Tequila!

“Si Rosie!”

Aside from the very occasional “No Rosie”, this was essentially our mantra for much of this day, a side trip from Guadalajara to the region famous for that most Mexican of drinks, Tequila.

We’d always envisaged an excursion to this area, despite neither of us being massive fans of Tequila back in Australia (where most Tequila is pretty rough quality, consumed in the ‘Lick, Sip, Suck’ style with Salt and Lemon).

I think we secretly hoped that here in Mexico, at the source, we’d taste some better quality product and develop a greater fondness, or at least appreciation.

Our initial thoughts had been to make it a stop, possibly overnight, on the way to another destination, however the accommodation all looked pricey, so eventually we settled on the plan to do an organised tour, as that way we’d be able to see plantations, distilleries and also the town (trying to do it independently looked a time consuming chore).

Our hostel (Blue Pepper Downtown) advertised that we could book tours through them for 490 pesos which we thought seemed a sound plan, however our Austrian roommates quickly suggested we should try the tourist booths in the main plazas which they’d done, at a much better rate of 400 pesos per person.

This we did, sacrificing the hostel pickup, however a 20 minute walk to meet the bus seemed a much better deal than wasting almost 200 pesos before evening leaving the city!

That is how we ended up on a bus with Rosie, our Spanish (and English) speaking tour guide, trundling towards Tequila on a sunny Sunday morning.

Our group was mainly Mexicans, with the US the only other country represented in any significant number. The handful who made up the remainder included several Brazilians, a couple of Costa Ricans, two Australians (that would be us) and a lone Japanese gentleman (who for some reason caused Rosie to panic when she lost sight of him, not so anybody else…)

Amidst the beautiful Blue Agave

Amidst the beautiful Blue Agave

Our first stop, was Tres Mujeres, both Agave plantation and distillery.

For those who aren’t in the know, Tequila is similar to Champagne.

Not in sense that they are similar drinks, more in that only Mezcal brewed in Tequila, for that is what Tequila is, can be branded with the name.

Any easy way to remember it: ‘All Tequila is Mezcal, but not all Mezcal is Tequila’

Tequila is made using only the Blue Agave cactus, and it was here that we got to sample some of the cooked heart (that is what is used for the brewing, known as the Pina or Pineapple), which once cooked transforms into the sugars that will create the alcohol.

Sampling the cooked Pina

Sampling the cooked Pina

Looking at the harvested hearts, it is easy to see why they’re called Pineapples!

Looking at the harvested hearts, it is easy to see why they’re called Pineapples!

Tasting a sample, it was richly fruity and sweet, quite pleasant actually!

Demonstrations from the veteran Jimador (well into his 60’s), who wielded his 9kg blade with practiced ease impressed, although more amusing was watching a couple of more youthful sorts from the group have an attempt themselves.

Then it was on to some tastings!

The baking ovens

The baking ovens

Our relaxed, veteran Jimador

Our relaxed, veteran Jimador

Four types for offered (in a sequence), and the first didn’t sound all that promising, the Blanco.

The scent that wafted out of this bottle, was essentially what I’m used to from Tequila back home, it tasted the same, and we even quaffed it the same (with salt and lime)!

The only discernible improvement, was a lack of lingering aftertaste.

Next in line was the Reposado, the difference between all four simply being the time left to age, which sweetens the flavour and over time darkens the colour of the Tequila.

With this sampler, there was a lengthy Spanish introduction (some drinking ritual from what I could gather) to the sip, for this time that is what it was.

Being truthful, it still smelt poor, and our first sips were followed by a quick shot to down the rest!

One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor?

One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor?

Being honest, the final two samples, the Anejo and Edra Anejo, although better, still weren’t really to our tastes.

Perhaps this just really isn’t the drink for us (although we did sample a much tastier Tequila Coffee Liqueur in the gift shop)!

From there, Rosie took us all to another distillery, specialising in flavoured Tequilas, which was housed in a particularly cool building, complete with Mango trees that grew through the ceiling!

Apparently they help to maintain the necessary levels of humidity year round.

Floor to ceiling barrels and Mango trees…

Floor to ceiling barrels and Mango trees…

Oddly enough, there didn’t appear to be a Mango flavoured option for us to sample

But there were plenty of other flavours, all of which were much nicer to our palette than expected (as were not normally drinkers of sweet wines or liqueurs).

Flavours aplenty

Flavours aplenty

It did also house an impressive bar/restaurant housed in the cellar, although our group utilised it merely for bathroom usage.

Fair to say that by this stage, most who had sampled all of the offered tastings (us included), were starting to feel the effects, so we were probably a pretty friendly bunch by now!

The cellar, come bar, come restaurant, come bathroom?

The cellar, come bar, come restaurant, come bathroom?

Thankfully, a somewhat necessary lunch followed, where we indulged in the very Mexican fare of hamburgers (well, they are as common as tacos) with a couple of refreshing, although not really necessary, beers to wash it down.

To the slight amusement of their friends, a couple of the younger members of the group, although they didn’t appear to have much, if any more than the rest of the group began to show signs of fatigue (okay, they were struggling to handle their booze), handing poor Rosie another concern on top of missing Japanese tourists!

The impetuousness of youth

The impetuousness of youth

Our final stop for an hour of free time was the town of Tequila itself.

The desired destination of most was the Jose Cuervo house, one of the world’s most famous names in Tequila (so Sarah tells me).

It had a pretty festive atmosphere in the courtyard with some lively music playing, but much of the rest of the place was simply a crowded gift shop.

Not really in the mood for more Tequila, we wandered out and whiled away our remaining time sipping a Tecate beer in Tequila (controversial, I know)!

Tequila picturesque old church

Tequilas picturesque old church

Taking the public phone concept to new heights

Taking the public phone concept to new heights

When we’d first confirmed this tour, our brochure had stipulated we should allow 6 hours, unfortunately however for our plans to attend the wrestling that night however, it became closer to 9 or 10 (thankfully we hadn’t already booked tickets), so those plans were abandoned.

It wasn’t all bad however.

We did instead utilise the evening to indulge in a goat Birria dinner that Sarah had been eager for since our arrival in Guadalajara…

Notes:

* Tour prices are often cheaper than those offered in hotels and hostels where you have to factor in ‘their cut’

* It is a journey that can be done independently using local transport, however to do so we would have had to sacrifice one or two elements we were able to indulge in through a tour.

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