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Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, which resembles a cactus but is actually a member of the lily family. At the heart of the plant is the “piña” (similar in appearance to a pineapple), which produces the aguamiel (“honey water”) that is fermented and distilled.
Tequila may only be produced in designated areas of Mexico, most notably the state of Jalisco; the spirit takes its name from the town of Tequila.
There are two basic classifications for tequila: 100% blue agave, which must be 100% from blue agave plants and bottled in designated regions of Mexico; and mixto, which must be at least 51% from blue agave.
Tequilas are further segmented based on aging. Blanco (aka silver) is clear and unaged. Joven (aka gold or abocado) spends several months in tanks before bottling. Reposado (meaning rested) is the first definitive level of aging; these tequilas rest in wood (usually oak) barrels for two to 12 months. Añejo (meaning “old” or “mature”) applies to tequilas aged at least one year in oak barrels; these tend to be darker, smoother and more complex. Extra añejo tequila has rested at least three years in barrel.