To the surprise of many, tequila is much more than just a clear spirit with a unique taste and fun ritual. Tequila is one of the most diverse spirits out there. It can be aged or not, sipped or used in cocktails and it doesn’t even have to be 100% blue agave. Come and discover the five different types of tequila below…
The five types of tequila
There are five types of tequila: blanco, reposado, añejo, extra añejo and joven tequila. These tequila types either come under ‘100% blue agave’ or not. If not, it’s just labelled ‘tequila’ and can be bottled outside of Mexico.
Have more tequila queries? Everything you've ever wanted to know about tequila can be found on our 'what is tequila' page here.
1. Blanco tequila (silver / plata)
Blanco is the clear, colourless version of tequila and is probably the most consumed and bought. Most people recognise tequila in this style. Blanco tequila is the quickest type to produce because of the ageing period. Upon distillation, it can either be bottled immediately or after three weeks, hence the lack of colour. The taste of blanco is said to be the closest to the blue agave plant and is popular for use in cocktails. It can be bought to sip but its distinct flavour means it’s easy to balance in cocktails and doesn’t easily overpower.
Best cocktails: Tequila Sunrise, Paloma, Margarita, Batanga
Flavour profile: Fiery, ethanol, citrus
2. Reposado tequila
Reposado (meaning ‘rested’ in English) is aged for a minimum of two months before bottling. Oak barrels are used to age the spirit, which is where the deep golden colour comes from. Reposado tequilas are not quite as dark as the aged tequilas, but certainly more so than joven tequilas.
In terms of flavour, the idea is to age the spirit a little, whilst still retaining those youthful, raw blue agave notes. There's still an ‘ethanol bite’ but it lives nicely alongside the woody undertones. Tequila distillers may also use oak barrels previously used for maturing wine and whiskey. Subtle notes from the previously aged alcohol seeps into the tequila, adding more flavour. This is why reposado is a good sipping tequila to try out. It’s much more palatable to drink straight than a blanco and holds more notes to discover. Reposado tequila can still be used to put a twist on some classic tequila cocktails, like the Margarita, but it's a must-try for those who love sipping a complex spirit.
Best cocktails: Margarita
Flavour profile: Oak, honey, spice
3. Añejo tequila
Añejo tequila is a style that is aged much longer than the previous two, hence its Spanish namesake. This is a much darker-coloured tequila and perhaps not well known to many people. In fact, its dark brown colour would mean you’d be forgiven for thinking it was whiskey or dark rum at first glance. This is due to a much longer ageing period, of up to three years.
Consequently, the more bitter and ethanol flavours of tequila are lost and replaced by sweeter, more intense notes. Añejo is a perfect sipping tequila and is heavily encouraged to be served neat with ice. Cocktail recipes could be adapted to suit this deep-flavoured spirit, however. Recipes that call for a dark spirit, like whiskey, could be well-substituted with añejo.
Best cocktails: Moscow Mule (replace the vodka), El Diablo, Batanga
Flavour profile: Coffee, oak, caramel
Ever thought about how is tequila made? Check out this blog to find out more.
4. Extra añejo tequila
An extra añejo is the most aged and darkest a tequila can get. A newcomer to the tequila scene, extra añejo was created in 2006 and is enjoying much success. Aged for over three years, extra añejo possess a phenomenal range of rich flavours to enjoy. The flavours savoured in a regular añejo are intensified and developed, making extra añejo extra great for sipping. However, adding this style to cocktails isn’t recommended, due to the risk of creating an unbalanced cocktail.
Best cocktails: Keep it straight!
Flavour profile: Smoke, oak, honey
Learn more about flavours and tasting tequila here.
5. Joven tequila (gold / oro)
This is a curious style within the tequila world as, technically, this has to be split into ‘joven tequila’ and ‘gold tequila’.
A joven tequila is a 100% blue agave tequila. It's gold in colour and is created by mixing blanco with an aged tequila, both being 100% blue agave. This is, therefore, counted as a 100% blue agave tequila. Jovens can be great in cocktails, especially those with bold citrus notes.
Best cocktails: Paloma, El Diablo, Margarita
Flavour profile: Fiery, slightly woody, citrus
A gold tequila is the ‘black sheep’ of the tequila world. It’s a ‘mixto’ tequila, meaning it’s not purely made from blue agave sugars. Legally, only 51% of the sugar content has to be from the blue agave when making mixto tequila. Additionally, other ingredients are added to gold tequila like additives, colourings, sugar, extracts and glycerine. Gold tequila is not part of the aged tequilas and its golden hue is totally down to colourings. Generally, they are a lower quality and often ask a lower retail price too. In terms of tequila differences, this one stands out the most compared to the others.
If you want to avoid a sure-fire tequila hangover, avoid the gold!
FAQs: types of tequila
In case there's still something in your mind bugging you about the five tequila styles, here's some frequently asked questions to end on...
Reposado vs añejo: what's the difference?
When comparing añejo vs reposado, the difference is purely aging duration. Añejo tequila is aged much longer. This is where the añejo meaning comes from, 'aged'. It can be aged for up to 3 years, whereas repsosado is only aged for around 2 months, before bottling. This means that the taste is much closer to blanco tequila and the colour is much lighter.
What percentage is tequila?
Tequila contains from 40-50 percent of alcohol. All types of tequila are spirits, so will fall within this margin somewhere. The tequila percentage can vary a little from brand to brand and style to style.
What is cristalino tequila?
A 'cristalino' tequila is when an aged tequila is filtered again to remove the colour from it. The result is a clear sipping tequila with the same notes and characteristics as a regular aged tequila. Añejos are most often filtered like this and it’s purely a stylistic choice.
What's the smoothest type of tequila?
Añejo tequila. Within the industry, this always seems to be the answer. Its smooth taste and texture can be attributed to the aging process, dulling down any ethanol-like flavours, commonly tasted in blanco.
Is there a difference between tequila and mezcal?
Yes. The mezcal vs tequila debate is hot within the industry. Both are made from the same plant but the differences are distinct! Most notably, the production and taste are different and greatly separate both spirits.
Discover the highland and lowland tequila on our EBS Tequila and Mezcal Expedition. Master each style of tequila behind the bar and check out our bartender courses.