The atmosphere is not deafening. The music is not loud. Nor will one hear a verse before one gulps a shot, such as “down the hatch.” Tasting tequila is a sort of solemn ceremony, an art where the sense of taste serves as judge of good qualities and shortcomings.
The practice of tasting (“catar”) means “to analyze, classify, break down and judge,” Andrés del Moral, a member of the Mexican Academy of Tequila, said in an e-mail. “The tasting of tequila goes well beyond the sensory analysis; it is an act of harmony between history and the present, the consummation of an ancient process.”
The tasters engage in rigorous training. “In the tasting nothing is improvised. Everything is done at a specific time,” said del Moral. “There are even specific times for tasting tequila. It is a codified art. Even the walls of the place have to be clean; there can be no strong odors. Everything, absolutely everything, must be planned.”
According to del Moral, a taster must evaluate in several ways: identify the colors based on their intensity, vividness, appearance and cleanliness; then take in the smell or bouquet; then by taste – considered as the key step in the process – and finally the touch or feeling sensation. “While it may seem odd, the tasting is also related to the feeling sense,” he said. “The feel of liquor on the tongue, palate, cheeks and lips.”
The classification of tequilas as white, aged up to a year (reposado) or aged beyond a year (añejo) would be “insufficient,” said del Moral. “Therein lies the importance of the tasting, which evaluates all the components that make up a tequila.”
Del Moral stated the oath of the tequila taster: “I promise to drink only the good tequila I find on my path and I will never allow a tequila to consume me.”
Did you know?
The agave is not a cactus, but a plant belonging to the agavaceae family. It has long, fibrous lanceolate-shaped leaves, and is of a bluish-green hue. The part that is used for the production of tequila is the base or heart, also known as pineapple (“piña”).
Photos by Juan Miret