Thursday, June 24, 2010


The State of Jalisco in Mexico is famous for being the home to Mexico's best-known libation: tequila. In fact, there is even a town named Tequila, which is considered the birthplace and home of Mexico's biggest tequila producers: Jose Cuervo, Sauza, Herradura, Don Julio, etc. The town of Tequila is about a 2-hour bus ride from Guadalajara, and every summer I plan an excursion for my Tulane group to visit Tequila and get a sense of how culturally significant this alcoholic beverage is to the Mexican national and cultural identity.

Tequila, the town, is a quaint little place, full of colonial buildings and a kind of sleepy, provincial atmosphere. It's very friendly, but of course caters to the heavy tourist traffic that passes through the town. We do our part to keep the local tourist economy in Tequila hopping.

As usual, our group traipsed about the town and took the tour of the Jose Cuervo factory located right in the heart of the downtown area of the city.

When you disembark from the bus, you need to walk down the main street towards the downtown area, which stretches about 5-6 blocks from the bus depot to the central town plaza. Once you reach the main plaza, the first thing you notice is the Tequila Cathedral:

Then, if you walk through the plaza in front of the cathedral to the adjacent plaza, and then head across this plaza towards the left corner, you will come up to the Jose Cuervo factory:

Tours of the Cuervo factory run just about every day of the week, every week of the year, every hour on the hour. Our group took an early afternoon tour. Some of the things you get to see on the tour include the raw materials (i.e. the "pineapple" core of the agave cactus, from which tequila is made):

As well as the ovens in which the agave cactus "pineapples" are cooked and juiced, the juice fermented and distilled, and the distilled tequila poured into wooden casks and aged. The results are three kinds of tequila: blanco (aged from14 days to 3 months); reposado - or rested - (aged from 3 months to 1 year); and añejo - or mature - (aged from 1 year to 3 years). Of course, the best tequilas are those that are produced exclusively from the sugars of the agave cactus. And only those bottles of tequila that say "100% de agave" can claim this purity. One can also purchase "mixed" tequilas, which are tequilas that are made with 51% sugar from the agave cactus, and 49% sugars from other sources (cane, corn, etc.) These "mixed" tequilas will not say "100% de agave" on the label. The pure 100% de agave tequilas are best for sipping straight up, and the mixed tequilas are best used in the making of mixed drinks like margaritas. My favorites are the 100% de agave añejos. You really haven't had a smooth tequila until you've tasted a good añejo. And once you've tasted a good tequila, you'll realize at once that if you have to down a tequila shot quickly and follow it up with a lick of salt and a chomp on a lemon or lime slice, then you are drinking the rot-gut stuff. A good tequila goes down smoothly with hardly a trace of a harsh and bitter aftertaste. But to demonstrate the differences in the kinds of tequilas, the tour offers a tasting - called a catado - at the end. And here we have a 100% de agave "blanco" tequila (on the left), a 100% de agave "reposado" tequila (in the middle), and a 100% de agave añejo (on the right):

And the tour ends with a nice cool margarita, and other refreshments:

And everyone goes home happy and with fond memories of a pleasant experience, not to mention a much more sophisticated tequila tasting palate!

1 comment:

Eric said...

That is my kind of tour. Two thumbs up.