Tequila vs Whiskey: What Is The Difference?

by Michael

Tequila and whiskey are two drinks that people often get confused about for good reason. These amber-colored liquids both come from the same blue agave plant and are prepared in a similar way through fermentation. However, once the process of production starts, both go separate ways and differ in their taste and smell. 

The main way you can tell tequila and whiskey apart is through their flavor. Good tequila is smoother than high-quality whiskey and also has more flavor from the agave plant than the other. They are also served differently and tequila is pricier than whiskey as it is its less distilled form. 

If you are interested in finding more about the differences between the two drinks, continue reading this article. 

Quick Comparison Table

To sum up the main differences between tequila and whiskey, we have compiled a simple table that covers all basic distinctions. 

Category Tequila Whiskey
Taste Smooth, sweeter, and can be citrusy according to the variant.  Hard, leaves a burning sensation down the throat, and is usually bitter. 
Smell Usually fruity and can be sweet, spicy, or woody according to the barrel it was in.  Smells sweet like caramel and can also be slightly oaky due to being fermented in the barrel. 
Base Juices of the blue agave plant. Mostly grains like barley, wheat, and rye. 
Method of Preparation Made by extracting fermented juices from the agave plant and then barreling them up for aging.  Usually made by crushing grains into a concoction and then being kept in oak barrels for aging before bottling.
Method of Serving Served mostly in 2-ounce shots but can be mixed with mocktails or sipped neat. Whiskey can be served neat, with water, chilled, or even mixed in a cocktail. 

As you may have noticed, tequila can only be made using blue agave and differs a lot in smell, taste, and method of preparation. The blue agave plant can be used to make whiskey, but there is no compulsion for the beverage to be made from a specific plant or produced in a particular place.

Tequila vs Whiskey: What Is The Difference?

Both tequila and whiskey come from different parts of the blue agave plant. While whiskey is made by fermenting grains (corn, barley, rye, wheat), tequila is made primarily using the fermented juices of the agave. This is what causes the main difference in flavor. 

Irish Whiskey

Apart from this, there are many other differences between the two, and the following are some key traits that set them apart. 

Color

Appearance-wise, distilled tequila is very clear and also known as Blanco or Silver tequila. It only changes into the warm shade of color we know it as, after the process of distillation. It gets darker, but not completely brown like whiskey does. 

Whiskey, on the other hand, can look different due to its ingredients, distillation process, or its age. Distilled whiskey is also clear, but it changes color according to how much wood container it absorbs and can grow darker. 

Taste

Both tequila and whiskey are unbearable in their undistilled forms as you will only experience a sharp, burning heat down your throat if you take a shot.

However, the tequila one gets in the market is sweet in taste and is very different from its undiluted form. It is smoother in texture and can be sweet, fruity, or earthy according to its preparation. Many other variations such as honey, citrus, vanilla, caramel, oak, and black pepper exist as well. 

Whiskey varies in savor and smell according to the source of the spirit. It can be smoky, malty, briny, or a mixture of different flavors if it is a blend. It is also stronger than tequila and can burn slightly when going down your throat. 

Origin

Tequila was first made in Mexico and its history of it can be traced back to as early as the time of the Aztec empire. Mexican distilleries pride themselves on making the best tequila and to alter its content in any way is frowned upon. 

It is so significant to the place that tequila can only be considered true tequila if it is made in Mexico (Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas). If you make the same concoction outside of the state, then it will be called ‘mezcal’. 

Mezcal also has its reputation as an alcoholic drink and some examples of it are Bacanora, Sotol, and Raicilla. 

Whiskey has a more widespread number of manufacturers around the world, but it was first created in Scotland in 1494. The variations of whiskey also differ from place to place according to the grains found around it. Although barley is generally used to make whiskey, people also use rye, wheat, corn, and even cereal. 

Preparation 

The base of both tequila and whiskey is the same – blue agave. While both are produced using the process of distillation and fermentation, tequila uses the blue agave fruit and whiskey makes use of the grains. 

Tequila is distilled from at least half (50%) of the juices extracted from the agave plant which are then fermented and bottled. It does not take a lot of time for tequila to age.

Whiskey, on the other hand, is made by crushing grains like wheat, barley, rye, or corn, and the distilled spirit is kept in charred oaks for aging. It even takes longer than tequila – around a minimum of 3 years before it can finally be bottled. 

Price

In terms of price, tequila is easily the more expensive option. Not only is it safer to drink than whiskey, being more natural and having more agave, but it is also rare and can only be originally produced in one state in the entire world. These are certain factors that can make a product’s market price shoot up. 

Hence, tequila is pricier, with its cheaper variants being around $12.99 – $35.99, the highest quality being anywhere around $27.99 – $699.99 and the mid-range being $15.99 – $40.99. 

Whiskey is cheaper in general and starts at around $8 – $16. Even great quality ones can be obtained with a decent budget of $22 – $35 and premium ones are also around $45 – $95. 

Variants

Tequila and whiskey can be altered by changing ingredients or time taken to process. Altering even one step in the production of any sort of alcoholic beverage can affect the taste greatly, which is why today we have many variations of the same drink. The following are a few examples of both. 

Tequila:

Tequila

Extra Anejo

Extra Anejo is a special type of tequila variant that is aged for more than at least 3 years, generally in oak barrels. French and American oaks are the most preferred woods for barrels. 

Reposado

Reposado is tequila aged for 2-12 months in barrels of oak for the spirit to absorb the flavors of the wood. You get a unique citrusy taste which also has hints of vanilla, herb, and sometimes cocoa or caramel. 

