Participating as a DJ for “Tequila Festa” in Japan this year, I was fortunate to have been invited to the Tequila Distillery of Patrón, in other words “Hacienda” which was located deep in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. This place was more than just a distillery; the building was pretty much a castle with yards and yards of perfect Blue Agave running across the never-ending property.
Patrón gave us a tour in which we soon discovered that the business didn’t compromise on perfection when making the tequila, the staff’s wellbeing, and keeping it environmentally friendly.
So, along with Mrs. Metoki, the executive director of JUAST (Japan United Ambassadors for Spirits and Tequila) and her friends, I participated in this invite-only tour with premium hospitality by a beautiful and caring staff member – Mariana, who also was a biotechnology engineer there.
This is the grand entrance of the Hacienda with very strict security.
We were so exited already!
Just imagine what it would be like to call this place work!!
The beautiful garden had palm trees, a fountain, and statues of the key persons involved in the making of the Patrón tequila.
Mr. Francisco Alcaraz, Patrón Tequila’s Master Distiller.
Of course, in his hand is a Patrón bottle.
He is the master distiller does the tasting, if not a group of 5 experts.
The monument of the Patrón tequila bottle welcomed us at the entrance hall.
Look closer, smell it and you will find out that it is made out of 100,000 crayons by Herb Williams!
After a very informative and interesting 1 hour slideshow tutorial with Mariana, in a relaxing beautiful meeting room with snacks and drinks, she took us to where the entire tequila-making process takes place.
Here in front of the brick oven, Mr. Don Manuel – one of the skilled Jimadors demonstrated what he does to uproot only the finest Weber Blue Agave and strip away the leaves to reveal the heart of the plant, the piña.
Jimadors are probably considered as Mexico’s most important professions.
“The art of stripping away the leaves from the piñas”.
(left piña: How Patrón cuts their agaves / right piña: how other companies would cut their agaves. notice that the left piña is cut more to the heart of the piña to get a sweeter and fuller taste)
I confirmed it is a DANGEROUS job as they let me give it a try with the Coa (the tool to cut the agave – it’s a heavy stick with a round circular sword) and confirmed that stripping away the leaves from the piña is a really hard working job. However, people that make this activity are experts and they need to wear the right protection in order to be safe.
After the Honeros submit their piñas to the oven, these people, again, with a sharp ax, split the piñas in half to 1/4 of their size. This was another process made by the experts that if it would be done without the protection and by untrained people for the activity it could become really dangerous.
In the process there was a lot of force was put into slicing them. The ax would slice vertically on the piña, only inches away from the worker’s foot, I could barely watch it!
There are 2 processes in the making of the Patrón Tequila – The “Tahona Mill” and “Roller Mill” process. Patrón Tequila is made from a mixture of them… where Mr. Francisco Alcaraz comes in to check if they taste right. The tasting has to be done by him because each agave piñas has a slight natural imbalance.
In my blog I will cover the “Tahona Mill” process, which I found very primitive, tedious, but valuable.The piñas are perfectly baked in the small brick oven (15-24 tons per oven) for 79 hours. In the process the piñas become edibly sweet.
Then they are taken out to the “Tahona Mill” to be macerated slowly with a 2-ton volcanic rock to collect the natural agave syrup (Once they finish with the crushing of the agave, the fiber from the piña will reabsorb all the juices and everything will be sent to the fermenters).
After the piñas are well macerated, they staff sends the whole fiber to pine wood barrels for fermentation.
Now lets check them out!
The pine wood barrels hold 5000 liters.
In this process, Patrón uses their own self-cultivated yeast and ferments the agave juice with the fiber (the fiber rises to the top because of the CO2 produced in the process).
Fermenting with the fiber helps the agave juice to be more flavorful and helps prevent the evaporation of the components.
Another interesting thing that Mariana taught us is that, pine wood is very hard to clean and must be replaced after 4 years. We also learned that only 4 other producers use them.
While others use the stainless steel tanks for convenience and size (10x more than pine wood!), Patrón does not give up the natural thermal control that the pine wood gives the agave juice for slower fermentation of 72 hours (the yeast gets to “rest” in the porosity of wood and function better).
See the fibre on top of the fermenters? Well… of course you do.
Then the content is distilled twice with these handmade copper stills – only available for small batch production, to increase quantity the only thing Patrón would need to do is to make more of these! While others use big quantity stainless steel stills… Patrón used no shortcuts I tell you. RESPECT!!
