Though I could have been relaxing on a beach somewhere, I was invited to tour the distillery (Destiladora del Valle de Tequila) and see where the Blue Agave makes its transition into booze. My philosophy is: if there’s tequila involved, I’m on board. Despite the fact I usually try to avoid learning while drinking, the knowledge found me and well, it was actually pretty interesting.
I started by checking out the raw product: the cut Blue Agave heart. Those babies can weigh between 44 and 110 pounds. Despite the enthusiastic disagreement of bovines, pre-cooked agave has no taste. Unless you encounter a sap-filled red stripe. That stuff is a good precedent of what’s to come after you roast or pressure-cook them (we do both, by the way. Think old school hornos, or ovens, meets tight-sealed new school.)
After cooking, it changes from white to brown, hard to soft, and bland to sticky-sweet. The aroma of roasted honey floats through the air, while those copper-colored agaves hit the shredder. Imagine a giant extractor where the piña (another name for the agave heart) is juiced and the pulp is tossed.
Boil and bubble, toil and trouble Next the agave juice must be fermented. I, Mittie Iguana, the journalist, climb the restricted stairs with a backstage pass to see how they cool the fermentation tanks so they don’t overflow when they’re bubbling with yeast. To control the fermentation process, the Tequila sommelier, also called a “Tequilier” or “Maestro,” sniffs the rising odor for the faint smell of banana leaves. Old School techniques didn’t use yeast per se. They just stuck a dirty guy in the fermenting mixture to bathe, which added the needed bacteria for fermentation. Eww. Just to be clear, we proudly use non-filthy-bastard yeast in our production.
Next, interestingly enough, they throw out half of the product. What? You ask. Even a mild-mannered iguana like me was outraged, until it was explained. Throwing out heads and tails means you get only the golden ring in the middle which, in turn, means no hangover. Yay! (A resounding cheer from the Iguana distillers association.)
Then it’s on to distillation. A lot of highfalutin tequilas boast that their tequila is triple-distilled. This iguana learned (from the maker of no-hangover-giving Sky Vodka as well as feel-decent-the-next-day Blue Iguana Tequila) that in vodka, triple distillation is good, but in tequila it’s bad. Twice is the highest level of quality that can be reached in tequila while still retaining the flavor.
Reposado means rested Finally we hit the lab to make sure our tequila is every bit as good as we want it to be. Again, tequila meets Tequilier. Behind the restricted access doors, he explained to me that while every field has a different taste, agaves on hills are preferable due to higher-sugar content created by proper drainage. Highlands have a flowery flavor, while lowlands are spicier. We combine the two to create the smooth fruity essence of apple and pear, and the floral bouquet of rose. Or so says our Tequilier. Honestly, Iguanas olfactory sensors aren’t so hot, but it tastes pretty damn good to me.
If it’s silver, it hits the shelves as is. If it’s reposado, or rested, it’ll chill out for a few months in a once-used Jack Daniels barrel (a place I wouldn’t mind hanging out either.) That’s what gives it the nice golden color. We hope you'll chose to sip some with us.