About two years ago, we took a very memorable DreamTrip to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. One of the highlights, was a guided tour into the mountains to see
the real Mexico. In particular, San Sebastián, Jalisco, Mexico. Just outside of San Sebastián there was a lovely Tequila Hacienda.
It was operated by a man of spanish decent. It was a joy to see a small operation operated by a delightful man with a strong passion for what he is doing.
We learned that the only real Tequila is made in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The worm that is often thought of as residing in the bottom of the bottle, is only an imitation to confuse us ignorant americans (I plead guilty).
I have never brewed beer or wine at home, but I did do a research project while in college on the feasibility of farm scale ethanol plants. The process is basically the same, but with more care in choosing the materials, recipe, and love of the process.
The first step is the harvest of the Blue Agave plant. They are interested in the bottom part which looks a little like a pineapple. There are fields of these plants in this area, almost like we see corn in central Iowa. The ‘pineapple is diced into small sections for better cooking and later for the fermentation process.
Next it has to be cooked. The cooker is the half dome furnace. It almost looks like an igloo, but obviously for cooking. You can see some of the smoke or moisture seeping out through the seams of the block (visible near the top left hand corner). These joints need to be sealed for the best results. You can see where he has filled the seams with the darker mud in the picture below. He was filling the cracks as our tour bus arrived.
After it cooks for about 2 days (if my memory is correct), it is put into barrels along with water and yeast to ferment. When it is done fermenting the solids are removed and the distillation process begins. The distillation occurs in the piping and furnace behind the operator. The final product is in the barrel on the right side of the picture above.
At this point we were all waiting for the sampling to begin. And yes, it was very good and we did bring home some. Everybody on the tour had a good time and Don Lalin sold significant Tequilla. Some of the people on the tour also toured the ‘more commercial’ plant in Puerto Vallarta, they said this tour was much more fun and had the craft appeal which is so important today.