Does anyone make Tequila?

Wondering if there are any alternatives to agave as a base?

There is a giant market hole here for a local tequila but agave is in short supply. What are my options to make a product that is reasonably passable in the absence of agave plants?

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  • Low priced agave alcohols generally use a blend of agave and other sugars, the maximum ratios by Mexican law are 51% agave and 49% other sugar (or something like this).

    Keep in mind, you likely will not be able to label as "Tequila", as that's a protected name, a distinctive product of Mexico. Here in the states, it would now be called an "Agave Spirit", and subject to the same 51/49 max ratio as above.

    Given the very high price of agave syrup, and your location (expensive imports), you'd likely need to cut with sugar. If you are going for a blanco style, it's probably not a big deal, especially if you have enough skill to crank out a clean white sugar wash.

    Agave is very difficult to ferment, among the hardest.

  • Lallemand will sell you Tequila yeast strain, they call it ... wait for it ... TQ.

    In discussions with the folks there, it will provide a congener profile that's very typical for Tequila.

  • edited April 13

    You can sometimes source lower-priced agave syrups, ones that are not from Blue Weber agave, these can contain higher levels of inulin. They also taste somewhat more "funky/wild" - these are generally what the Mezcals would use. Lots of character, probably best for aging.

    Some types of glucoamylase enzyme blends can break down inulin into more easily fermentable sugars - you will need to test your specific GA enzyme to see how effective it is.

  • In a "Thirsty Traveler", the host asked the tequila maker what the roasted agave tasted like, coming right out of the roaster. The reply was essentially, "Dunno. Taste it". The show host said it tasted _**exactly **_like roasted sweet potato.

    I've always kept a weather eye out for a huge close free supply of sweet potato. I also may need to try @grim's Lallemand offering. Oh, yeah, @grim - did they say on what substrate they got the tequila congeners?

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • @rossco makes a tequila style spirit, he will be able to help with alternatives.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • @grim What makes agave so difficult to ferment? I had assumed it was similar to a sugar wash with the associated problems of nutrient and ph adjustments. I will probably try exactly what you are suggesting with the sugar content using our local raw sugar at some percentage. Content will be determined by end taste of product and overall cost per wash. I really would like to make a nice tequila. Maybe even with some short ageing.

    Is the inulin just slow to metabolize or something? I thought that inulin was a different product and not really a significant part of the nectar. I see nectar and inulin in different forms for sale from the same agave dealers.

    My yeast supplier had mentioned the TQ yeast last week actually! I’m totally game to try it.

  • Legally, Fiji is quite open on legal descriptions of spirits and typically less than interested in enforcing other countries trademarks if they are not registered here. The excise regulation covering distilling and spirits is only like 60 pages. For the local market I think at least I think I can get away with actually calling it Tequila! Of course for export it’d have to be labeled otherwise. I’m not sure why I’d want to export it tho. No way I could compete on price and quality globally with established mainstream brands

    As I mentioned the desire is to make a product that actually tastes like a nice tequila and has similar buzz. If the darker low end syrups can throw that effect and flavor with a higher local sugar content than 49% but have the harshness be mitigated by filtering and/or aging then that might be the avenue of choice.

    What are your experiences on aging? Uncharred oak or charred? How long?

    Pot stilling or some degree or column stilling?

    I did a lot of forum reading before and since I posted this thread all your comments thus far are as insightful or more so than most of what I’ve garnered so far!

  • edited April 14

    Agave syrup is difficult to ferment because it's almost entirely fructose and is devoid of nutrient. It's like distilling honey, or High Fructose Corn Syrup. Agave is actually harder than a sugar wash - study up on how the mead guys do it, that's actually a little bit closer. Agave typically does better using a fructophilic yeast, which TQ is.

    There are other wine yeasts that are better than others, that can work too, if you care about the science of it:

    The ability of wine yeast to consume fructose (PDF)

    You wouldn't go wrong treating the distillation of agave spirits like rum. For white - strip, spirit run on plates, focus on a clean product that doesn't require aging. For dark - some funk is your friend, longer ferments, pot strip, pot spirit run, go in to oak on the dirty side. Tequila is known for taking a very small heads cut, similar to some brandy styles - as the late heads are going to have a lot of the tequila character. Traditionally, those guys don't ferment hot, despite being made in tropical environment. They usually ferment in the cooler fall and winter. I suspect this has to do with the traditionally tiny heads cuts. It was explained to me, there are tequila manufacturers that take no heads cuts at all - there are some Armagnac's that do this as well. This is absolutely not the case with the new-breed of ultra-premium clean blancos.

