There are few books on the subject of Tequila that are considered classics. The Book Of Tequila by the late, great Bob Emmons, stands out as the most essential for any student of agave spirits.
I consider Emmons the first, true Tequila Journalist. He was the first American author to demystify the much maligned Mexican tipple, and give it its rightful place among other elite sipping spirits.
Even posthumously, Emmons’ tome is so sought after that it is almost impossible to buy in paperback, let alone in hardcover. Obtaining a used copy, in any condition, is like discovering a treasure bottle of Porfidio Barrique, and just as pricey.
Ian Williams’ Tequila: A Global History, is not that kind of book–
But it could be.
To say that Emmons volume was ahead of its time goes without saying.
Chock-full of such useful information as addresses of the then existing distilleries, to the history of tequila, and even drinks recipes, Emmons covered it all.
So, what’s left to report?
The Rest of The Story
Since the first printing of Emmons’ book in April 1997, coinciding with the bilateral agreement between Mexico and the European Union that recognized tequila’s and mezcal’s denominations of origin a month later, the Tequila Industry has boomed and busted at least twice, maybe even three or four times.
And Agave Spirits, in general, has zoomed to the forefront of every mixology menu riding the wave of an unprecedented global cocktail craze.
That’s where Williams’ Tequila: A Global History steps in.
Have A Drink!
Sadly, Emmons is no longer on this earthly plane to have a drink with and to discuss the dawning of the growth of the Tequila Industry. Ian Williams, on the other hand, is alive and well and free for a drink!
A wordsmith of the most delightful kind, the affable Williams literally embodies the voice and narrative of his book. With a sly smile and a gleam in his eye, this witty Brit kept us in stitches, sumptuously entertaining us with his tequila and mezcal travel tales.
Something For Everyone
His information isn’t just historically priceless (his interview with the controversial pariah Martin Grassl, innovator of Porfidio tequila, alone is
worth the purchase price), but also timely.
Williams deftly discusses the contentious implications of the recently tabled NOM 199 facing the Mezcal Industry and explains the true meanings of the newest designations (ancestral, traditional, artisanal, and industrial) that marketers have diluted into buzzwords to drive the craft spirits sensation.
He skillfully weaves the known Mayan, Olmec and Aztec chronology with current archaeological discoveries of Asian influenced distillation methods that stand to rewrite that history and the part played by the Spanish conquistadors.
And for Millennials seeking to educate themselves, Williams tackles sustainability issues, organic agave spirits, premiumization in the agave spirits market, and the sexiness of the agave plant itself. Even photos and cocktail recipes are included.
Mr. Williams does all this while craftily drawing parallels and similarities from his whisk(e)y, scotch and rum experiences (see Rum: A Social and Sociable History) as well as touching on other Mexican spirits like sotol and bacanora.
If Bob Emmons’ quintessential primer is considered The Greatest Tequila Story Ever Told, then Ian Williams’ Tequila: A Global History, could be its worthy sequel in a continuing agave saga.