Top graphics for In Search of the Blue Agave

Top right graphic

Join In Search of the Blue Agave on

Please become a fan.



Talk tequila:

Join the Blue Agave discussion forum to ask questions, make comments, vote in polls, rate your favourite tequilas, read up-to-date industry news, or simply meet other tequila aficionados.



Tequila sips:

"Tequila reminds us of a particular world, a world that was born of shared imagination - a wild, rural landscape of robust men on horseback, accustomed to difficult tasks... A powerful shadow, that of the mountain also called Tequila, falls over this great region. That terrain of hard beauty is as hypnotizing to contemporary travellers as it was in centuries past. "

From Jalisco, Tierra del Tequila, published by Artes Mexico, 1995.


Quick links


Types of Tequila


Reading Labels

Controls & the CRT


Tequila Myths



Tequila Culture

Drinking & Tasting

Tequila Country


Other drinks

Pocket Guide


Tequila Tours



Note for IE users:

The 'blocked content' security message you may get from this site is for the Javascript menu system. If you can't see a menu bar below the header, then you have to unblock content or use the ISOTBA Site Map (linked above).



This site and any pictures taken by the author are copyright © Ian Chadwick. Images in the forum galleries are copyright © their respective owners. Some images are linked on this site to the copyright owners of those images. Do not copy or use any of these without prior permission.



To help me defray costs of maintaining this site and my forum, I would very much appreciate your donation. Use the Paypal button above (or make any online payment service payment through Paypal directly to me at Cheques and money orders are also accepted (just be very careful when sending the latter... always use registered mail or courier). Contact me for mail information.


About me

I am a Canadian writer and editor, with a passion for history, sociology and the sciences. Click this link to read my biography, and this one to see some of my other web sites.


Updated May, 2011


An introduction to the spirits of the agave

This site offers a comprehensive look at the Mexican drink called tequila - with individual sections (pages) on tequila's production, history, lore, culture, the agave and much more. Just click on the menu above or the links on the left to read about some of the myths and legends surrounding tequila; about the tequila industry, or to peer into the Mexican home of tequila: Jalisco state.


Along the way you will read personal notes, news, trivia, and production data. I also look at tequila's sister drink, mezcal, as well as its predecessor, pulque, with some asides on other regional Mexican drinks like bacanora and sotol. There are copious references and links to my sources, including links to recipes, drink mixes, margaritas, industry sites, and other tequila fans. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing and researching it. Please email me with corrections, updates and any related news or relevant links. For up-to-date tequila industry news, see the news section in the forum. You can also post your comments, share opinions, rate tequilas and ask questions on my discussion forum.


What is tequila?

Mexico's iconic spirit.

"Tequila is Mexico," said Carmelita Roman, widow of the late tequila producer Jesus Lopez Roman in an interview after her husband's murder. "It's the only product that identifies us as a culture."


No other drink is surrounded by as many stories, myths, legends and lore as tequila and its companion, mezcal. Tequila transcends simple definition by reaching into the heart of Mexico, past and present. It blends indigenous and Spanish cultures with Filipino and Arabian technology. The turbulent history of Mexico is paralleled in the stories of tequila and mezcal. One cannot fully appreciate Mexico without some understanding of tequila's place in its history and culture.


Tequila is easily the most evocative word in the lexicon of drinkers. It conjures images of Pancho Villa's men riding the dusty roads, of dry plains and sullen volcanoes, of brightly-dressed señoritas whirling in a traditional dance. But it also suggests images of pop stars, emerald margaritas, and endless parties.


At its most basic, tequila is an alcoholic, distilled drink made in the arid highlands of central Mexico, from fermented and distilled sap of one species of agave (also called a maguey), an indigenous plant (a succulent related to the lily family, not a cactus). Archeologists say agaves have been cultivated for at least 9,000 years, and used as food for even longer. The agave has woven its fibres through the entire course of Mexican history.