At the first distillation they keep the “HEART,” which is the Ordinario to be used for the second distillation. Here they exclude the excessively fruity and floral smells and taste that comes from “Acetaldehyde, Ethyl Acetate, Propanol, Isobutilic and Isoamilic Alcohol (“HEADS”) and Acetic Acid, Ethyl Lactate, Furfural, Benzaldehyde, Methanol (“TAILS”)” keeping the best balance of Aldergydes, Esthers, Methanol, and Higher Alcohols.
And or your information, here are some photos of the Roller Mill Process.
After the Roller Milled Agave juice is distilled, it is blended with the Tahona Mill.
We were very fortunate to try out each individual blend at the tasting.
Straight from the still, Roller Mill 55% I felt it was rather fruity and stingy at the tongue.
Tahona Mill 55% tasted strong but milder and had a tint of barrel smell to me.
Either way it was STROOONG!!! I could only have a lick of them both!
The blended tequila is then packaged right away as Silver Tequila or placed in a variety of handmade barrels to age.
We were taught that the different types of wood used in the barrels would also be an important part in forming the characteristic of the tequila.
American, Hungary, and French Barrels.. Old and new, with different levels of toast!!
How lucky are we to get to try out the tequila from each barrel??!
I personally liked the French barrel. Mariane also told us to try to mix the tequilas as we like to make our own original. I found it quite interesting that mixing changes so much of the characteristics of the tequila.
After the group started to get a little bit tipsy and happy, we were guided to the place where they package the bottles by hand.
Skilled glass artisans hand measure and mold the Patrón Tequila bottles, which are then WASHED WITH TEQUILA and then bottled. The workers here change their roles every 2 hours (i.e., stickering, ribboning, etc.) with a 5-minute obligatory stretch break every hour.
The factory was so clean and cheerful and it was clear that Patrón really looks out for their staff. They provide locals with a ride home, too.
Check out the finished product of the Patrón tequila.
One of the things we saw that impressed me the most is their sustainability as a company. They take the time and effort to recycle the waste that was produced from the process, such as the dry fiber they obtained and the stillage (which is the liquid residue that remains at the end of the distillation). That “stillage” is treated in a reverse osmosis plant, from there it´s obtained water (not potable) that they use as water service (never to consume) and certain percentage of rejection is send to the compost area. At the end the fiber plus the humidity of the “rejection” are going to be transformed into an organic fertilizer by a natural process.
This is done by a reverse osmosis system and latest compost machine and it was a LOT of land that they were using to make it happen.
After processing tons of information with some tequila in my system,
it was time for some unexpected drinks and organic feast!
The cocktail menu from the mixologist Andrest Moran was so on point and delicious.
Attention to detail was made to match each dish. (See that the drinks are different according to the food?)
Our dessert drink was made of XO Cafe, XO Dark Chocolate, Espresso, and Vanilla.
After the food we were invited to chill out on the porch with more drinks and cigars.
My first cigar experience… was actually GREAT! hahaha.
Patrón also surprised me with a framed photo of myself by the barrel with a mini GRAN PATRÓN BURDEOS (which was my personal favorite) with my name engraved in it!!!
This handmade, luxury añejo tequila is made from the finest 100% Weber blue agave from the Highlands of Jalisco. It is matured in a combination of new American and French Oak barrels and aged for a minimum of 12 months. It is then distilled again before it is racked in vintage Bordeaux barrels, from the finest French chateaux (Burdeos means Bordeaux in Spanish). The taste is smooth and sweet; with great body and a long-lasting finish, it offers notes of oak, light agave, vanilla and raisins. Gran Patrón Burdeos is beautifully packaged in a crystal bottle placed inside a handsome rounded display case that accentuates the dark color of the añejo tequila.
Big shout out to the group of beautiful people who toured with me.
Thank you so much Patrón for your premium hospitality. We were shown the endless effort Patrón puts forth in making the perfect finished product to serve to the world!
With sincere care for their clients, staff, and the environment, I can definitely say this was an experience I will never forget.
About Author: DJ SARASA
DJ SARASA is the Creative Director of “Hip Hop Friends”, a series of digital online stickers for LINE, a social media application for the mobile phone. “Hip Hop Friends” ranked as the #1 top selling sticker series for LINE in America and has expanded to 20+ countries including the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia and Kazakhstan.
DJ SARASA is also affiliated with the high end fashion scene in Japan and was the host DJ for “Vogue Fashion Night Out” and has hosted a variety of fashion industry parties and brand launches. Major clients include brands such as Louis Vuitton, FURLA and Rugby by Ralph Lauren.