impatience.)

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