Our Additive-Free Tequila Program: The Particulars

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Why it exists, the way it works, and what you need to anticipate.

For the previous a number of years we’ve been conducting blind tasting occasions for bartenders, aficionados, and informal tequila followers. These teams of individuals are inclined to have wildly completely different preferences with regards to tequila, however there’s one factor that unites all of them: their angle towards the undisclosed use of components.

We realized this since on the finish of every blind tasting there’s a dialogue interval and inevitably somebody will ask one thing like, “The place does that intense vanilla, cake-batter aroma come from in pattern quantity 3?”

The reply, in fact, is components. Though components are permitted, they’re hardly ever talked about within the business and by no means seem on the label*. After years of research, we have now grow to be acquainted with tequila profiles that depend on components, and those who don’t.

After we inform a taster a selected tequila’s profile is because of components –whether or not they initially preferred it or not– they usually really feel tricked. Their subsequent query is, “How can I discover a listing of tequilas that don’t have components?”

It didn’t exist, so we determined to do one thing about it.

With an absence of readability from manufacturers and distilleries, and no authorized requirement to declare additive use, we started to consider what sort of program we might put collectively to assist inform customers on which tequilas are additive-free.

(That is our listing of Additive-free Tequilas.)

We knew this might be a formidable process. Though the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) does a radical job at supervising manufacturing in accordance with the tequila NORMA, we additionally knew that solely a minute amount of “abocantes” (as they’re referred to as within the business) are wanted to utterly change a tequila’s profile.

May we give you a foolproof plan to detect any/all additive use, and catch any dishonest that might presumably occur when the CRT isn’t wanting? In all probability not.

However, we interviewed a number of business professionals with first-hand expertise utilizing components (beneath strict confidentiality) and with their assist ultimately got here up with a program that we consider is rigorous and goes a great distance in displaying the clear and trustworthy nature of any model that indicators up for it.

Our course of is an evolving one. Taking part manufacturers and distilleries are conscious that their participation have to be renewed annually, and the primary 12 months is free. As we study extra, the method will doubtless change, turning into stricter.

We’re not doing this as a result of we predict components are dangerous, or we wish to name out manufacturers which might be utilizing them. Components serve a respectable function within the business. Likewise, if somebody enjoys tequilas that include components, we’re not saying these persons are unsuitable. Above all, drink what you want and don’t really feel dangerous about that.

For us, that is merely a matter of transparency. As tequila lovers, we consider that components must be disclosed as a result of they’re creating confusion within the market as to how a pure tequila actually tastes. If too many individuals get the concept that tequila is saccharine, intensely vanilla or cake-like, how will they choose the marginally candy, refined and sophisticated profiles of additive-free tequilas?

Our course of contains a number of steps, together with a deep tour of every distillery, and a comparisons of samples taken via varied phases of manufacturing with bottles which might be obtainable in retail shops of the identical batch.

So, right here’s a fast reminder on how components are used within the tequila business:

Components (and “abocantes”) are usually used to vary the aroma, taste, shade, mouthfeel, and depth of sweetness of tequilas. Their acknowledged function is to keep up consistency between batches. Permitted components/abocantes embody:

    – Glycerin (for mouthfeel)
    – Caramel Coloring
    – Oak Extracts
    – Sugar-based Syrup

Nonetheless, there are tequilas that transcend refined rectification and as an alternative depend on the usage of abocantes and components to construct their total taste profile. Use of components may be refined, or dramatic, and it’s all completely authorized.

See our story “The Lowdown on Tequila Components” for extra details about every of those classes, and the way they’re used.

Right here’s how our additive free program works:

First, it’s essential to grasp that each distillery or model is completely different, so our inspection course of must be versatile whereas nonetheless being full. The inspection for a whole distillery is completely different than that of a single model inside a distillery.

Course of: Complete Distillery

For a distillery that produces one or a number of manufacturers, the method includes the next:

    – Signing of a non-disclosure settlement in order that the distillery may be utterly trustworthy with us always. If, throughout our go to we’re uncovered to commerce secrets and techniques, proprietary manufacturing processes or methods, or different protected info, we’re not allowed to reveal this to anybody. Our process is to verify the non-use of components, and nothing extra.

    A “testigo” (witness) bottle, left, is in contrast with a bottle of the identical lot bought in a retail retailer, proper.

    – A full tour of the power, past what is often offered on excursions. We have to be approved to see any space of the distillery that we want.

    – Entry to manufacturing log books and switch data that present purchases of provides out and in of the distillery

    – Assortment of samples of blanco tequila direct from the nonetheless, and aged tequilas direct from the barrel. We should witness the gathering of those samples, and have the ability to take them again to our workplace for added evaluation as wanted.

