As with many university students, our first year was marked by a fair few tequila shots. It’s something that I’ve since lost the ability to do, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the birthplace of that fiery honey coloured nectar that began, and ended, many nights out. We set out for a day trip from Guadalajara in Mexico, hoping to see the rich blue of the agave fields and one of the many distilleries in or around the town.
Actually knowing when you are in Tequila is the biggest hurdle, as for around an hour before arriving in the town there are signs, shops and cafés all promoting the drink and the region. Thankfully a local took pity on our muddled Spanish and confused faces, and ensured that we alighted in the true Tequila. The Goddess of Tequila guards the historic centre, in her hand the spiky agave plant of the region. Having read both the English and Spanish descriptions of the statue, we’re still bemused as to how she became the mother of four hundred rabbits…
Tequila is everywhere that you go. The market stalls hawk gift size bottles, shops offer Tequila cake and other themed treats, while the ambulance waits outside in case you’ve had a few too many.
We signed up for an afternoon tour of the José Cuervo distillery, curious to learn about the manufacturing process. And obviously as this was an educational experience, we had to test the product… The result? I don’t think I’ll be buying just-fermented, pre-aged tequila any time soon. By 4pm, I’d had two shots and a margarita cocktail. My head was spinning.
We were shown around the distillery, and followed the entire production process. The agave husks are cooked for around thirty hours, before they are fermented and distilled into pure tequila. The ageing process takes place in oak barrels for a defined amount of time, depending on the desired colour. The longer the tequila is in the barrel, the darker it becomes. Although photographs were forbidden within the distillery itself, due we were told to the gases in the rooms, we were able to photograph the initial stages of the preparation of the agave. The plant itself, when cooked, is sweet and heavy, with a honey like smell.
Although I honestly remember very little about the production process, it was a fascinating tour of a distillery. I appreciate slightly more the differences in colour and taste, as opposed to my previous attitude of “well, that one burns less”. And although I will not return home converted to the taste of tequila, I sincerely hope the topic crops up in the next pub quiz.