Summer 2017|volume 10|Issue 4


    Tequila: Changing Perspectives and Dispelling Myths

    Spirits – noun. An alcoholic beverage that is distilled rather than fermented; the liquid containing ethanol and water that is distilled from an alcoholic liquid or mash—often used in plural.

    Max Miller

    Max Miller

    Every spirit intersects with our lives in some unique way. I’ve spent the last 15 years examining the many complex dimensions of these intersections in order to gain some insight into the role of spirits in society and their impact on our everyday lives. Culinary arts, music, fashion, socio-economics, history, culture, and heritage all have a place in this journey that we are now embarking upon in this new column. Each quarter we will explore a particular spirit or spirits category, and I invite you to join me in raising your spirits—not only in the sense of tasting the fine elixirs I will be discussing, but also to find the joy in life, sharing with others, and feeling uplifted.

    As we enter the summer season, what better spirit to talk about than one of my summer favorites: Tequila! Misunderstood in so many ways, Tequila seems to always spark a somewhat polarizing discussion when I show up with a bottle. Some immediately recall the crazy (and regretful) party in college. Others recall the romantic getaway with their significant other. On a few occasions, before I’ve opened the bottle I’ve asked: “What word immediately comes to mind when you think of Tequila?” The responses: party, salt, lime, body shots, worm. By the time we get through a few glasses, the descriptors change to: flavorful, aromatic, peppery, oaky, relaxing, and elegant.

    Why the change in perspective? We ended up tasting Tequila the way it is meant to be: sipped and savored for its many complex flavors. As we embark on our Tequila journey, let’s first dispel two myths. First, there is no worm in Tequila. Only Mezcal (Tequila’s cousin, which I will discuss in another article) has one. In fact, it is not even a worm! It is the larvae of a moth found on agave plants. Second, while the agave plant may look like a cactus it is actually in the lily family.

    Now let’s talk Tequila basics. Tequila is a spirit of Mexico and must be made from the Weber Blue agave plant in one of five specific states. The agave plants (80 to 120 pounds each) are harvested, sliced, and steamed to extract their honey-like juices (called agua miel), and these juices are then fermented and distilled. Once distilled some are held in stainless steel or in barrels for zero to two months. These are called plata or silver Tequilas. Some are placed in oak barrels for two to 11 months. These are called reposado Tequilas. Still others are placed in oak for 12 months to three years. These are called anejo Tequilas. Last, but not least, is the growing category of extra-anejo Tequilas aged for more than three years. The plata Tequilas bring with them the classic peppery and/or floral flavors of traditional Tequilas. As the Tequila is introduced to oak, vanilla, caramel, and of course, wood notes are introduced. Most striking is how the time in oak darkens the Tequila, which was completely clear in its unaged state. Exploring various expressions within these Tequila categories, either neat or chilled will bring a whole new dimension to your summer.

    Here are some of my favorites that I’ll be sharing with friends this summer: El Tesoro Anejo … Chinaco Reposado … Casa Noble Reposado … Hornitos Black Barrel.

    Find any one of these fine Tequilas or discover your own and take your own personal tasting journey this summer. (Be sure that you see 100% agave on the bottle.) All you need is the glass, a bottle, a comfortable chair, and some friends or family. No salt, no lime, no worm, and no regrets.

    Max Miller is the president and chief tasting officer of Raise Your Spirits ( A former corporate attorney turned entrepreneur and college professor, Max has a hearty thirst for knowledge and for fine spirits. He is well versed in the differentiation of the complex flavors found in craft and luxury spirits and he enjoys reading about the history of the brands, the science behind production, and the often whimsical anecdotes that are unique to each spirit. His vision is simple: Make every experience memorable, exceptional, and uniquely yours.