  • edited April 14

    Some of the more recent new-to-market blanco's I've tried, they are really, really clean. Casamigo's the best example, etc etc and some of the other ultra premiums, surprisingly clean, to some extent the old-school tequila producers screaming bloody murder that they aren't complex enough. After decades and decades of the old school guys producing shitty blanco, I'm not sure who is more wrong and more right. The market has a real taste for the new ultra-premium super-clean style of blanco. I suspect most of these guys are being made on big continuous stills.

    Aging - used oak - used bourbon is the most common. Typically a blend of multi-use and first-use ex-bourbon. Fresh dump, easily less than 6 months reposado.

  • That was a good read on fructose. Would explain some of the issues I’ve had with sugar washes.

    I hated tequila forever. Then I tried some 1600 Añejo. Was great and I loved the buzz. The blancos were always nasty for me but my experience with the newer smoother stuff is nonexistent.

    If I could produce a blanco I actually liked to drink that would be awesome. I wonder how they are cleaning it up? Carbon filtering? Different cuts? Column distilling?

    If I ran it thru a column how many plates would I be limited to before it started to clean up too much? What proof am I looking to pull it off at?

    Side note. I actually am not much of a drinker. I do enjoy a nice drink and enjoy evaluating different things, but easily could go without drinking all week or longer. For me Distilling is really more about the technical and artistic aspects of it all. I also enjoy the engineering aspects. I love the process of taking an idea from nothing to a product people will love.

  • Espolon reposada is my go to bottle when i want a nip (rare) of something other than beer. $60 a bottle here in Oz, it's worth trying Steve.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • somewhat related.. hands down the best I have ever had, been looking for it for 2 years and found it at the local fancy Mexican restaurant last night, bar manager said they had to source it special... made me think of getting a 1000L tote of real but average white tequila it and distilling off the heads a bit more and barreling it in our whiskey barrels....

    image

    image.jpg
    600 x 800 - 120K
  • Friend of the family is related to someone who owns a distillery in Jalisco. Working out the logistics, but the plan is to go down there, mash, distill, load up totes, import them back and bottle under our label.

    We gave up on the idea of making it ourselves from agave.

  • From one of my inquiries on agave.

    For some background, we are the worlds largest producer of organic agave syrup and Inulin in the world. We 100% vertical with all our own crops. Agave syrup is used for the food industry and some people are using it to make very poor quality agave spirits. The problem with that is not only is the finished product bad but it can take from 10 to 20 days to do the fermentation. This is no way to make money long term. Under the name Iced 8 distilling, we developed a concentrate that will produce good quality agave spirits with a fermentation time of 48 to 72 hours. Along with this, we have two yeast and a nutrient package that was selected to work well with our concentrate. That is not to say you could not use your own yeast and get good results. The concentrate has a three-year shelf life so it will travel and store well with no special needs in that regard.

    I am a little puzzled on why you are asking for bags of inulin to go with this as unless you know something I don’t Inulin has nothing to do with making Agave spirits.

    So I had asked for a bag of inulin to experiment if it would pass some flavor into the spirit as some folks are saying, or maybe help the syrup ferment.

    What’s the real deal?

  • Bloody hell, $ 1,997 for a 220L drum. This is crazy expensive.

  • Someone is bending you over that drum!:

    White Tequila, (Unaged)
    USD$15.00 per liquid gallon at 55% alcohol in bulk 23,000-liter tank container
    Ships @ about 55% alcohol
    EXW: Tequila, MX

    USD$17.00 per liquid gallon at 55% alcohol in 1,000-liter tote container
    Ships @ about 55% alcohol
    EXW: Tequila, MX

  • Agave syrup is very expensive now, thank the fancy food crowd for that.

    You can make much more money by putting it in a fancy bottle and selling 200ml for $10, than you can making booze from it.

  • When I was digging into it, I found that a good amount of that export tequila is usually 49% sugar variety.

  • Where are you seeing this price at? He hasn’t quoted me a price. I’m also seeing prices on Amazon of $1645 for equivalent volume. Not worried about price of materials. Even at Amazon prices I can make it work pretty well in the LOCAL market because of excise differential for imported stuff.

