Chapter 15 Production of tequila from agave: historical influences and contemporary processes
M. Cedeño Cruz and J. Alvarez-Jacobs Tequila Herradura, S.A. de C.V. Ex-Hda San Jose del Refugio, Amatitán, Jalisco, México
Introduction: Agave beverage alcohol products
Tequila is classically associated with Mexico, particularly with Jalisco, a state locatedin the west of the country. This beverage is obtained by distillation of fermented juice from only the agave plant (Agave tequilana Weber var. Azul ) if 100% agave tequila is required. Fermentation is carried out by inoculated strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae or in some cases by a spontaneous process. Up to 49% (w/v) sugars may come from a source other than agave, usually sugar cane or cornsyrup, if 100% agave tequila is not required. This tequila could not be labeled as 100% agave tequila. Different kinds of tequila are produced in 50 registered companies in Jalisco. The tequila products made by these companies differ mainly in proportions of agave used, production processes, microorganisms used in the fermentation, distillation equipment used and the maturation and aging times. Theproduct known as silver or white tequila must be distilled to a concentration not exceeding 55% alcohol in volume (v/v) and not less than 38% (v/v) from a fermented wort containing not less than 51% sugars from the agave plant. Gold tequila is the
white product to which caramel color (generally) has been added. Rested tequila (Reposado) and aged tequila (Añejo) are white tequila matured inwood containers, preferably oak casks, for at least 2 and 12 months, respectively, according to present regulations. In practice, the aging period is normally longer and depends on the characteristics each company wants to give to the final product. The products known as 100% agave, which are becoming more popular, could be white, rested or aged and are distilled from fermented wort with only agaveas a source of sugars. The labels of these products must indicate that they were obtained using only agave and under Mexican government supervision. Tequila is differentiated from the beverage known as mezcal by the type of agave used in its elaboration. Mezcal is made from Agave potatorum, which grows in the state of Oaxaca. Most mezcal producers use a rudimentary fermentation and distillationprocess (Sánchez, 1991). There is no technical reason for, or any improvement in the organoleptic characteristics from, the worm inside the bottles of some mezcal brands. The worm is primarily a commercial ploy. Worms are grown in agave plants and introduced manually in the bottling line.
226 M. Cedeño Cruz and J. Alvarez-Jacobs Pulque is another beverage obtained by fermentation of thejuice obtained from several species of agave, A. atrovirens and A. salmiana among others, by a complex succession of yeast and bacteria that produce ethanol, a diversity of chemical compounds, and some polymers that give a sticky consistency to the final product (Rzedowski, 1978; Sánchez Marroquin and Hope, 1953). Pulque is sometimes mixed with fruits or vegetables, but has poor stability as it isneither distilled nor pasteurized. Agave plants still serve as food in some states of México; and other fermented regional beverages are produced (e.g., Sotol in the state of Chihuahua and Bacanora in the state of Sonora), but only tequila and more recently mezcal have reached international recognition. Another difference between tequila and mezcal and all other regional drinks is that both aresubject to an official standard that for tequila is NOM006-SCFI-1993 (Secofi, 1993), and production is supervised by the Mexican government. water would ferment, producing a very appreciated beverage. In fact, this primitive and rudimentary method was used for centuries to produce beverages from agave, considered a sacred plant possessing divine properties. In other codices, such as Nutall,...