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The history of Mexican tequila

As the saying in Mexico goes: ‘For all that is bad, mezcal, and all that is good as well.’

And long before it became the number one mezcal drink Tequila was a place. The small town in the western state of Jalisco made such delicious mezcal in the 16th century that word of it spread far and wide.

Before long the distilled spirit produced there became known simply as tequila and unlike all other mezcal – which can be made from a wide variety of agave cactus – tequila can only be made from blue agave.

Tequila facts:

  • Just like Champagne comes from Champagne, most real tequila comes from the area around the small town of Tequila – the same region as the very first tequila distillery.
  • The knife that the jimador uses to strip the plants is called a coa.
  • All tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila.
  • The agave plant typically needs between 6-10 years to reach maturity.
  • The agave is harvested by hand, often using the tools that have been used for centuries.
  • A good, aged tequila is enjoyed neat – and sipped slowly – not knocked back with salt and lemon.

Tequila is a place that not a lot of folks end up going to. But it’s a really cool town, with an amazing history and there’s a bunch of really delicious stuff that’s being made there.

It was long believed that the Spanish brought distillation to Mexico but recent archaeological discoveries suggest primitive distils were in place long before the conquistadors invaded.

Tequila was first produced in the 16th century near the location of the city of Tequila, which was not officially established until 1666. A fermented beverage from the agave plant known as pulque was consumed in pre-Columbian central Mexico before European contact. When the Spanish conquistadors ran out of their own brandy, they began to distill agave to produce one of North America’s first indigenous distilled spirits.

Although some tequilas have remained as family-owned brands, most well-known tequila brands are owned by large multinational corporations. However, over 100 distilleries make over 900 brands of tequila in Mexico and over 2,000 brand names have been registered (2009 statistics).

Due to this, each bottle of tequila contains a serial number (NOM) depicting in which distillery the tequila was produced. Because only so many distilleries are used, multiple brands of tequila come from the same location.

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