Additive-free tequila has become a buzzword in the tequila industry – for good reason. The ability to add extra flavoring and additives has historically been a blurry area in the CRT’s regulations. Shawn Miller of the PKGD Group has been working with us as an agave spirits business correspondent and he gave a big update last night: The CRT has (slyly) added another certification to their list. This one focuses on the common discrepancy in additive regulations. It’s called “Naturaleza Libre De Aditivos Producto Certificado” or the “Natural and Free of Additives Certification”.
What Additives are Allowed in Tequila by the CRT?
Additives in tequila affect whether or not a tequila is authentic, traditional juice (and how it’ll make you feel the next morning). There are four additives allowed by the CRT: glycerin, sugar-based syrup, caramel coloring, and oak extract. The CRT allows a total of 1% of additives in tequila without disclosing any information.
Without getting too much into the weeds, many large-scale brands use young agaves in their tequila, which they then try to mask with additives in order to taste like a true, palatable tequila. Others use coloring and oak to enhance the “age” of the extra anejos.
All of this is okay. If you prefer the taste of added sugars in your tequila, that 100% alright – I like my sweet tea packed with sugar; we all have our preferences. The issue arises when these brands use additives and lack transparency about what they’ve put into the recipe. Using glycerin and then slapping “traditional” on the label is deceiving the consumer. Additive-free certifications aim to halt any deception.
Lucas Assis dives more into the nitty gritty rules and why he prefers additive-free in his recent article about the regulations of additives in tequila.
What We Know About the CRT’s New Additive-Free Certification
This certification has been added as a 6th element on the six marks the CRT authorizes to tequila producers. The six certification marks or endorsements are as follows:
- “Marca de Certificación Consejo Regulador del Tequila” / Tequila Regulatory Council Certification Mark
- “Marca de Certificación Consejo Regulador del Tequila Organismo Evaluador de la Conformidad” / Conformity Assessment Agency Tequila Regulatory Council Certification Mark
- “Distintivo T” / Distinctive T: This is used in training and education around tequila culture
- “Marca de Certificación Agave Responsable Ambiental (ARA)” / Environmental Responsible Agave Certification Mark: This certifies the agave production has not caused deforestation.
- “Excelencia Libre de Aditivos Producto Certificado” / Additive-Free Excellence Certified Product: This pertains to products with flavorings and must specify all ingredients on the label
- “Naturaleza Libre De Aditivos Producto Certificado” / Natural and Free of Additives Certified Product : This is NEW and was granted just last month (February 2023.)
After some digging, Shawn found the CRT filed for a trademark on the phrase “Naturaleza Libre De Aditivos Producto Certificado” in January 2022.
There were some interesting remarks on Shawn and Sip’s video about the new 6th mark:
“The popularity of TMM’s additive-free program at least in the U.S. had to catch the attention of the CRT, and a reaction was inevitable. If they can do it right, they have the resources to help add transparency to the industry. But we know the biases and powers of influence over the CRT, whether real or just perceived. If done right this could build a bridge of trust and authenticity” – Great Lakes Tequila Club commented
“I have my doubts but it’s a start. The fact that the CRT is even acknowledging it says something about what Grovers work at TMM stirred up. Grover has the tools to test now. One would think the CRT could do the same. Transparency on the labels would be nice. Then consumers could decide (knowing what’s in the bottle) what they want to buy.” – La Tequila Mamacita commented
Many Sippers agree on one thing: Much of this can be attributed to the work done by Grover and Scarlet at Tequila Matchmaker to add awareness and research on natural tequila with their additive-free certification.
“Confirmed Additive-Free by Tequila Matchmaker”
It’s popping up in liquor stores and on bottles. Tequila Matchmaker has paved the way for additive-free tequila to be tested and confirmed by their process.
Unfortunately, there is now a connotation that if you are not on the Confirmed Additive-Free Brand list, you’re product has additives and sweeteners. This is far from the case. There are 73 brands on the list at the moment. There are 2,860 brands in production. Clearly, more than those select few are pure, traditional tequila but may be overlooked due to their absence from the TMM list.
The Tequila Matchmaker process to confirm an additive-free tequila is extensive. They go into all of their goals and process here. The first year is free, but renewal to stay on the list comes at a cost. I have spoken with owners and distillers who know their product is additive-free, but because of the cost and extra work that goes into even applying, they haven’t been able to make it happen.
On one hand, the CRT’s certification makes me excited for these brands – because all tequila must go through the CRT’s regulations anyway, this additive-free classification will be much more accessible to all distillers. It will increase the transparency of the additive-packed producers while shining a brighter light on the true, traditional producers who haven’t been given the stamp of approval yet.
On the other, there may be some valid skepticism around the whole thing. Shawn asks, “In general Additive Free has been something of the small, craft, producers. CRT is, in general, more connected with the large producers. So does this move any large producers closer to what we think of when we say Additive Free or does this create an opportunity for large producers to report as Additive Free under a standard that is, shall we say, suspect?”
Either way, this is a huge development in the world of traditional tequila and we are eager to hear more from the governing body.