They are two of the world’s most popular spirit based alcoholic beverages. One has maintained its position at the top for many years, and the other is a rising star. It is Tequila Vs Whisky that we are going to be talking about today.
The Whiskypedia will take you through every detail you need to know about Whisky and Tequila, later drawing a comparison between the two to find out whether we have a winner between them? Let’s get started by first understanding Tequila and everything about it.
Tequila is an alcoholic beverage produced exclusively in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. The name ‘Tequila’ is derived from the city of Tequila, Jalisco which is where most of the world’s tequila is produced. The region is so crucial that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.
A farmer inspecting Blue Agave plants in a farm
The Tequila industry is one of the most important exports for Mexico, like Scotch whisky is to the Scottish economy. The estimated value of the worldwide Tequila market was more than US $4.6 Billion in 2019. These numbers are expected to grow exponentially in the next five years with some studies indicating that by 2024, the Tequila market will be worth well over US $5.9 Billion.
A worker cutting off the stalks of the Blue Agave plant
How It’s Made
Tequila is prepared by distilling the cooked and fermented juices of the blue agave plant, which is native to the aforementioned Jalisco region of Mexico. The leaves or stalks of the Agave plant are cut off, and the fruit is then transported to the production facilities. Here, the ‘fruit’ is slowly cooked in order to create fructose, and it is then ground under a large stone wheel. The juice is extracted, then stored in large wooden vats for fermentation. After fermentation, the wort is distilled twice. Some tequila makers choose to age their distilled spirit, whereas many simply bottle their Tequila post distillation.
Baked Blue Agave 'fruit'
Types of Tequila
There are two kinds of Tequila produced in Mexico, Silver and Gold. The former is the product bottled directly after distillation, undergoing no aging or maturation. Whereas the former is a slightly premium version wherein the Silver tequila is blended with some amount of matured tequila to create an amber coloured result. The matured Tequila is also known as Reposado, which means ‘rested’. Mexican authorities do not necessitate any concrete duration for the aging process unlike most whisky producing nations of the world.
This drink was first produced in the region during the 1600s, but in limited quantities and more often for personal use by natives. The person credited with creating the first-system of mass-producing Tequila in this region was Don Pedro Sanchez de Tagle. He was a Spanish nobleman who arrived in Mexico after the conquistadors colonized Mexico during the 1600s. The Spanish officials began to tax the now commercially produced Tequila, and the Spanish Royalty had begun granting official licenses to other Dons of the region to produce the beverage. The Cuervo family was granted the license by King Carlos IV of Spain, and the creator of Sauza Tequila became the first person to export the beverage to the United States.
It wasn’t until 1974 that the Mexican government passed a resolution declaring Tequila a proprietary product, and intellectual property of the country of Mexico. Officially, the term ‘tequila’ cannot be used to describe any drink produced outside the country. This protected status, much like the usage of the term ‘Scotch’ for whisky produced in Scotland prevents copycat products of unscrupulous nature.
A shot of Tequila with a slice of lime and some salt
Some of the world’s most popular Tequila brands are Patron, Jose Cuervo, Don Julio, Sauza Tequila, Don Nacho, Tres Agave Anejo, Camino, Casamigos and more. It is an immensely popular alcoholic beverage that has shown tremendous growth in the past two decades. Tequila consumption is astonishingly high in the United States of America. Out of the top ten nations consuming the most Tequila in the world, more than 204 million litres were exported to the United States of America in 2019.
The number is so large that not even the rest of the nine nations in the top ten could make up half of it. In fact, Tequila is so popular in the United States that Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock launched Teremana, his own line of Tequila. Teremana Tequila is manufactured in the Jalisco Highlands of Mexico at the Distileria Teremana de Agave. This reflects not only the current popularity of Tequila in the United States, but also represents the expected growth for this beverage in the years to come.
After having explored everything about Tequila and its history, production and more, let us get to know whisky, how it’s made in different parts of the world, ingredients, popular whisky brands
Whisky spirit-based alcoholic beverage that is distilled from the fermented mash of food grains, water and yeast. The kind of food grains used to distil whisky vary in different countries but the most commonly used are barley, corn, wheat and rye. Some of the major whisky making nations in the world are Scotland, Ireland, America, Japan, Canada and India. There are many different types of whiskies, and they are produced using varying techniques at every step in its production.
