International Spirit Spotlight: Tequila
At ISC Barrels we are proud to have our casks in distilleries around the world. While many barrels reside in whiskey rick houses, others hold international spirits – pisco from South America, rhum from Martinique, cachaça from Brazil, rice wine from China and our topic today, Mexican tequila.
To be classified as Tequila, like bourbon, the distillate must be produced in a specific geographic location and contain a specified level of ingredients and alcohol content. In addition, there are different categories of tequila that have barrel-aging requirements, although not all tequila is barrel-aged. Reposado, añejo, and extra añejo tequila must be aged for the specified time period in white oak barrels.
WHY BARREL-AGE TEQUILA?
Like most spirits, there are three basic benefits of using a new or used oak barrel for tequila - storage, subtraction and addition. Charred or toasted oak barrels will subtract negative characters from the distillate through the oxygenation process. At the same time, the oak will add to the distillate in both color and flavor providing refined palates and profiles.
"For a long time only used barrels were utilized in the production of barrel-aged tequila. The somewhat recent introduction of new barrels has advanced the taste and quality of the spirit. Tequila is now one of the fastest growing spirits in the world with the industry moving toward premiumization and innovation." - Yuri DeLeon, Account Manager
Are Tequila Barrels Charred or Toasted?
Both! The spirit will have different flavors and characteristics based on the combination of toast, char, and even oak species used. For example, French oak lends a spice note to the delicate oak flavors that are typically complimented with hints of toasted almonds and mocha while American oak typically creates flavors like vanilla, caramel, and maple syrup during aging.
Barrels can be toasted prior to charring, which releases desirable aromas and flavors. This process deepens the red layer and enhances the flavor extractives for each barrel. The cooperage-pioneered toasting technology known as ‘Barrel Profiling’ provides over 100 different toasts; each with diverse flavor profiles and guaranteed repeatability.
The char or toast of a tequila barrel depends on what type of tequila is being produced. Traditionally, barrel-aged tequila is produced in an American oak barrel with a #2 char applied. For a specialty tequila (typically Añejo or Extra Añejo) an American, French or European oak barrel with a toast is often used.
Customer Testimonial: San Nicholas Distillery
"We use ISC Barrels to age our tequilas reposado, añejo and extra-añejo because we obtain very good profiles to our final products with them. They provide aromas and flavors such as vanilla, fruit, chocolate, fig, butterscotch, banana and more so that is why use and prefer ISC barrels.
When we age our tequila in new barrels we obtain cleaner profiles, aromas and flavors because the casks never have been used to age other products such as rum, whisky, etc. We prefer to give to our consumers the best profile of tequilas reposado, añejo or extra-añejo."
- Cirilo Oropeza, San Nicolas Distillery
Tequila is unique in that unlike other brown spirits, there is a market for their unaged, white spirit.