    I’ll have to find a recipe that throws flavor but isn’t heavy on agave usage and leans towards sugar. The TQ yeast is part of that and the inulin content was possibly another part as was aging. Shit. Maybe sweet potatoes are part of it too.

    This is where the fun comes in!!

    As for direct import, the excise tax on imported spirits is $25 a liter higher than on locally produced, so importation is right out.

    My questions come from his claims of long ferment times, poor quality spirit produced from nectar and no influence of inulin on spirit. Pretty much all contradicted by what I can find on forums.

  • @Fiji_Spirits said: Where are you seeing this price at? He hasn’t quoted me a price. I’m also seeing prices on AMAZON of $1645 for equivalent volume. Not worried about price of materials. Even at Amazon prices I can make it work pretty well in the LOCAL market because of excise differential for imported stuff.

    "J. B. Thome & Co., Inc."

    When you have a DSP in the US, you start getting all sorts of emails from people selling stuff it is down to $13/gal if you don't want the name tequila... and that stuff says it ships from Bardstown, KY

    Agave Spirit USD$3,500 per 1000-liter Tote, container price inclusive
    Ships @ about 110 proof
    EXW: Bardstown, KY

  • Sorry @CothermanDistilling was asking Richard about his nectar price.

    Cool source list tho. Shut I have to fight every distributor I can find via google, by sending four emails over three days or more to get any prices out of them.

    Drives me batshit crazy. Seems like these people have zero desire to sell anything and have never heard of the internet and the ease of just telling folks even ballpark prices that it offers.

    No wonder amazon is dominating the world.

    Is there something similar for raw materials and commodities?

  • edited April 20

    Have a look to the mentioned web site for iced 8 distilling and look under products.

  • Ok. So from the data sheet provided the concentrate has only a 13% sucrose content and a specific gravity of 1.33. This would seem to affirm that it is a bit more concentrated and suitable for fermentation.

    So my next question is if inulin has any bearing on flavor? Would an amylase reduction of pure inulin for flavor be worthwhile if sugar contents where higher than 49%?

    I know this seems like an odd way to get there but if I can reduce agave content down significantly and use inulin as a way to get the flavors in part, then my cost per liter will go down by as much as 5$ per liter.

    I playing in the market area between imported spirits that cost $18 more per bottle in tax but have recognized names and more/multiple markups. A typical bottle of imported Cuervo or sauza tequila runs about $100-120 a bottle. Local bottom shelf blended whiskey from the big producer cost $45-55 a bottle. We are shooting for $75 a bottle or less retail.

    I bought a “double” shot of Cuervo tequila last night at the bar. That is 30ml/ 1oz for $9. A carona cost $4.50 by comparison.

  • @Fiji_Spirits Did you ever do anything with this?

    I just saw raw organic light or dark agave syrup In Australia for $200 for 25kg. Tempting to give it a go for a bit of fun Has anyone else given tequila a shot.

  • @rossco was doing a fair bit on the coast over here. haven't heard from him for a while but he may chip in.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • No I haven’t moved on this yet. We have a new product launch coming next month, then on to the Christmas break where Fiji effectively shuts down for a month, grinding all business to a stop then taking 4 months to restart.

    I did find a supplier for the raw materials and will probably use them to get a quick start on it when we’re ready to go

  • I know 1 commercial distiller who played with it a few years back. He had issues getting the FG down due to the high fructose content. Yeast used would need to cope well with the fructose. I see that tequila yeast is now available. The stuff I tried smelt bad but tasked ok - not great. I think he ended up converting it to neutral instead of selling it.

  • Sorry guys missed this thread.

    CD the type of sugar is inulin. However it does break down into fructose and sucrose. Its a very dominant compound, unlike anything else you use. The yeast is not vital I often use Pinacle bakers yeast. Its important to let the ferment clear. Probably not viable to make mescal on a commercial scale. The process is complicated and involved. Using agave syrup will give you only some of the flavour profile.

    There is a lot of misinformation out there.

    Rossco

  • @rossco re inulin. The supplier I was talking to sold inulin in bags as a separate product from the agave syrup. I’m confused on what inulin actually is and if it would need to be added to the syrup to get flavor profile or if this stuff would be fermented separately.

    Any guidance here?

  • My understanding is the type of sugar in agave is predominantly inulin. It breaks down into the other two compounds. When you distill it you will think it is all heads, but no its sharp tasting stuff with a bullet proof profile.

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