Distiller’s Blanco Tequila Guide: Exploring the Most Versatile StyleBy Stephanie Moreno
In the world of tequila, there are several styles to choose from. But there’s no better place to start your tequila journey than with the blanco tequila category. For starters, it’s amazingly versatile. The drinking options are many — you can sip, mix or shoot blanco tequilas. Also, the price point for this tequila style is lower than the aged expressions. No or little time in barrel means it’s quicker to produce and get to market which means savings for you. And since blanco tequila is the foundation for tequila producers to build upon their aged expressions, there are a ton of bottles available to try.
Before we get into the particulars about blanco tequila, we’ll go over a few basics. If you’re interested in a further in depth look at tequila production, you can find out more here in our Tequila vs. Mezcal article.
Tequila is the most popular agave spirit in the world. But you might be surprised to learn that tequila is actually a subset of the wider mezcal category. Also, while there are dozens of agave varieties allowed in mezcal production, only one type is permitted in tequila production — agave tequilana (aka agave azul or agave blue Weber). Furthermore, tequila can only be made in designated areas in Mexico. Most tequila is made in Jalisco, but it can also be made in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.
There are two types of tequilas allowed: 100% agave tequila and mixto tequila which requires just 51% agave to be used. Tequila aficionados tend to favor the former, especially if they’re looking to sip rather than use it in cocktails.
That said, mixto tequilas are generally more affordable and will often be used by bars for their well drinks. One brand that makes both tequila types includes El Tequileño. Currently, the brand has a mixto blanco tequila in addition to its 100% agave version (look for that 100% agave on the label).
What is Blanco Tequila?
Blanco tequila — also known as Silver, Plata, or Platinum — is clear in appearance and is generally bottled without any aging. However, tequila producers are allowed to age their tequila in barrels for up to two months. For example, Cenote rests its blanco tequila in American oak barrels for three weeks.
There are also some brands that use ex-wine barrels to rest their blanco tequilas. Tequila Mi Campo rests its blanco tequila in French oak barrels that formerly held Napa Valley chardonnay wine. However, most tequila producers bottle their blanco tequilas shortly after distillation.
Flavors to Look For
While blanco tequilas won’t have much (or any) of the secondary flavors you typically find in barrel-aged spirits, you can still find a wide variety of flavors. The blancos worthy of sipping will have a depth of flavor from the cooked agave, a long finish, and herbaceous and earthy aromas that highlight the agave plant. If the blanco tequila has rested in a barrel for a few weeks, a gentle oak flavor with hints of barrel spices will be added to the taste profile.
While not all blanco tequilas are meant for sipping, you still want a quality product in your mixed drink. The better options won’t have much depth, but they should be clean with at least a touch of agave flavor. Even though you’re mixing it, you still want to know you’re tasting a tequila, not a vodka.
How to Drink
As we’ve mentioned, sipping blanco tequila is a wonderful way to get to acquainted with the spirit. Soon enough, you’ll be able to taste whether a producer is sticking to traditional production methods, or if they’re taking a few too many short cuts. But of course, that’s not the only way to enjoy blanco tequila. The Margarita is one of the most popular cocktails in the world (and for good reason) and it’s an all-time favorite way to enjoy blanco tequila.
Another popular mixed drink choice in recent years is a Ranch Water. Made with blanco tequila, lime juice and sparkling water, this low-cal highball cocktail is just the drink for a warm, sunny day. Other highball cocktails you can make are a Tequila & Tonic or a Mexican Mule — sub out vodka for blanco tequila in this ginger beer & lime classic drink. Blanco tequila is wonderfully versatile; feel free to swap out gin or light rums with blanco tequilas in some of your other favorite cocktails.
Of course, if you’re inclined to drink shots, tequila is a crowd-pleaser. The salt and lime precursor is optional, but an ice-cold beer is a great chaser.
How to Find Your Perfect Blanco Tequila Bottle
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