Anejo

Anejo is aged tequila (usually 1-3 years) that becomes finer with time. It also gets pricier as the quality increases, which is why Anejo is considered a classy drink.

Joven

Joven is a type of tequila that is basically Blanco blended with other aged tequilas. You can consider it to be just a cocktail blend of different types of tequila. 

Whiskey:

Blended Malt Whiskey

Blended malt is basically a blend of single malt whiskies from different distilleries. Like Joven, it is more of a cocktail rather than an actual variant. 

Single Cask

Single cask whiskies go by their name because they come from one individual cask. Basically, the bottlings are rare and only one bottle is filled per cask. They are mostly targeted toward enthusiasts.

Single Malt Whiskey

Single malt whiskey, similar to single cask, comes from the same distillery. Except, you can have many different casks, but all are produced by one single distillery.

Cask Strength

Cask strength whiskey is special because it is completely undiluted in any other liquid. The alcohol percentage is also between 60 – 65% ABV. 

Blended 

Blended whiskey is basically a product made by blending different types of whiskies, or when grain spirits, colorings, or flavorings are mixed together. 

Method of Serving 

Tequila and whiskey can both be mixed in with cocktails and other juices to have fun with your beverages, but there are best ways to serve these drinks. 

Tequila is best taken straight without any addition of other drinks or ice. It may be hard on the throat and the tongue, but the flavor will be a unique experience that will leave a lot of different flavors in your mouth. Some also use lime to rim the edges of the glass and have a serving. 

Whiskey can be had in many ways and it will still be the best way to drink it. Scotch whiskey is best taken with water on the side while Bourbon tastes best when neat with no ice. Whether it’s a neat glass or mixed with water, the strong flavor can be enjoyed in all forms. 

Is Tequila Or Whiskey Better?

Although there is no ‘healthier’ alcohol, because out of moderation, all of them can be harmful, tequila is safer than whiskey to consume. Tequila has been known to help with problems of digestion and weight loss. Research has also shown that it is good for keeping blood sugar in control. It also has a higher content of agave than whiskey. 

Whiskey, when taken unhealthily, has been shown to give rise to health issues like stress and sleeping disorders. Rye whiskey is said to help deal with inflammation, but there is no scientific research to prove it. 

Hence, if one is talking about health benefits, then tequila is the healthier option out of the two. When consumed moderately, none of the alcoholic drinks will have any effects. 

Is Tequila Better For You Than Other Alcohol?

At the end of the day, tequila is an alcoholic drink and does not benefit you in any way in the long run, and if you consume it unhealthily. However, tequila does have a reputation for being the healthiest alcohol drink as it contains lesser calories and zero sugar and carbohydrates. 

Due to it being a fermented drink coming from a fructan, tequila also acts as a probiotic and is believed to help with digestion

Though it is more natural, the agave used to make tequila is drained of its nutritional benefits to make the drink alcoholic, so it does not contain the nutrients that the fruit originally had. Hence, it is only the lesser evil of alcohol, and so naturally better than its peers. 

Tequila vs Whiskey Alcohol Content

Even when it comes to alcohol content, tequila takes the lead, being the more undistilled beverage of the two. Tequila is 80 – 100 proof, which means that the alcohol percentage of the drink is 40 – 50 % ABV. This is way above the normal alcohol capacity of many drinks and can get one intoxicated easily. 

The alcohol content of whiskey is also around the same, but being kept inside charred barrels can dilute the flavor. An average bottle of whiskey is also usually 80 proof and contains around 40 – 50% alcohol.

Although these are similar numbers, the process of diluting can remove, tweak or even change any flavor, which is why tequila is more alcoholic. 

What Kind Of Cocktails Do They Make 

Tequila and whiskey are both extremely flexible and can be used in the making of many cocktails. The generally sweet, sometimes citrusy flavor of tequila is paired well with maple syrup, soda water, lime juice, and grapefruit juice. With cocktails, it can be used to make ginger ale, margarita, bloody cocktails, and ranch water. 

Whiskey, being the harder drink of the two, can go in iced tea, orange juice, grenadine, and even mixed with other kinds of juice. When making alcoholic beverages, the flavor goes well with gin, bourbon, vodka, triple sec, and sour mixes. 

Final Thoughts

As you can tell from this article, there is no ‘better’ alcohol among the two beverages – except perhaps when considering health benefits, tequila might prove to be more healthy in calorie count. It also has a lower amount of added toxins and impurities, which makes it safer to drink. 

Bottom line is that alcohol, when consumed moderately, can be a delightful treat, but drinking in moderation is the right way to go about it. We hope that this article has been useful in helping you understand the basic differences between these two alcoholic drinks. 

Related Questions

What Tastes Worse Tequila Or Whiskey?

This depends on the kind of drinks you prefer. Those who like hard drinks will like the burning, strong flavor of whiskey, and those who prefer smoother, light drinks will prefer tequila and not like the other. 

Is Tequila Stronger Than Jack Daniels? 

Jack Daniels is a whiskey with an alcohol percentage of 40%. Tequila, on the other hand, can vary and is 80-100 proof, meaning it has 40-50% alcohol content. However, the difference between both is negligible, hence, tequila might be stronger depending on the brand.

Which Drink Should I Not Mix With Whiskey?

Any clear alcoholic drink like gin, white wine, or vodka should not be mixed with darker beverages like whiskey, rum, or brandy as it can cause uncomfortable irritation in your stomach. 

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