Penca Azul tequilas'Tequila wine' was first made by the Conquistadors within a few decades of their arrival. They discovered a fermented native drink made from the agave, called pulque, and soon found a way to distill the syrup of various agaves (aguamiel) into a stronger spirit. In almost 500 years following the Conquest, tequila has become an icon of Mexican nationality, pride and culture, recognized worldwide. Today, most of it is made in Jalisco state around the towns of Tequila and Arandas, using only one species of plant: the blue agave.


Tequila is an androgynous word, being written as both el tequila and la tequila in Spanish; masculine and feminine (although the masculine form is more commonly used).


Tequila is technically a mezcal, as are all agave spirits, but it is limited as to where it can be produced and where its source agave can be grown. Like cognac is a brandy from a specific region of France, tequila is a mezcal from a specific region of Mexico.


In Tequila: Panegyric and Emblem, the Mexican poet Alvaro Mutis wrote:

Tequila has no history; there are no anecdotes confirming its birth.
This is how it’s been since the beginning of time, for tequila is a gift from the gods
and they don’t tend to offer fables when bestowing favors.
That is the job of mortals, the children of panic and tradition.

Translated by Mark Schafer, from issue 27, Artes de México magazine.)


According to the International Wines & Spirits Record (IWSR), Adams Handbook,
and Impact Databank, tequila is sold primarily in two markets: the U.S. and Mexico. In
2005, the U.S. represented approximately 46% (9.1 million nine-liter cases) of the global tequila volume while tequila's home country, Mexico, accounted for 40% (7.9 million nine-liter cases) of sales. The remaining 14% was spread throughout the world.


Many visitors to the east coast of Mexico - the Mayan Riviera and Cancun - get tours through what they believe is a "tequila" factory. It isn't. It may be a mezcal distillery, or it may produce another regional spirit. It is NOT tequila, no matter what the guide tells you. Tequila is not made in the states of Yucatan or Quintana Roo and the closest tequila factory is more than 1,000 miles away.


But tequila is not simply a drink: it is a culture, it is an emblem, it is a rallying call for Mexican identity. It is a tradition and heritage, it is about families and feuds, about land and politics, and it is an economic force. For all the marketing and the hype, the advertising and the promotion, tequila still retains its magic after its 400-plus year journey to get to this point.


2009: World Tequila Conference, Sept. 13-18, Guadalajara. Click for more information.


Back to top


What is mezcal?

Tequila's ancestral spirit.

Mezcal (also spelled mescal) is a related distilled spirit, and is the older form of the name for all tequila as well. The name for the product made in Jalisco state - tequila - was adopted in the late 19th century.


Del Maguey mezcalMezcal is actually a generic word that covers a wide range of distilled agave spirits that are made in every Mexican state except Veracruz, Quintana  Roo, Campeche and Baja California. It is not a singular product, but should be considered in the plural - mezcals (Sp. mezcales).


Technically, all tequilas are mezcals, which were also known as mezcal wines and mezcal brandies before the name tequila became common and replaced mezcal for that one particular type of mezcal. Today they are distinct products, differentiated by production process, place of origin and taste, much the same way rye whiskey and Scotch whisky differ.


Most mezcal is made in Oaxaca state today, although some (mostly regional and not for export) is also made in Guerrero, Zacatecas, and other states.


Mezcal has its own magic and mystery. It retains its traditions as a 'people's drink' - made in tiny operations that have hardly changed over the intervening centuries. Slow to modernize, family run, tiny output, mezcal is still at the heart and soul of ancient Mexico and her traditions. No other spirit in the world comes from such a wide natural and cultural array as do mezcals.


There is a separate section for mezcal on this site.

Please donate to help maintain this web site

To help me defray costs of maintaining this site, I would very much appreciate your donation. Use the Paypal button above (or make any online payment service payment through Paypal directly to Cheques and money orders are also accepted (just be very careful when sending the latter... always use registered mail or courier). Send to:
In Search of the Blue Agave, 115 First St. Suite 502, Collingwood, ON Canada L9Y 4W3




Back to top

Bottom graphic

Advertise here!