Retirement; like your parents, but way cooler
In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into
their 4th decade of this
financially independent lifestyle, they invite you
to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
The Whys and Wherefores
Whatever it is, tequila
probably can't fix it, but it's worth a shot! - Jimmy Buffett
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
The making of tequila is both an art and a science, a lot more complex than
I had ever realized before.
Billy and I had taken a trip to
the town of
Tequila some years back and it was our first experience of learning
about Mexico's National Drink.
First a few basic points, then I'll tell
you why barrels are used in aging tequila and why they are so important to
the taste of this unique drink.
Designated tequila-making Mexican states
Tequila can only be labeled as such if it is made from
the Blue Agave plant harvested from these specific
states in Mexico:
government has strict standards on the making of this
drink - which locations it can be made, which agave
must be used, and how long or if
the liquid should be aged. These are the generalized
standards that any distillery must follow in order to
label their product tequila.
The Blue Weber Agave plant
Driving through the Highlands of Jalisco, you will see agave
fields lining the highways on both sides. When an agave field is
"resting" often corn will be the alternate crop planted in order
to replenish the soil.
A Jimadore harvesting mature agave
skill and knowledge of a good Jimadore is passed down through generations of
family workers. The trained Jimadore knows when an agave plant is
mature and when it's the right time to harvest.
This man is using a specialized hoe
called a coa de jima, to pull the pina from the ground. Then
he slices away the toughened leaves to expose the pina.
The Jimadore is paid by
the pina, and these pinas can weigh from 20 to 80 kilos each.
Blanco tequilas from
have already discussed the roasting of the pinas, the crushing of
them to release the aguamiel, the fermentation and then the
you see a sample of blanco
tequilas from El Pandillo Distillery. These have not been aged in any
wooden barrel, and are young tequilas. They can be referred to as "Silver,"
"White," or platas due to their clear color.
However, it is legal to age
a blanco in a stainless steel tank for up to 2 months, and this will
smooth out the flavor of the plata. If a wooden barrel is "exhausted"
then a blanco can be rested there for up to 2 months, and still
legally be called a blanco.
An exhausted barrel should not impart any
flavor to the blanco. If you taste any vanilla, then this tequila is
not a blanco, or an additive has been placed into the liquid.
Storage barrels of white oak for aging
why the barrels? Why age tequila? And why white oak?
The CRT, which is a Tequila Regulatory
Council that governs quality and the standards of this production, says
Tequila must be "aged" in oak.
It can be new or used,
charred or not. This is a choice left up to the Master Blender (the chemist)
or the Master Distiller. This is how one tequila differs in taste, color and
texture from another.
Jack Daniels whiskey white oak barrel
used to age tequila
Most tequila companies like the used
American white oak whiskey barrels, and Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are the
they are not the only ones used to impart flavor to the tequila.
The longer a tequila ages, the more color
and tannins it will have and the smoother it will be to the taste. Sometimes
barrels can be toasted or charred, and this will "reset" the barrel for more
tequila aging in the future.
And all of this affects the tequila taste
Gonza the barrel maker in Jalisco,
barrel maker is called a Cooper.
Gonza purchases used
barrels from America and France and - depending on the condition of the
barrel - he'll char them, toast them, or use the wood to reconstruct a new
barrel of a different size to sell.
Cutting barrel staves to different
the Cooper's son - who is being taught his Father's trade - cutting down the
barrel staves to a certain size for barrel making.
Re-cut barrel staves
Here are some barrel staves from a larger
charred barrel that have been cut and tapered for a smaller barrel.
quick hammering and steel bindings
Wooden strips are fit into steel circular forms and
pounded into a tight fit.
Some of the barrels
that the Cooper has purchased were aging wine or other
spirits inside of them. These are the ones that he uses
to create a "new" barrel in 1 liter, 5 liter, 10 liter
sizes and grander.
It's a local custom
for Mexicans to purchase a non-descript blanco
tequila, put them into one of these re-purposed barrels,
and age the liquid themselves for the holidays or give
as a gift.
Barrel shavings - nothing is wasted
order for the narrow pieces of wood to bend properly
into the barrel shape, the inside of each strip is chipped
away at its center making the wood easier to form a
These shavings are
later used to char or toast a barrel for the flavor it
gives to the tequila, or to repurpose an exhausted
A tequila barrel being charred
Toasting or charring
helps release the vanillin from the cellulose in the wood. A heavier char
can provide for a sweet smoke flavor or a taste of chocolate or leather.
This is how a
barrel alters the flavor of a reposado or anejo.
Each distillery chooses the flavors they
want to emphasize for a certain style of tequila.
Details of the barrel's contents -
The CRT (a regulatory body) must place
this paper over a barrel's opening, and the CRT must remove it. This ensures
the quality, contents and aging of the the tequila inside. When removing
this label, the CRT must
record this action.
This is very serious business, especially
if a distillery is aging their product at a separate location away from
their own property. If this slip of paper has been tampered with, or if
someone other than the CRT has removed it... There is trouble to pay!
This slip of paper says "Tequila in
maturation." It lists the
Distillery with the lot number
(P-0026) underneath. The category is 100% Agave (the only kind you
should drink) and then it lets you know that there are 50 casks of this lot
On the top right you will see "folio
38/50" which means this folder is cask #38 of 50 other casks.
Tequila bottles lined up in
tasting museum located in
the town of
Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico
Here you see a variety of bottle styles
with aged or slightly aged tequila inside them.
In the world of quality
tequila, the focus is on a "natural" product, with no caramel, corn syrup,
glycerine, aspartame or even Stevia added.
The law allows up to 1% of additives, but
the best tequilas emphasize that no additives have been placed into the
Various bottle styles
Here you can see the differences in the
colors of these tequilas. Depending on which barrels have been used (toasted
or charred) and how long the tequila has been aged, a natural tequila will
vary in color.
the other hand, some distilleries choose to add caramel coloring, because
some consumers confuse darker color with longer aging, and smoother taste.
Everyone has their own style. When you
are choosing a tequila and you like a particular distillery, you can also check a bottle for that
maker's NOM. Anything with the same NOM on it is made at the same
is one way to be sure you have a quality tequila - that, and only drink
tequila that is 100% Agave.
Again, Mixtos have other alcohols and
syrups like cane syrup which can give you a hangover. These are not for the
serious tequila drinker.
Barrels aging tequila inside
In order to keep the quality of tequila
at a high standard, and not to lose too much liquid to the "Angels' share"
storage rooms must be both even temperature and humidity. The barrels at the top
are at a higher temperature than the ones on the bottom and this affects the
If there is not enough humidity and the
barrel staves dry out from the outside, then there is more space for the
liquid to evaporate. This becomes costly to the distiller and it will also
affect the flavor of the aging liquid inside.
Sometimes a distillery will water down the floor to
keep humidity high or they might spray the barrels themselves. The staves
will absorb the water and swell, keeping all edges tight and closed.
Now you know more than
most people do about tequila - and why this National Drink of Mexico has the
respect of the world!
For more information, photos and
stories about Mexico,
For more information on tequila,
The most extensive tequila
database on earth,
VIDEOS, VIDEOS, VIDEOS! See
Mexico for yourself! Beaches, Bars, Babes, Great Food, Live Music.
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.
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About Billy & Akaisha