A Trip to Tequila - The Birthplace of Agave Spirits

A Trip to Tequila - The Birthplace of Agave Spirits

As the opening of Galaxy Taco approaches, we continue to embrace learning more about Mexico. And what better place to start than in the town of Tequila in Jalisco?

If you’re not familiar with Tequila, it’s best known as being the birthplace of the drink that bears its name. So much so, in fact, that the town of Tequila and the area surrounding it are listed as a World Heritage Site. Tequila is made from the blue agave plant which is native to this area.

As General Manager of Galaxy Taco, I was more than excited to take this trip. Our Assistant General Manager, Karina Read, and I packed our bags and headed straight to Guadalajara. Upon arrival, we were met by our extremely gracious hosts from Fortaleza Tequila who would be our tour guides for the duration of our stay.

Coming from five generations of tequila, Fortaleza is passionate about education. Twice a year their sold out “industry tour” brings people to the grounds of their distillery to learn about tequila. During our stay we walked through agave fields and watched firsthand what is involved in the production of that classic shot in your favorite margarita.

There is so much to learn about agave spirits. For example, did you know that the pina (the heart of the agave plant) grows for at least 8 years before being harvested? Once it reaches this mark, the 100-200 pound pinas as shown to the right are collected by jimadores, or Mexican farmers who harvest agave plants primarily for the production of mescal, sotol and tequila.

The pinas are then baked in ovens and shredded. Depending on the distillery, the agave may be processed using a mechanical press or crushed using a tahona, a two ton wheel made of volcanic rock. The latter is the traditional style of manufacturing tequila which few businesses still use as it is labor intensive and time consuming. But, many believe the tahona stone method yields a better product. The extracted agave juice then goes through at least a double fermentation and is distilled.

The distilleries we visited were in the “lowland region.” We could notice a distinct difference in taste when comparing tequilas produced in the “highland region.” Lowland agave gives tequila an earthier flavor while highland agave yields a sweeter and fruitier taste. In addition to Fortaleza, we were fortunate enough to sample tequilas from Arette, Don Fulano and La Alborada during our trip.

If you're curious about tequila but can't take a trip south of the border, don't worry. We carry the blanco and the repo Fortaleza tequila at George's Bar, as well as brands including Clase Azul and Don Julio 1942. We also house infuse tequila with our own blend of pineapple and peppers to create our popular spicy margarita.

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Agave plants growing in the fields. These plants grow for at least 8 years before being harvested.

A panoramic view of the agave fields which are separated by how long the plants have been growing.

An exterior look at the storage facility where agave juice ferments prior to distillation.

The tahona method of manufacturing tequila.

Tequila can be poured into a wooden or stainless steel vat to ferment.

Tequila being aged in barrels to develop a more mellow flavor.

Tequila being distilled before bottling.