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Tequila 101: How should I taste tequila?


  Photo ©A.Gallatin 2009

Every now and then, bar guests who “hate” silver tequila are surprised to find that different brands of silver tequila taste completely different. It’s easy to write off all silver tequilas because you hate one silver, or vice versa.

Because the aging, fermentation, and environmental factors differ so widely between labels, it is almost impossible to make wide generalizations like “I only drink reposados” without tasting and comparing both across labels and within.

The best way to taste a new tequila is to line up small tasters of the silver, reposado, and añejo in front of you with a small glass of ice water to rinse your mouth.

Begin with the silver. Stick your nose in the glass, slightly open your lips, and breath in deeply through your nose. If it is an un-aged silver, the flavor and aroma will be almost pure agave. Taste and discuss. I was once told that if you dip your finger in a silver tequila and then rub the alcohol on the back of your hand until it evaporates, the smell that will remain is the pure sugar of the agave—and every silver tequila will leave a different smell.

Repeat this process with the reposado, always beginning with a deep breath through your nose. After you smell and taste the reposado, return to the silver and smell the agave again, remembering to leave your lips slightly parted when you inhale. Taste the reposado again. Although the reposado is rested, you should still be able to pick up on the agave flavor and aromas from the silver as well as how the flavor has changed.

Repeat this process again with the añejo, moving back to the silver and reposado to compare.
After smelling and tasting the añejo you should be able to pick out the different flavors and notes that the tequila picked up as it aged. Experiencing the progression of flavors in this way will allow you to understand more succinctly why you do or don’t like a certain type of tequila. Pay attention to what you like or don’t like about the silver versus the reposado or añejo. You may find yourself surprised.

Once you’ve done this with several tequilas, you can move on to comparing a group of different silvers, reposados, or añejos.

Any bartender should want to help you through process, and many places even offer menu-priced tequila flights so you can experiment. If they aren’t on the menu, just tell your bartender you want to learn about tequila by tasting all three, and I’m sure they’d give you some tasters.

Bars in Austin who serve tequila flights: Iron Cactus, Cantina Laredo, La Condesa
Bars in Austin who provide tequila tastings: Iron Cactus, Manuels, La Condesa, Casa Chapala, Vivo Cocina