    – A side-by-side comparability of samples taken immediately from the stills or barrels, with a retail model of that very same batch. (They have to match with a view to go.)

If through the distillery inspection course of additive use is both found or disclosed, the distillery should then provide detailed details about which manufacturers or merchandise are utilizing them, and in what quantities.

As well as, if we uncover that the manufacturing processes for a selected product don’t match what the model states publicly, then the product is not going to earn the “additive-free” designation. An instance of that is if a model states their methodology of extraction is curler mill, however we study via our go to that they’re shopping for some or all of their product from one other distillery that makes use of a diffuser.

It’s doable that some manufacturers from a distillery will earn the “additive-free” designation whereas others is not going to.

Charges and Prices: There isn’t any price for the primary 12 months. For those who want to renew in years 2 and past, the payment for a whole distillery is $2,000 USD/12 months.

Course of: Single Model

For a model that doesn’t have the distillery’s permission to evaluation manufacturing data, the method includes the next:

    Contact us to specific your curiosity in this system. We’ll then pre-taste your merchandise and observe up with you on our suggestion for subsequent steps. If we really feel that your product could include components (or “abocantes”) we are going to provide you with a warning earlier than going any additional.

    – Signing of a non-disclosure settlement in order that the distillery or model representatives may be utterly trustworthy with us always

    – A full tour of the power displaying all the gear used to supply tequila for that model. (This offers us an thought of the aromas/flavors naturally produced throughout their course of. If the top result’s dramatically completely different, this might be a clue to dig deeper.)

    – Assortment of samples of blanco tequila direct from the nonetheless, and aged tequilas direct from the barrel (or assortment tank) for that model. We should witness the gathering of those samples, and have the ability to take them again to our workplace for added evaluation as wanted.

    – A side-by-side comparability of the “witness” (take a look at pattern) bottle with a retail model of that very same batch. (They have to match with a view to go.)

    – We could request lab checks in your product, at both the start of the method, or on the finish. We could have these checks carried out in your behalf, and offer you the outcomes.

    If we really feel that lab testing is required we are going to provide you with a warning upfront, and supply the prices of the checks. On the whole, the price for these is $600 USD per pattern examined, except extra checks are required which can contain extra charges. These prices are decided by the lab, and there’s no markup on our half.

    Though there are limits to what testing can determine, the lab is ready to detect pure and synthetic sugars in addition to glycerin and Propylene Glycol.

    – Charges and Prices: There isn’t any price for the primary 12 months. For those who want to renew in years 2 and past, the payment for a single model is $1,000 USD/12 months.

Course of: Sensorial + Laboratory Analysis (Distillery + Single Manufacturers)

Each processes contain sensorial evaluations by us. Our tequila schooling has included intensive coaching from tequila business professionals within the use and detection of components. This coaching has been specialised, non-public, and beneath strict confidentiality.

Though laboratory chemical analyses may be useful in some cases (and utilized by us on an as-needed foundation), they can not detect all the pieces. We’ll use liquid chromatography checks to determine pure and synthetic sweeteners, in addition to glycerin and propylene glycol. We’ll carry out these checks along with our sensorial analysis.

Throughout sensorial analysis classes, we search for consistency of product via the latter phases of manufacturing: distillation, resting/growing old, and bottling. The modifications within the product must be minimal to none between these steps.

Ought to dramatic modifications seem all of a sudden, the distillery could have a possibility to elucidate the causes and additional investigation into these claims will probably be made to independently validate them, which might embody lab testing.

Throughout inspections, we could deliver retail store-bought bottles bought by us into the method. These are then matched with the take a look at samples (“witness” bottles of the identical batch) and in contrast sensorially both on-site through the inspection, or in our workplace after the inspection.

That is an evolving course of and we anticipate to be including to this doc sooner or later. We’ll proceed to replace you on our course of and ideas. Within the meantime, we hope we’re offering useful work for tequila lovers, and the business at giant.

Continuously Requested Questions (and solutions):

– What are the subsequent steps I must take as a model or distillery to get my merchandise on the listing?

– Is that this endorsed by the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT)?

    No, it’s an unbiased initiative designed to verify the data that manufacturers give us about their merchandise in order that our database is as correct as doable. It’s not related to the CRT or a part of any official regulatory course of.

– Which tequilas have been already listed as additive-free?

– Aren’t all 100% agave blancos purported to be additive-free?

    Sure, and no. There are some complicated guidelines within the NORMA that seem to permit the usage of components in a blanco.**

– Will you disclose which tequilas DO include components?

