Agave has had a mystical and sacred significance to the people of Mexico for many centuries, a source of many precious gifts including tequila, mezcal and a traditional fermented drink “pulque”. Unlike grains and grapes, which are harvested every year to produce spirits and wine, an agave plant must grow for nearly a decade before it can be harvested to make tequila.
Under Mexican law, tequila can be produced only from Agave tequilana Weber, blue variety, which is a member of the large family of succulents. Looking like a huge Aloe Vera plant, blue agaves can grow to 5 - 8 feet tall and have a diameter of about the same size. It takes 7 to 12 years for a Weber’s blue agave to mature. At this point, a very tall flower stalk, known as the quiote, grows from its center. After flowering the agave plant withers and dies. To extend the life of plants and to prepare them for a harvest, the stems must be cut out as soon as they appear. The removal of a flower stalk allows the starches and sugars to accumulate in the lower part of the stem, which resembles a gigantic green pineapple and is called “piña” or “cabeza”. It is the piñas that are used in production of tequila.
The flavor profile of tequila is impacted by the region where the agave is grown – in the Highlands of Jalisco or in the Lowlands. Due to differences in elevation, soil and weather, the agave plants grown in each area create different tasting tequilas. Highland agave plants are bigger and richer in sugars with a longer growing cycle, making Highlands tequilas sweeter, fruitier and floral with aromatic citrus notes. Lowland agaves have a shorter growing cycle and give tequila an earthy and herbaceous flavor; the Lowland tequilas are characteristically spicier with peppery, astringent notes.
Arrogante tequila is produced from 100% hand-selected Weber blue agave grown in Jalisco’s Highlands, at the area known as Los Altos where the soil has a high degree of iron oxide – giving it a rich red color – with warm days and cooler nights. The agaves in Los Altos take longer to mature and have higher residual sugar content.
Blue agave is a unique crop. Unlike grape vines or fruit trees that also take long time to reach maturity, agave does not bear repeated fruit.
A farmer, who plants his agave shoots today, will have to tend for the field for many years, but won't be able to harvest it for at least a decade. And he doesn't know what prices and demand for tequila will be at that time. This makes cultivation of blue agaves a very risky business.