Mexico is home to many of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been to both coasts, the North, the South, the central mountains and the capitol city among other remote corners and I can never get enough. I love the land, the food, the people, the music & the agave spirits among many other things. So to be invited to Guadalajara as a guest by the Patrón company was a dream come true.
I can’t convey in a single story all that I learned on this trip or what the experience was like, so I’ll just share some photos and a few things that stand out from my recent visit.
The Beautiful Hacienda
Why was I there? I’m lucky to be working with the good people in the innovation department on developing packaging for some new products under the Patrón brand. The visit was very educational. There’s no way that any number of creative briefs or phone calls could ever educate someone such as myself on what’s really involved in the creation of the tequila, you just have to experience it yourself. And – as I understand it – it’s also a treat which they enjoy sharing. Being there is a special experience and you could see on their faces that my hosts truly enjoy giving this experience to the people with whom they are working. I’m lucky to be one of those people.
After some decadent meals and site-seeing in Guadalajara, we traveled east to the highlands, where the agaves are grown and the tequila is made. We spent the better part of an entire day touring the beautiful and palatial distillery & Hacienda, getting to know every step of the production process in intimate detail. I was surprised to see just how hand-made the process really is, even for this kind of mega-brand. They really go to a lot of trouble to make the liquid the best it can be. As they will tell you, it’s more like twelve small distilleries under one roof – as opposed to one big one. And that actually matters.
Prepping the 100% Weber Blue Agave Piñas to Roast in Brick Ovens
The Weber Blue Agave takes seven years to grow before it’s ready to be harvested to make tequila.
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The hearts of the Weber Blue Agave plant, called piñas, are loaded by hand into small masonry ovens.
After slow roasting for 79 hours the sweet rich agave emerges from the ovens ready for maceration. A large volcanic stone wheel slowly crushes the shredded cooked agave.
This video gives you an idea how this ancient crushing process works today. Ahh, the sites, sounds and smells of a tequila distillery!
It’s then placed (agave juice and agave fiber both) into pine wood casks for fermentation.
The Small Pot Still Distillation Process
The many small capacity copper pot stills then take over the next step, distillation. In this process, the fermented “mosto” is distilled once with the agave fiber, then distilled again without, before it is fine filtered and balanced to produce the final tequila.
There are rows and rows of beautiful hand hammered copper stills.
Patron Tequila Maturing in Barrels
The smell of the maturing tequila all around us was simply amazing!
Time for Lunch and of Course, Some Tequila!
After an educational and enjoyable factory tour we settled in to a luxurious lunch at the Hacienda, followed by cigars on the terrace and all the tequila you could drink. We enjoyed these two tequila rarities which were poured generously.
Patron Limited Edition Extra Añejo 7 Años and En Lalique Serie 1
Patron released a limited edition 7 year old tequila aged in French oak barrels in March of 2016. Most tequila’s are relatively young compared to many brown spirits like a bourbon that are commonly aged for four plus years. There were only 700 cases of this 7 year old tequila bottled and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
And it’s even more rare neighbor next to it is Patrón Limited Edition En Lalique Serie 1. It’s aged at least four years and matured in a combination of new American oak barrels, as well as new and old French oak to achieve a unique balance of agave and oak notes. There were only 500 bottles of this tequila released worldwide.
To get a pour of these tequilas was truly special.
Patron Tequila Aged in Limousine Oak with a Medium Plus Toast
With No Siesta in Site, We Enjoyed a Few Cigars After Lunch.
When the official business was all wrapped up, I took the opportunity to meet with some people at a Guadalajara glass factory and forged a promising new relationship there. I’ve been looking for a source for custom glass bottles made in North America and I’m happy to say that now I have a good one.
On the last day, I made some time before my flight to browse a few of the local tequila shops – one of my all-time favorite activities. As a package designer and a tequila lover, there’s really nothing quite as stimulating.
Tequila Shopping in Guadalajara
No trip like this would be complete without visiting the local liquor store to see the tequila and other treats on the shelves.
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