How is tequila distilled?

Answered by Michael Blake

, a spirit that has captured the hearts of many, undergoes a meticulous distillation process to achieve its unique and vibrant flavors. As an expert sommelier and brewer, I have had the privilege of witnessing and understanding the art of tequila distillation.

The first step in the distillation process involves the use of steel distillation columns. These columns are designed to remove impurities and concentrate the from the fermented agave . The fermented juice, also known as “mosto,” is obtained from the heart of the agave plant, which is roasted and crushed to extract its flavorful juices.

Once the mosto is collected, it is transferred to the distillation columns. These tall steel structures allow for a separation of the various components present in the mosto, primarily and alcohol. The columns utilize the principle of fractional distillation, where the liquid is heated and vaporized, and then condensed back into a liquid form.

During this process, water is removed, and the alcohol is concentrated. The separation occurs due to the different boiling points of water and alcohol. Water, having a lower boiling point, evaporates first, while the alcohol remains in liquid form. This allows for the removal of impurities and the desired concentration of alcohol.

After the first distillation process, the resulting liquid is known as “ordinario.” It typically has an alcohol content ranging from 20-30%. However, to achieve the desired strength and flavor profile, a second distillation is required.

The second distillation takes place in stills, which are copper vessels used for refining and further concentrating the alcohol. The stills play a crucial role in shaping the final character of the tequila. The liquid from the first distillation, or ordinario, is transferred to the stills for this second round of distillation.

The stills are heated, causing the liquid to vaporize once again. As the vapor rises, it passes through the neck of the still and condenses back into liquid form. This process helps to refine the flavors and aromas of the tequila, as well as increase its alcohol content.

The resulting tequila from the second distillation typically has an alcohol content ranging from 55-65%, depending on the brand and desired strength. This high alcohol content contributes to the bold and intense flavors that tequila is known for.

It is worth mentioning that tequila production is a highly regulated process in Mexico, and it must adhere to strict guidelines to be classified as tequila. The use of specific agave varieties, such as Weber Blue Agave, and the geographical location of production are some of the factors that determine whether a spirit can be called tequila.

Tequila distillation is a fascinating process that involves the removal of water and concentration of alcohol from fermented agave juice. The use of steel distillation columns and copper stills helps to refine the flavors, aromas, and alcohol content, resulting in the distinctive and beloved spirit that we know as tequila.