After 32 years finally managed to tour a Tequila Distillery in Tequila, Mexico
Moving On 1
Spending another Winter in wonderful Mexico
Follow along with our adventures in Jennie the RV and Willie the Jeep
Things we've done and places we've been on this trip - Mexico 2009
After 32 years we finally made it to Tequila - the town of. That is one of the places we had an adventure in 1978 -to read about it click on Tequila We will never forget that visit.
The ride over from the campground in Guadalajara was nice passing through miles and miles of blue agave fields. Saw a lot of trucks piled high with the agave bulb or “pineapple” heading down the road. The road into the town is called the “Ruta del Tequila.” One of the first things we saw just as we entered the town was a big statue of a worker slicing the leaves off of a bulb of agave. We both said the same thing at the same time. “boy has this town grown since we were here 32 years ago. The streets are still cobblestone and narrow but the town itself is now one of the Pueblos Magicos so a lot of restoration and clean up has been and is in the process of being done.
We continued into the downtown area and came to the main plaza and the church that was built in 1821. Then turned down a street and there at the end were the gates to Jose Cuervo! (Is this the same street we turned into years ago?) Saw a couple of interesting things on that street. A lot of the iron work for gates, grills and decorations is done with the agave theme. And where there is reconstruction going on the front of the building is covered with a big canvas of what it will look like when it is done. Saw a couple of these - good idea.
We parked in a lot for people who were going to take the tour of the Jose Cuervo place - if you took the tour there would be no charge for parking. Of course it was about six blocks from the center of town and the Cuervo tour. Oh well walking is good for us. If only it wasn’t on such uneven cobblestones.
Walking towards town we passed the private Cuervo gardens - didn’t know they were private - the gate was open and we went in. Wow - all kinds of formal plantings and cactus and many many bronze statues. Very impressive. People were setting up for a private party of some sort. Finally someone noticed us and told us where to find the tickets for the tour.
Across the street from the gardens we saw a red pickup with the bed full of the bulbs of the agave and guys with red bandanas on their heads picking the bulbs up and carrying them into another very fancy building.
We checked and the tour of Jose Cuervo wasn’t till 3:00 so we had a few hours to waste - what to do? Well we walked around a little - back over by the church. Where we read the marriage bans that were posted.
There are all kinds of tours of different places and each company had its own vehicles used to transport the wide eyed tourists. One was shaped like a tequila bottle another like an aging barrel. Thought they were funny.
Because we had the time to waste we took another tour - just rode in a regular trolley type car though.
After that we stopped to eat at a real fancy restaurant. Right on the main square across from - what else? - the Cuervo place. I got iced tea - the weirdest I’ve ever seen or tasted. Kind of light green in color - tasted fine once I added sugar and lime. Think it was green tea. Had delicious salads. But need to share one of the menu items with you. Take a good look at the picture. That is agave worms! They suggest a tequila drink with them. I’d need more than one I think.
But back to the Tequila. The first tour we took was to a small family owned distillery. Don’t even remember the name. Then later we took the Jose Cuervo tour. Both were very interesting and I will kind of combine them. Tequila is made only from the blue agave - to be called Tequila it has to be at least 51% blue agave. It takes seven to ten years for a plant to mature. The only part used is the bulb or pineapple. The plant is dug up with a special round sharp shovel type tool and then the leaves are sliced off using same tool. The leaves are left in the fields to break down and act as natural nutrients. Then the bulbs are loaded into trucks and taken to the distillery. Now there are electronic scales to weigh each load. But they used to be paid for by the weight of the bulbs - a selection of the biggest and smallest were weighed then an average taken. That would determine the price of the load.
The biggest bulbs are split by hand by a certain group of workers. They all wear gloves and red bandanas on their heads. (These were the guys we saw earlier unloading the pick up.)All they do is split the bulbs and load them into the ovens.
At Cuervo the ovens are lined up behind the agave pineapples in the unloading area. The steam from the heat in the ovens was seeping out through the doors. The agave cooks for many hours to bring the sugar out. As near as I can read my writing it says about 26 hours at a constant 90 degrees. During cooking the agave softens and turns a caramel color. The oven doors are then opened and the bulbs are allowed to cool down so another group of workers wearing boots and hard hats can unload it by hand onto a conveyor belt that takes it through a crusher. This extracts the sugar liquid from the fiber. The fibers can go through the crushers up to five times. The finer the tequila the fewer times it has been crushed. Next the liquid goes into big vats to ferment for four to seven days. When the fermentation process is completed the liquid is about 25% alcohol - not a high enough content to be called Tequila. Then the liquid is distilled. The first distillation leaves a murky, oily, debris filled liquid. The second distillation clears the liquid. Each distillation ups the alcohol content. After the distillation is complete the liquid is put in oak barrels to age. The oak barrels can be refilled many, many times and can be used for as many as 35 years.
The longer the tequila stays in the barrel the darker it gets. Clear tequila is bottled right away, never put in a barrel. Aging process is never more than seven years - after that the tequila starts to destroy the barrel. This is the golden colored tequila añejo.
It is aged in temperature controlled rooms called Caves - the barrels have tags on them with the dates they were filled. And the fill hole has a seal over it that is put on by the government. If the seal is broken it has to be destroyed - both the barrel and the tequila inside it.
They were both interesting tours - big difference in equipment between the smaller distillery and the large Jose Cuervo one. But it all does the same thing.
The fiber left from the plant after the sugar is extracted is used for lots of things. It is used as fertilizer mainly. It can be pounded down and made into paper. But none of it goes to waste.
So any way the story is we finally made it to a Tequila Distillery only took 32 years.
Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico
For pictures from Tequila and the tour Click Here