Is Whisky Stronger Than Tequila? The answer surprised me!


Whiskey and tequila are two of the most popular drinks in the world of hard liquors, but that is where their similarities end. Still, despite their many differences, both whiskey and tequila are strong alcoholic drinks, but is whiskey stronger than tequila?

Although both whisky and tequila have an alcohol content of 40 to 50%, many people have said that tequila gets them drunk much faster. However, this may have more to do with how the two spirits are drunk.

Whisky is often sipped to enjoy the oaky flavors, while tequila is more of a party drink and often drunk in shots. This is likely why people report getting buzzed much quicker when drinking tequila. Additionally, people often say that the hangover from drinking tequila is much worse than the one they suffer from after drinking whisky, which may add to the thought that tequila is a much stronger liquor.

Whiskey glass on counter

Whisky Vs. Tequila

While whiskey and tequila share many similarities, they are also quite different. Knowing more about the ways in which whiskey and tequila are both similar and different can help you decide which spirit you want to add to your liquor cabinet.

Check out the comparison guide below to learn more about how whisky and tequila compare to one another.

What Is It?

Both whiskey and tequila are distilled spirits, but although they are made in a comparable way, they are two quite different liquors.

What Is Whiskey?

Whisky or whiskey (it is commonly spelled with an “e” in the United States and Ireland and not spelled with an “e” in Canada and Scotland) is a distilled spirit that is made from the fermentation of several types of grains. The grains that are used depend on the type of whisky being made, but they commonly include barley, rye, wheat, and corn. Whiskey is distilled around the world, but the flavor profile of each type will depend on where it is made and what grains are being used.

What is Tequila?

Tequila is a distilled liquor that is made from the Mexican-grown blue agave plant. The agave plant is the main ingredient in a variety of spirits, including tequila, mezcal, and several other lesser-known distilled liquors. There are several ways that tequila may be classified, and each classification is regulated by a strict set of guidelines. Although there are some purer tequilas that can be enjoyed slowly, it is most often drank as a shot or mixed into a cocktail.

How Is It Made?

Both spirits are made using a distilling process, but the ingredient of each spirit is vastly different. While whisky is made from grain mash, tequila is made from the extracted juices of the blue agave plant.

How Is Whisky Made?

The distillation process for whiskey varies and depends on the type of whiskey being made and the grains being used. However, there are certain steps that are universal to the process of making whiskey.

  • Collecting Ingredients Whiskey can be made from a variety of grains, and the exact ingredients will depend on the type of spirit being distilled. However, the most common ingredients include barley, rye, wheat, corn (or other cereal grains), water, and additives. Straight whiskey will not have any additives.
  • Malting Not all whiskeys will see this process happen, but this is the first step in making malt whiskey. Malting is a process of steeping grain until it begins to germinate and then drying it to stop the germination process. This is typically done with barley but can be done with other grains as well.
  • Mashing Each type of whiskey will begin with a mash bill that is regulated for that type of whiskey. For example, some bourbons must be made with a mash that is at least 51% corn.
  • Fermentation After the mash is made, it is stored and allowed to ferment in a controlled environment. It is at this point that the mixture begins to create ethanol, which is natural alcohol.
  • Distillation – The distillation process significantly increases the purity of the alcohol by heating the liquid into vapor. The vapor condensates and is then collected. Brewers may use several types of stills for this process, and they need to know what to keep and what to throw away. The early vapors—also known as foreshots or heads—are toxic and cannot be used, while the later vapor—commonly called the tails—may not be pure enough to use.
  • Maturation Once collected, the alcohol is stored in specific containers (typically oak barrels) for a period. Some whiskeys are required to age for a minimum number of years before they can be sold. Once aged to maturation, the liquid is bottled and sold to drinkers around the world.

How Is Tequila Made?

Tequila is made in certain regions of Mexico and is a product of the blue agave plant. The agave plant can grow to heights of over ten feet, but it can take years (up to ten years in some cases) before the plant is mature enough to be harvested. Although there are several types of tequila, and how it is made depends on which type it is, the general process is as follows:

  • Harvesting Agave Agave is harvested in Mexico by jimadores (agave farmers). The farmers will cut the spikes off the plant before sending the main body of the plant for processing.
  • BakingOnce the heart (or bulb) of the plant is harvested, it is baked slowly to maintain its flavor and prevent caramelization. This is done in large ovens made from bricks and clay.
  • Crushing After being cooked, the juices are squeezed from the plant through a crushing process. The juice that is extracted is called mosto.
  • Fermentation Once extracted, the mosto is mixed with water and yeast and put into large tanks to ferment into alcohol.
  • Distillation Once fermentation has occurred, the juices are distilled. Per regulations, the liquid must be distilled at least twice. The first time it is distilled it becomes cloudy, and it is during the second distillation that it becomes clear.
  • Aged and Bottled Silver tequila does not need to be aged (although it sometimes is for a couple of weeks) and is technically ready as soon as the second distillation is complete. Gold tequila is aged the longest and turns a deep amber color.

Where Is It Made?

Whiskey is made all around the world but is mostly produced in the United States, Canada, Japan, Scotland, and Ireland. Tequila, however, is only made in certain areas of Mexico.

Where Is Whiskey Made?

Whisky is made in several areas of the world but is typically made in the United States, Ireland, Canada, Scotland, and Japan. The grains and distillation process vary depending on where it is made. Bourbon, however, must be made in the United States (most commonly in Kentucky).

Where Is Tequila Made?

Tequila is produced in certain areas of Mexico, including the state of Jalisco and some municipalities in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Anything made outside of these areas is called Mezcals.

