100% agave tequila: Tequila whose sole sugar source is the blue agave.
Agave tequilana Weber, blue variety: Sub-species of agave that must be used in tequila production. Commonly called blue agave.
Aguamiel: Diluted cooked agave juice – the result of extraction.
Añejo tequila: Tequila aged at least one year in oak barrels of no more that 600 liters.
Autoclave: Stainless-steel pressure cooker used to cook agave.
Bagazo: Leftover agave fiber that has had aguamiel extracted.
Blanco tequila: Tequila with no more than 60 days of contact with oak.
Caballito: “Little horse” – tall, thin Mexican shot glass that evolved from the cuernito. While not appropriate for serious tasting, they are staples of cantina drinking.
Coa (de jima): Bladed tool used by the jimador to harvest blue agave.
Column distillation: Also called continuous distillation. Process in which liquid is pumped through a column containing various metal plates, resulting in multiple distillations in a single pass. The process can be operated without shutting down between batches, and can result in much higher alcohol yield.
Cuernito: “Little horn” – a real cow horn traditionally used to consume tequila.
Denomination of Origin (DO): Also known as “Appellation of Origin.” Internationally recognized status defining a product as exclusive to a particular country. The Denomination of Origin for Tequila (DOT) defines tequila as exclusively Mexican, and that it may be produced anywhere in the state of Jalisco, and in parts of the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.
Diffusor: Machine used to chemically hydrolyze raw agave. Can also be used to extract aguamiel from cooked agave.
Extra-añejo tequila: Tequila aged at least three years in oak barrels of no more than 600 liters.
Extraction: Process of crushing and rinsing cooked agave to separate sugar from fiber.
Formulation: Process of preparing aguamiel for fermentation. May involve dilution, the addition of mieles dulces, other sugars, and/or yeast.
Gold tequila: Also called oro or joven. Usually a mixto containing caramel color and flavorings. 100% agave golds are a blend of blanco and one or more other classes of tequila.
Heads: Liquid condensed and collected at the beginning of distillation, before the first “cut” has been made.
Horno: “Oven,” in Spanish. Refers to the brick ovens used by many producers to cook agave.
Hijuelo: Rhizomes that grow from the blue agave. Clones of the parent plant, they are pulled up and re-planted in the spring.
Jimador: Skilled farmworker who harvests agave.
Mezcal: Traditional word for “agave” in Jalisco.
Mieles dulces: “Sweet honeys” – cooked agave syrup that is extracted from ovens and autoclaves. It can be used to raise the sugar content of aguamiel during formulation, or to start fermentation.
Mieles amargas: “Bitter honeys” – dirty water that runs off agaves during the first few hours of cooking in ovens and autoclaves. It is generally extracted and discarded with the vinazas.
Mixto: “Mixed,” referring to the sugar source of any non-100% agave tequila. The term is not recognized by the CRT, and does not appear in the Norm or on tequila labels.
Mosto muerto: “Dead must” – the result of fermenting aguamiel. Essentially agave beer, this is what will be distilled.
Mosto vivo: “Living must” – actively fermenting aguamiel.
Ordinario: The result of a single pot distillation of mosto muerto. Usually 20-25% alcohol by volume.
Penca: Spiky leaf of the agave plant.
Piña: “Pineapple” – common name for the agave stem that is harvested and cooked in tequila production. Also called bola (ball), cabeza (head), or corazón (heart).
Pot distillation: Also called alembic, Arabic or discontinuous distillation. Distillation in which a “pot” at the base of the still is filled with liquid and distilled. The process must be stopped and re-started for each batch of mosto muerto or ordinario.
Quiote: The inflorescence (flower stalk) that some agaves grow upon reaching maturity.
Reposado tequila: Tequila “rested” in oak for at least 2 months.
Rollermill: The most common machine used for extraction. A modified sugar cane mill.
Sangrita: “Little blood” – traditional Jaliscan accompaniment to tequila, made in dozens of different ways, but always with a base of acidic fruit juice.
Tahona: Two-ton stone wheel. The traditional method for extraction.
Tails: Liquid condensed and collected toward the end of distillation, after the second and final “cut” has been made.
Vinazas: “Stillage” or “vinasse” – the combined liquid waste of the tequila-making process.
Vino: “Wine” – traditional term for liquor, including tequila, in Jalisco.