Thursday, March 22, 2018

cashing in on agave

Today was our day to learn about the details of distilling tequila. Darrel and I thought it would be helpful to develop some transferable skills for the next inevitable economic collapse.

I suspect the genes are already there. The Cotton genes can be traced back to the 1700s in the hills of North Carolina and Virginia. We would not have to dig too deep to find a little anti-revenuer in our DNA.

The big dog of tequila is right here in town. Don Cuervo is both the oldest and largest producer of tequila. And its distillery is right down the street from our hotel.

I have no truck with tequila. Or with any alcohol, for that matter. But I do enjoy seeing experts at work in any field.

Let me get this out of the way first. Touring the Don Cuervo distillery is a bit like sauntering through any other mass market beverage manufacturer. Glenfiddich. Budweiser. Heineken. Moet & Chandon. Smirnoff.

And, even though the distillery we toured, La Rojeña, produces nothing but premium tequila, once you have seen one process elsewhere, you pretty much know the others.

There are plenty of articles on the internet that can far better describe the details of the distillation process. So, I will let you read about them there.

How tequila is produced solely from the heart of the blue agave. How the heart of the agave (the pineapple) is roasted for hours before its juice is extracted. How the juice is then distilled twice and then allowed to age in steel tanks or charred barrels until it is ready to be bottled. That the resulting drink cannot be labeled as "tequila" unless it is produced in Jalisco or in a limited number of municipalities in four other Mexican states.

I am not going to tell you all that. But this article will.

Our tour group was small. Seven of us. The other four were from Vancouver. (The one in Canada; not the one in Washington.) Two of them were professional bartenders on a quest to polish up their patter with customers in that ever-elusive attempt to maximize tips.

Our guide, Leo, did a very good job of slathering on numbers and giving us an impression of just how well-honed the distillation process is. He was also an expert about taking seriously the silliest of questions. Like "where are the fields where the agave is grown." The answer was actually quite a bit more complex than I anticipated.

For the other six in our group, the highlight was the tasting of four premium tequilas. And the presentation was just as pretentious as any bourgeois wine-tasting class I have attended.

Swirling for body. Sniffing for exotica in the bouquet. Clearing the palate with bread and the nose with coffee beans. Associating the nose with cinnamon and lime and the tongue with baked agave. Deep inhale, washing the tequila through the mouth, deep exhale.

Leo pointed out there are many ways to drink tequila. Like right out of the bottle when a love is lost. But these were sipping tequilas. Not lovelorn swill. The final one, the most highly-aged, was even served in a brandy snifter.


I paid for the tasting because I wanted to see the process. But there are few things more uncomfortable in life than being the sober person in a room while the rest are slowly losing their senses. That was not pleasant.

But I would gladly recommend the tour. It is educational enough that its patina of pretention can be easily dismissed.

Due to a very odd incident, I spent the rest of the day in bed. Whatever it was, I am fine now. 
Some wag would undoubtedly say that I did not drink too much. But I said it before you could.
And tomorrow, what are we going to do? I don't know. There is an archaeological site at Los Guachimontones that I have wanted to see since I moved gto Mexico.

There is no better time than now to see it. Who knows when we will pass this way again -- you, dear readers, and I. 

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