Agave. Plant with long spiny leaves of the lily family. There are more than 400 species, all native to North America and mostly to Mexico.
Agave azul (Blue Agave). The specific variety of agave cultivated in the Tequila Region used to make tequila. The scientific name is Agave Azul Tequilana Weber.
Aguamiel. The sugary sap from the maguey that ferments into pulque.
Añejo. Tequila Blanco aged in oak barrels for more than a year. It has a golden amber color with a soft, smooth, complex flavor. It is tequila Blanco aged in 600-liter (160 gallon) white oak casks for at least one year. The amber color and woody flavor are picked up from the oak, and the oxidation that takes place through the porous wood develops the unique bouquet and taste.
Autoclave. A large steam pressure cooker used to cook the agave piñas.
Barrica. Barrel mostly made of oak that previously held bourbon or whiskey.
Blanco. Clear, fresh from the still tequila is called Blanco (white or silver). It has the true bouquet and flavor of the blue agave. All tequila types start as Blanco.
Cabeza. The first portion of distillate (heads), highest in alcohol and aldehydes, which is usually discarded. See also Corazon and Colas.
Cactus. Drought resistant spiny plants with succulent stems like the saguaro, peyote and nopal (opuntia). No liquor is produced with any cactus plant.
Coa. A machete type tool used by the Jimador for harvesting agave.
Colas. The final portion of distillate containing the lowest alcohol and soapy flavors, usually recycled into another distillation.
Corazon. The “heart” of distillation containing the best flavors and aromas for tequila.
CRT. Tequila Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador del Tequila), a private non-profit organization responsible for the regulation, verification, and quality certification of tequila.
Distillation. The process of purifying a liquid by successive evaporation and condensation. Tequila is made with double distillation, and some brands go through a third one to enhance purity.
Extra Añejo. Tequila Blanco aged for at least three years in-600 liter (160 gallon) white oak casks. Some distillers additionally age these tequilas in smaller barrels. Extra Añejo enters into the big leagues of liquor both in taste and price.
Fabrica. A tequila distillery. Used to be known as "tahona".
Fermentation. The formation of alcohol from sugars by the action of enzymes. In the tequila process the sugars come from the roasted agave piñas, and the enzymes is the yeast added to the sap or “mosto”. The yeast acts upon the sugars of the agave plant converting them into alcohol.
Hijuelos. Offsprings of the agave plant, which are replanted and develop into mature agave plants. It is the preferred form of propagation for most agave plants.
Horno. The traditional oven used to cook agave piñas.
Jimador. The laborer who harvests agave. The jimador's task is a crucial one, since he decides when the plant is ready, usually 8 to 12 years after it is planted. He has to cut off all the spiny leaves to obtain an almost perfect core or piña.
Joven abocado. Joven or young is Tequila Blanco mellowed by the addition of colorings and flavorings, caramel being the most common.
Los Altos. One of the major growing regions for Blue Agave, a mountainous area with rich red volcanic soil east of Guadalajara.
Madre. A mature or “Mother” agave plant from which hijuelos have been harvested.
Maguey. A Carib word encompassing agaves that are mostly used for pulque. It has become a hallmark of the Mexican countryside.
Mezcal (or mescal). All liquors distilled from any agave plant are mezcal, but only those made from the blue agave are branded as tequila. Tequila used to de identified as mezcal produced in the Tequila Region. Nowadays, mezcal has its own Denomination of Origin and is mostly produced in Oaxaca.
Mosto. The unfermented juice extracted from the roasted agave piñas.
NOM. Norma Official Mexicana. The official Mexican standard or NOM defines tequila as the product of fermentation and distillation of the blue agave juices (mostos) obtained at the distillery from agave cores or piñas grown in the Tequila Region. It is assigned by the government to each tequila distillery, identifying which company made and bottled each brand of tequila.
Nopal. Native to Mexico it is a member of the cactus family, and is commonly referred to as “prickly pear”. Nopal is a great source of vitamin C and extremely nutritious. Its fruit, known as “tuna”, is served with lime juice for breakfast or lunch.
Ordinario. The first run distillate when making tequila.
Piña. The pineapple-shaped heart of the agave plant. The average weight is 40 to 70 pounds, and can reach up to 200 pounds. Roughly speaking, seven kilos (15 lb.) of raw agave piñas are needed to produce one liter (one quart U.S.) of tequila.
Piloncillo. Unrefined sugar made from dried sugarcane juice, used in production of tequila joven or abocado.
Pipon. Tank, usually made of oak, used for storing tequila.
Pulque. Fermented Mexican drink, made from the maguey or Century plant. The maguey is milked daily by a tlachiquero to obtain the aguamiel sap using a gourd or acocote. Pulque is slightly foamy and mildly alcoholic.
Quiote. A once-in-a-lifetime stem that springs from all agave plants to produce seeds. It may reach 25 to 40 feet high so that the seeds grown at the top of the stem can scatter with the wind.
Resposado. Tequila Blanco that has been kept in white oak casks or vats for more than two months and up to one year. The oak barrels give Reposado a mellowed taste, pleasing bouquet, and its pale color. Reposados keep the blue agave taste and are gentler to the palate.
Tahona. The ancient traditional stone wheel used to crush and extract juice from cooked agave. It is still used to produce traditional tequila.
Tequila. The region, a volcano and the town where tequila was first distilled.
Tepache. A Mexican drink made of the fermentation of pineapple juice. In some regions pulque is added.
Tequila Region. The “Denomination of Origin” law has defined the area in which the blue agave is grown. It includes the state of Jalisco and some regions in the states of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas.
Tesgüino. Mild alcoholic beverage of Central and Northern Mexico produced by the fermentation of corn. It is similar to beer with bits of corn and it is the traditional drink of the Tarahumaras or Rarramuri Indians.
Tuna. The fruit of the nopal. It is served chilled with lime juice.
Yeast. Consists largely of cells of a tiny fungus. It causes fermentation in alcoholic beverages and is used as leaven in baking. It is added to the tequila mosto to induce fermentation. The yeast acts upon the sugars of the agave plant converting them into alcohol.