    No, we are going to solely listing the merchandise which have handed our inspection course of. If a tequila fails, we don’t name them out — we merely received’t add them to our listing.

– Are diffuser-made merchandise eligible for this program?

    Sure. We don’t disqualify merchandise based mostly on their manufacturing methodology. Nonetheless, if a diffuser is utilized in manufacturing however not publicly disclosed, then the product is not going to go the method.

– Are you bearing in mind modifications to the ultimate product resulting from oxygenation and filtration, and never components?

    Sure, we acknowledge these are frequent practices that change some qualities of the tequila, akin to mouthfeel. That’s why understanding the model’s full course of is essential.

– How do I get my model on this listing? Is there a price for the inspections?

– Are shock inspections carried out with out discover to the distilleries?

    No, this isn’t vital. As a result of we take samples of tequila direct from the nonetheless and barrels, we’re in a position to examine these samples with what’s publicly obtainable in retail shops. Components are launched into the method on the very finish, simply earlier than bottling. If there’s a huge distinction between what comes immediately from the nonetheless and what it obtainable in retail shops, then this may increasingly recommend additive use. Displaying up unannounced to a distillery is due to this fact not vital, nor would it not be efficient since we want cooperation from the distillery to undergo our course of.

– Do you carry out fuel chromatography checks on samples to detect components?

    Fuel chromatography machines can be utilized to detect risky compounds in a tequila, however except you understand the precise compound’s distinctive signature and focus, you then received’t have the ability discover it in a take a look at. Since we by no means know what could have been added to a product, we don’t know what signatures to search for. Subsequently fuel chromatography checks are usually not helpful for the detection of components. Nonetheless, we do carry out liquid chromatography checks which may detect pure and synthetic sweeteners in addition to glycerin and propylene glycol.

– Who’s funding this program?

    The funding for this mission is offered solely via us, plus no matter charges and donations are collected from manufacturers, distilleries, and beneficiant tequila fanatics. This isn’t a money-making enterprise. Our aim is to interrupt even. We’re completely unbiased and never affiliated with any manufacturers or distilleries.

– Components are legally permitted within the tequila NORM, so why are you doing this?

    We don’t have an issue with authorized additive use, however we do assume that additive use must be disclosed on the label so the buyer can determine for themselves. We’ll take into account this program successful if/when there’s a change to the NORM that requires absolutely clear labeling. If that day comes we are going to fortunately shut down this system.

– Do you examine each batch a model produces?

    No. We examine every product as soon as per 12 months, as outlined above. So long as the product profile stays constant all year long there isn’t a must re-inspect. Retail-purchased bottles are usually checked (aroma and taste comparisons) by us between inspections. Ought to the product all of a sudden change, we are going to make one other go to to the distillery the place the inspection course of may be repeated.

– My model is kosher, does it robotically qualify?

    No. Though kosher certification does state that components are usually not permitted, there are various kinds of kosher certifications, and a few are extra rigorous than others. Additionally, remember that kosher components can be found, and use of those components is not going to trigger a product to fail a kosher certification course of.

– My model is USDA Natural, does it robotically qualify?

    No. “Natural” certification doesn’t imply that no components are used.

– Does including wooden chips to barrels depend as “components”?

    No. This can be a manufacturing approach utilizing pure wooden, and there aren’t any official guidelines in opposition to it.

– The distillery that makes my model received’t enable any inspections. What can I do?

    Our course of requires a distillery go to. Be sure that your distiller is aware of that there’s a distinction between a whole distillery inspection vs. a single model inspection. (Learn the descriptions above to grasp the distinction.)

    In case your distiller nonetheless is not going to enable us to examine your batch as it’s being produced then it’s possible you’ll wish to discover one other distillery accomplice who will.

– Are “mixto” (non-100% agave) merchandise certified for affirmation?

    Sure. Nonetheless, the tequila have to be made and bottled the place we are able to examine it. If the tequila is shipped in bulk to a different nation and bottled by a 3rd celebration, it’s not eligible for our program.

    We do acknowledge that some bigger producers have a separate bottling facility beneath their identical NOM, and this might not disqualify them.

* We’re speaking about 100% agave tequilas, not flavored tequilas, or tequilas that include greater than 1% by quantity, that are legally required to be labeled.

** Within the 2012 NORMA, part 4.36.1 says that blanco tequilas must be “sin abocante” (with out components). Nonetheless, part states that the merchandise outlined in 5 sections, together with 4.36.1, permits for “edulcorantes, colorantes, aromatizantes y/o saborizantes permitidos por la Secretaría de Salud” (sweeteners, coloring, aromas and flavors allowed by the Well being Secretary.)

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