The first mentions of whisky date back to the 1400s when Irish monks developed one of the earliest methods of distillation. These techniques soon spread to the country of Scotland with migrating Christian monks. Over the years, many different people made their own alterations and changes to the distillation technique as the practice continued to evolve for centuries.
The Jameson Bow Street 18, released in honour of their former distillery
How It’s Made
Eventually, distillation of alcoholic beverages also spread to the Americas where it continued to evolve on its own, forming the bedrock of the modern Bourbon whiskey distillation in the United States. Back in Ireland, the Old Bushmills Distillery and Jameson’s Bow Street Distillery had developed their own interpretation of whiskey distillation, maturation and blending. In Scotland, a man named George Smith legitimized his illicit distillation facilities by obtaining the first ever distillery license in the Speyside region. This is how The Glenlivet distillery came into being.
Copper Pot Stills at The Glenlivet Distillery, Scotland
The origins of whisky distillation are diverse in all regions of the world, but they usually arrived to the same techniques and methods. Scotch whisky is predominantly produced by fermenting malted barley, whereas corn or rye is preferred in the United States. Single Pot Still, Column Stills and Coffey stills are popular distillation techniques are commonly used by whisky makers.
Types of Whisky & Popular Brands
As whisky making differs in different parts of the world, so do the types of whiskies. Scotch whisky is by far the most valuable type of whisky, and it can be divided into five different types. Blended Scotch whiskies are produced by brands such as Chivas Regal, and Ballantine’s, and popular Single Malt Scotch whiskies include brands like The Glenlivet, Aberlour and Longmorn. It is an important category, and even important blenders like Ballantine’s have released their own line of single malt Scotch whiskies.
Blended Malt Scotch whiskies have also been gaining some traction with big brands like Chivas Regal entering the segment. The Chivas Regal Ultis was their very first blended malt release in over two centuries. Single Grain and Blended Grain Scotch whiskies are the lesser known types of Scotch whiskies.
Different types of Japanese whiskies
Japan has an identical approach for their whiskies, whereas Ireland produces three main types of whiskeys – Blended like Jameson Irish whiskeys, Single Pot Still whiskeys like the Redbreast 12 Year Old, and Single Malt Irish whiskeys like the Bushmills Original Irish whiskey.
A bottle of the Redbreast 12 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish whiskey
America and India are by far the most different when it comes to producing their drinks. Bourbon whiskeys and Rye whiskeys are the most commonly produced American products. The former must be produced with a 51% corn mash, whereas the latter is produced with rye mash as high as 95%. Straight Bourbon whiskey is required to be matured for at least two years in new, charred oak barrels.
Rabbit Hole Cavehill Bourbon Whiskey, a rising star in the American Bourbon whiskey industry
Most Indian whisky brands are blends, with single malts forming a very small part of the industry in India. Indian whiskies are created by blending imported Scottish malt whiskies and combining them with locally produced whiskies and spirits. Whisky brands such as Officer’s Choice, McDowell’s No.1, 8 PM and many others blend their whisky with neutral molasses based spirit. This practice enables mass-production of cheaper whisky at lower costs, but hampers the quality and taste of the drink.
Other quality Indian whiskies such as Blenders Pride, Imperial Blue, and Royal Stag are blended with local grain whiskies in order to preserve the taste and aroma of the Scotch malts. Imperial Blue and Royal Stag are bestselling whiskies in the country selling millions of 9-litre cases each year. If you want to know more about the uniquely diverse Indian whisky industry, click here.
It is time for us to dive deeper into the Tequila Vs Whisky conversation, and to find out how both alcoholic beverages are different from each other. Are they different? Do Tequila and Whisky share any similarities? Does the Tequila Vs Whisky debate make sense? Let’s find out all the answers below.
How Different Are Tequila and Whisky From Each Other?
