Tequila purchasing guide

Jean Barker's 4 level guide to buying tequila. Use it. It rocks.

by: Jean Barker | 21 Aug 2009

If you thought choosing the right tequila was as simple as one tequila... two tequila... three tequila... floor? Think again.

When buying tequila look for...
(prices are per bottle in 2009, and fluctuate with the US dollar)

Level 0: A picture of a prickly cactus or a guy in a sombrero on the label. This is called a “warning label.” Don't buy it. Don't shag anyone who buys it for you. You can thank me in the morning. Pay: with your liver / virginity.

Level 1: “Agave” and “double-distilled” plus any description of the taste. If they're describing the taste at all, this indicates some confidence in it. My house party option, Sauza gold, is one of these. It's also bottled in Mexico, unlike many. (The Mexicans tried to prevent tequila being exported in vats, but the USA forced them to back down to save the Californian bottling economy.) Pay: About R200 – R250 for Sauza.

Level 2: Añejo Tequila. Like Cuervo Black, Añejo (“aged” for non-Mexicans) tequila has to be been aged in oak barrels for at least a year, but for up to three. Black is done in American oak barrels for 18 months, and then blended with older tequilas. If you're drinking something like this, you're doing pretty well. It’s from a family owned farm in Mexico. That’s all good news. And it’s good for you? Well not really, but apparently I was “funny” at the Cuervo launch, where I downed quite a lot of it. And despite this, I woke up without a headache, and with only a mild hangover. It should be served with orange slices, because vitamin C is a great way to survive the effects of vitamin T. Pay: From R180 for Cuervo Black (which, yes, isn’t much more than you’ll pay for Gold).

Level 3: Extra Añejo. Aged for at least three years and usually up to four, this is the tequila you keep at your house, and show off with. I think it's perfectly acceptable to still serve it with orange slices. Some would disagree. It's not there to get drunk on, unless you're rich or already drunk. Some of these come flavoured, and although I've never been a fan of disguising my booze as kids' drinks, apparently it's great in Chocolate flavour. Like pure agave (see: Level 4) the taste will depend on the region (mainly highlands, or lowlands) of origin, as well as how it is distilled. Pay: From R375, and counting.

Level 4: Pure agave. Don't be fooled just by the words “agave tequila”, because it's illegal to call it tequila if there's no agave in it at all. If there is any flavouring at all, it's not pure agave, because the Mexicans made flavouring pure agave illegal, just like I would make it illegal for people from Joburg to put ice in their red wine, if I could. Pay: If you can afford it, you don't care.

Jean Barker is the editor of Channel24.co.za entertainment, so she gets out a lot. You can read her columns here or just sign up for the Channel24 newsletter here and get them delivered to your inbox every Friday.

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