Agave Harvesting & Fermentation
After they are harvested, the piñas are taken back to the distillery, where they are cut into smaller chunks and slowly baked in steam ovens, pressure cookers or brick ovens (hornos) to convert the starch to sugar. Afterwards, they are crushed, either by the traditional method of a mule-drawn stone wheel or by a modern automatic shredder, to extract the juice called aguamiel (“honey water.”) The extracted juice is fermented, and for the highest quality Tequila, the only ingredient that may be added is water. Lesser quality products labeled mixto can contain alcohol distilled from other sources, as well as flavorings and sugar.
Distillation & Production
Traditionally, Tequila is double-distilled in a pot still, though lighter-style offerings sometimes undergo their second fermentation in a column still to remove some impurities and producer a cleaner spirit. Tequila usually gets its color by the addition of caramel, though barrel-aged versions can also pick up golden or amber tones from time spent in oak. Very small amounts of natural flavorings like Sherry and coconut can be used to round out the flavor profile and lend a smoother taste and mouthfeel.