You may have seen our review of Tres Manos Añejo a while back, where we mention that it is “triple distilled.” The tag on the bottle boasted about triple distillation in bold print, three times. When I picked out the bottle at BevMo, I admit I had no idea what triple distillation really meant – it seemed like a good thing. But recently, I found out that it’s not necessarily true.
When we were in Mexico last month, going on distillery tours, our tequila consultant mentioned that triple distillation is only necessary if the first two distillations don’t render a crystal clear product. Under a normal process, the crushed, fermented agave goes through a first distillation that produces a cloudy liquid called “ordinario.” Ordinario isn’t considered tequila yet. The first distillation is done to remove solid particles, yeast, proteins and minerals and does not produce a high enough alcohol level for it to be called tequila. When you see ordinario, you see why you wouldn’t want to drink it – it’s pungent and cloudy.
Tequila is normally produced after the second distillation when the alcohol level is increased to around 80 proof and the last traces of particles are stripped away, leaving a very clean agave flavor. Tequila produced after the second distillation is bottled and sold as blanco.
So, as it happens, triple distillation isn’t necessary, unless your first two tries don’t render quality product that’s ready to labeled tequila blanco. Lesson learned.