What Are the Different Types?

Both whiskey and tequila can be categorized into one of several “types” and which category the spirit falls into depends on factors such as the ingredients, where it was produced, and how long it was aged.

Different Types of Whiskey?

There are many types of whiskey available on shelves around the world, but they can commonly be categorized into one of six types.

  • Bourbon In order to be classified as bourbon, a spirit must have been made from a mash composed of at least 51% corn. With distinct woody and vanilla notes, bourbon is the main ingredient in many delicious cocktails, including mint julips and whiskey sours.
  • Scotch In order to be classified as scotch, a spirit must be made in Scotland, be aged at least three years, and be made from malted barley. Although its taste varies depending on which region it was produced in, Scotch is typically smoky with hints of fruit.
  • Irish Due to their smooth flavors, Irish whiskeys are some of the most covert spirits in the world. Irish whiskeys can further be classified into one of five categories—single malt, grain, single grain, blended, and single pot still. Although typically sweet, the flavor of Irish whiskey will depend on the grains used.
  • Japanese Although they are not the most popular of whiskies, Japanese whiskeys hold their own with their complex and delicate flavors. They are typically sweetened with honey and commonly enjoyed in tea in Asian countries.
  • Rye To be classified as a rye whiskey, the spirit must include a rye mash and be distilled to less than 80% alcohol. Rye whiskies are often light with spicy undertones and might be slightly bitter.
  • Tennessee Tennessee whiskey is an American whisky that is like bourbon. In fact, the only difference between bourbon and Tennessee whisky is that Tennessee whisky is filtered through charcoal. This gives it a smooth, mellow taste.
  • Canadian Canadian whiskey is often either a rye whiskey or a blended spirit. Although they share many of the same ingredients as American whiskies, the way they are distilled differs slightly.

Different Types of Tequila?

Although there are several types of drink made from the blue agave plant, actual tequila can be categorized into one of five types.

  • Silver Otherwise known as White, Blanco, Plata, and Platinum tequila, silver tequila is the youngest of the five types, with most being aged less than two months. This results in herbal, floral, and vegetal flavors.
  • Joven Also known as Gold, Oro, and Dorado, Joven tequila is often a mixture of both aged and unaged tequilas. This results in its classic golden color.
  • Reposado Reposado means rested in Spanish, which is why this spirit is also known as “rested” tequila. This type of tequila is often aged from 2 to 12 months and sports woody, buttery flavors.
  • Anejo The word Anejo translates to “aged” in America, which makes sense because Anejo tequilas are typically aged for over a year. As it ages, the spirit starts to take on a rich, smooth flavor that is similar to whisky.
  • Extra Anejo Translating to “extra aged”, extra Anejo tequilas are aged for a minimum of three years, with many aging much longer than that. These are the darker tequilas that are often found on the top shelf. If you are looking to sip tequila, this would be the type you would want.

What Does it Cost?

Sometimes all that matters is the price and you can find the average price of both tequila and whisky below.

How Much Does Whiskey Cost?

According to Whisqiy.com, the average price for a bottle of whiskey is between $20 and $500 dollars. However, there are bottles that sell for much more than $500, like a 1926 bottle of Macallan that recently sold for $1.9 million dollars. Below you can find a chart outlining the average price of whisky by type.

Type of WhiskeyAverage Price of 750 ml (about 25.36 oz) Bottle
AmericanBourbon — $30 to $100 Malt Whiskey — $75 to $250 Blended Whiskey — $25 to $100 Rye Whiskey — $30 to $100
ScotchHighland Single Malt — $40 to $200 Lowland Single Malt — $40 to $350 Campbeltown Single Malt —$35 to $500 Speyside Single Malt — $35 to $300 Islay Single Malt — $40 to $500 Island Single Malt — $35 to $350 Blended Malt — $30 to $60 Grain Whiskey — $25 to $300 Blended Whiskey — $20 to $80
Irish WhiskeySingle Malt — $30 to $200 Single Pot Still — $30 to $250 Grain Whiskey — $35 to $65 Blended — $30 to $60
Japanese WhiskeySingle Malt — $55 to $300 Blended Malt — $40 to $150 Blended Whiskey — $30 to $90
Canadian Whiskey$25 to $90

How Much Does Tequila Cost?

Types of TequilaAverage Prices of 750 ml (about 25.36 oz) Bottle
SilverMatador Blanco — $8.99 Dos Manos Blanco — $24.99La Chica Blanco — $299.99
JovenJose Cuervo — $14.99 Don Nacho — $56.99 Casa Dragones —$350
ReposadoDon Abraham —$14.99 Elvelo — $45.99 Tapatio (500 ml) — $299.99
AnejoVilla One —$14.99 Dona Victoria — $159.99 Jose Cuervo 25th Anniversary Anejo — $2,499.99
Extra AnejoNicho Real — $49.99 El Mayor— $112.99 Don Julio Extra Anejo — $1,999.99

Conclusion

Although both whisky and tequila run at right around 40 proofs, people claim that tequila hits them harder, so is tequila stronger somehow?

There could be a few reasons for this. First, it could be the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People expect to get drunk and have a wild time when they drink tequila—and so they do. Contrarily, whisky is often sipped slowly and enjoyed.

The bottom line is that if you were to drink the same amount of both spirits, at the same speed, with the same mindset, you would probably notice they both affect you the same. Although, there may be people who are affected by the additives and sugars in tequila.

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John Cunningham

John is a writer, classic car and whiskey lover, men's shopping enthusiast and self appointed DIY expert. His greatest passion is repairing in the workshop, making old classics look and run like new again!

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