Tequila is produced principally in and around the town of Tequila, which is located northwest of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, though it is also legally produced in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. The spirit is distilled exclusively from the stately tequilana weber, or more often referred to as blue agave. While every agave matures at its own pace, most reach maturity after 8 to 12 years. The agave must be harvested when the plant has reached its optimum maturity to ensure that the plant contains the highest amount of residual sugar.
The harvested agaves are taken to the distillery where they are split into quarters and then baked to convert the plant’s natural starches into fermentable sugars. The traditional method of baking agaves is in a large stone oven called an hornos. The juice that secretes from the agaves during baking has an extremely high sugar content. The softened baked agaves are removed from the oven and crushed or shredded to extract the juice.
The aguamiel is separated from the crushed fibers and transferred to a large fermentation tank. Water and yeast are added to the tank to start fermentation, a process that takes approximately 48-72 hours. When the fermentation process is complete, the fermented juice, called mosto, is transferred to the still. Most premium tequilas are distilled in traditional copper alembic stills. By law, tequila must be at least double distilled.
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