Whenever we think of an epic party night, chances are the clear liquid made from the agave plant had a role to play (as well as one or more shot glasses).
While our neighbors to the North expect their consumption of one of the most regulated spirits to increase in the coming years, it has been expected to replace vodka as a number-one drink in the homeland for a while now. But where is tequila really from, and why is consumption in the US increasing?
First of all, no, Tequila has not made a total transformation from the party-fuel widespread across the globe, and it is still the same stuff you used to shoot in college (for the most part). The production in designated regions of Mexico (the only area in the world allowed to produce both “Mixto” [no less than 51% agave] and “100% Agave” tequila) has increased by 250%, from 104 million liters in 1995 to 261 million liters in 2011.
Surprisingly, until 2008 the majority of production (steadily at or above 100 million liters per year) was “Mixto” tequila, a spirit like the well-known Jose Cuervo Especial Silver and Gold. While the Especial Silver has added sugarcane to it, Especial Gold is a mixture of Reposados (tequila aged more than two months but less than a year) and younger tequilas consisting of 51% Agave or more.
What really is driving the popularity of tequila in the 104 countries it is exported to is the growing variety and depth of selection in the “100% Agave” tequila family. While in 1995 only a little more than 15 million liters of this aged tequila were produced, the numbers rose to a staggering 155 million liters in 2011, after peaking at 163 million liters in 2008.
Tequila producers, while applying the century-old know-how passed down from generation to generation, are adapting their aging process and started using oak barrels previously used to age whiskey (Jack Daniels barrels are the favorite) in order to give their tequila a smoky flavor, darker color, and new complexity. This exploring of new possibilities is what every industry does to expand its reach in the global market, and the tequila Industry is ever-growing, increasing the export into the United States, which imports 76% of available tequila, by 25% in the last 8 years, while Spain’s appetite for the exclusive Mexican spirit has grown by 600% in the same time period, and now accounts for a total of 3% of exported product.