The answer to this question is a little complicated because although Tequila Vs Whisky does make sense, and they are very different from each other. There aren’t many similarities between the two drinks, only a couple of them.
Both Tequila and Whisky are distilled from a fermented organic mash of natural ingredients.
Whisky and Tequila are both encouraged to be enjoyed neat, and without any adulteration. This is not a ‘rule’ that is often followed, but the purists do make it a point to stick to it.
Now that we have the few similarities between them out of the way, we move towards the most important part of this discussion – The difference between Whisky and Tequila.
When we’re talking about the differences between Whisky and Tequila, we do have to consider the fact that both the drinks are fundamentally different in the way they are perceived by the general audience.
The perception of an incredibly serious and formal setting associated with whisky has been hard to shed for the whisky industry in particular. Most people think of cigars, gourmet meals and three piece suits when they think of whisky, and with Tequila it is the absolute polar effect.
Tequila is always thought of as a ‘vacation’ or ‘party drink’ that one drinks in quick succession at the beach or at a nightclub. Dancing, tropical weather and letting one’s hair down is what most people think of when they think Tequila.
Sure these are merely perceptions, and in fact whiskeys like Jameson, and Ballantine’s are as fun as things can get. But this is still a fascinating aspect of the Tequila Vs Whisky conversation.
Another interesting distinction between Whisky and Tequila is that with the former, maturation is an absolute necessity. In Scotland and Ireland, you can’t possibly sell your product as whisky if it has not been matured for at least 3 years. In America, you have to mature it for at least 2 years before you label it a Straight Bourbon.
With Tequila? Maturation and Aging is optional, and it can be bottled within weeks of distillation. When done with whisky, the product is usually labelled ‘Moonshine’.
The Tequila Vs Whisky Alcohol Content is another interesting topic of discussion. The ABV levels, or the amount of alcohol in either products varies, though not by much. With Tequila, it can be bottled at anywhere between 35% ABV to 55% ABV but within the United States it has to be sold above 40% ABV at all times.
When it comes to whisky, the alcohol content can range from anywhere from 40% ABV to as high as 60-65% ABV, but never below 40%. This is a minor, but important difference between the two that lends perspective to the Tequila Vs Whisky discussion.
Most established blenders such as Chivas Regal, and Ballantine’s stick to the 40%-43% threshold, but other single malt distilleries have often released cask-strength expressions from time to time. Aberlour has the famous A’bunadh which they release in limited numbers each year. So does The Glenlivet with their Nadurra series which can go up to 61% ABV.
Another notable difference one could point out is that Whisky can be distilled from a variety of food grains, but for Tequila, it has to be the Blue Agave plant. This presents a challenge for Tequila distilleries when supply of the plant fluctuates. This is similar to whisky distilleries facing challenges during both World Wars when barley was in short supply.
With Whisky, a distiller or blender has a tremendous amount of control over the flavour, aroma and eventual result that gets bottled. The shape and style of the copper stills, grain mash, type of barrel used to mature or finish the whisky can all have a great impact on the whisky. Even different regions of the world produce different tasting whiskies often with the same techniques due to weather conditions, natural resources and many more factors.
When it comes to Tequila, it is only a small region of Mexico that produces this beverage, and since most of the spirit is not matured either, the amount of control and difference in flavour is diminished immensely.
Commercially too, Whisky is a far larger industry than Tequila simply based on the fact that so many different countries throughout the world produce whisky, but only Mexico produces Tequila. If we consider the fact that demand for the product is considerably high, the supply is still steady and limited since it depends fully on a plant that does not grow anywhere else.
More than US $80.58 Billion of whisky was sold around the world in 2019, whereas the Mexico only exported US $4.6 Billion worth of Tequila during the same time.
As you can see, the Tequila Vs Whisky discussion was not really a debate after all since both types of beverages peacefully co-exist in the colossal market for alcoholic drinks. Whisky might be the giant that dwarves Tequila’s presence, but they have their own unique identities right from their flavours and aroma, the way they are enjoyed to how they are enjoyed. Whisky or Tequila, no matter your drink of choice, The Whiskypedia would like to say “Cheers!” to you.