What Goes On When You Treat Making Tequila Like Champagne

The reply is a surprising blend of technical innovation and centuries-old craft

Juan Gallardo Thurlow is a jolly figure in a coral-colored linen shirt. He lends heft to his statements with sustained vision contact and follows them with a wink, like your grandfather, like your uncle, like this stranger who I’ve simply joined for supper. To my kept, his wife Gela tells me about the bougainvilleas in Jalisco, and the way the orange kinds are more challenging to grow-she doesn’t know why, she only knows it’s true. Discussion drifts, as it’s wont to accomplish within Guadalajara, to tequila: “For years today, it’s all I take in,” Gela says. “Little or nothing else can do.”

An industrious businessman from a prominent Mexican family, Gallardo has a diverse array of interests: He has served as both CEO of a company that functions a lot of Mexico’s sugarcane and molasses, and as the director of a company that distributes each of the country’s Pepsi goods; he has generated a foundation to provide aspiring college or university graduates in Mexico Town with economical scholarship; and, descending three tales into the hillside behind his Guadalajara house, he has devised a more elaborate Japanese lawn, a collaboration with a guy he happened to meet up one day at a local bank. “The lawn represents a trip,” he says, gesturing toward a crashing waterfall that slowly but surely meanders down a winding path before arriving at rest in a tranquil pool area.

Another such serendipitous encounter led Gallardo to some influential individuals at French spirits group Moët Hennessy-among them Trent Fraser, former Vice President of champagne label Dom Perignon. As the friendship blossomed, a collaboration appeared inevitable, and a discreet inquiry was made: How might Moët Hennessy, overseer of prestigious brands like Dom and Krug and Veuve Clicquot, break right into the tequila sector? And would Gallardo support?

“Project Blue,” since it was known in that case, was a secretive venture. Gallardo was a keen partner, and had the resources, recognition, and native connections to pull it off, but Fraser had another circumstance to make: He previously to show to the people at Moët Hennessy that not only was tequila a spirit worthy of their their investment, but that he will make one that would match their world-class collection.


The Volcán de Tequila erupted some 200,000 odd years back, transforming the Mexican scenery and infusing the neighborhood soil with igneous rock and ash.

Fraser spent more than 20 a few months exploring the Jalisco region of Mexico, the condition believed to be the birthplace of tequila, searching for a good distillery that could end up being the future home of this new operation. He and Gallardo achieved with native distillers and recruited artisans with deep ties to Jalisco’s tequila history, incorporating Ana Maria Romero Mena, among the industry’s most greatly respected tequila specialists, who was hired to develop both unique blends that could ultimately make up the brand’s portfolio. Writer of The Aromas of Tequila: The Art of Tasting and an influential maestra tequilera with some radical new ideas, there was no person better for the work.

Fraser ultimately found a small, run-down distillery that was barely producing anything, just exterior the town of Tequila, that the spirit took it has the brand. The distillery was nestled in the shadow of the Volcán de Tequila, a volcano that erupted some 200,000 odd years ago, transforming the Mexican scenery and infusing the local soil with igneous rock and ash. After a finished overhaul of the distillery, they got it up and running and purchased some local territory to plant agave of their very own. It was given the name Volcán De Mi Tierra, an expression that (idiomatically) means “territory of the volcano.”

But even while, generally there remained the question of the tequila itself. How could a French beverage group, one well-known for its champagnes and cognacs, oversee the producing of a spirit that both impressed its tastemakers and paid out homage to its centuries-aged Mexican heritage? With Romero Mena at the wheel, these were in a position to prove that producing tequila and making champagne-both of which entail the meticulous cultivation of an individual plant to create the perfect expression of a region’s terroir-were much less different because they seemed.

“We had all these amazing noses at the table,” says Gallardo, referring to enough time the leaders of Moët Hennessy’s spirit makes visited Jalisco to sample the first expressions of Romero Mena’s tequila. “Glenmorangie, Hennessy, Dom [Perignon], all of them.” It was imperative that the company’s significant talent, known for identifying and cultivating sublime flavors within their respective goods, understood the subtlety of flavor that could result from tequila, how significantly the terroir, the roasting procedure, the ferment, and the distillation could have an effect on the final product-and, just how they could manipulate each one of these factors to attain what they thought was the best distillation of the Mexican landscape.

Romero Mena supervised 177 unique trials before finally settling on the one which would finally become Volcan’s “Blanco” tequila. But to comprehend why is it so special, an instant lesson in tequila creation is in order.

How Do You Make Tequila?

All tequila starts with blue agave, one of a huge selection of species of the agave plant that flourishes across Mexico. Mezcal may be the blanket term for just about any spirit distilled from agave crops, and has been manufactured in Mexico for centuries, but tequila is becoming its own designation, ever since the Mexican federal government developed a “Declaration for the Cover of the Appellation of Origin” for this in 1997, making certain any merchandise sold as “tequila” should be made in the condition of Jalisco (or a few restricted outlying counties), and become made primarily from blue agave. Even with the official name of “tequila,” an excellent part of a tequila’s must, or mosto, (the liquid fermented before distilling) could be made of other ingredients; just 51% must be blue agave. Further distinctions, like “100% clean agave” are being used when the ferment could be verified by the authorities to be produced entirely from blue agave. For a few context, Jose Cuervo’s ubiquitous type of “Especial” tequilas are mixtos, created from blue agave supplemented with sugarcane. Their “Tradicional” series is qualified “100% de agave” and retails for approximately twice as much.

But while the official distinctions end now there (aside from age group designations like joven [young], reposado [rested], and anejo [old]), dramatic variability can exist actually between 100% agave tequilas, and will be the consequence of a large number of factors including, merely to name a few, the age of the agave crops, how they’re roasted, and the soil in which their grown. Agave grown in the highlands, for example, in iron-rich red volcanic soil, tends to have a lower fiber density than other agave crops, which causes them to carry more moisture, providing even more pronounced floral, fruity flavors. Lowlands agave (which even now grow at a dizzying 3,800 feet above sea level) will carry more herbaceous, grassy flavors, generally a result of higher temperatures and even more intense sunlight. That’s where the French champagne sensibility will come in: Rather than sourcing one single selection of agave, Romero Mena made make use of both highland and lowland varieties-roasting, juicing, fermenting, and distilling them entirely separately before blending the resulting spirits to perfection. To a sommelier, the idea might appear rather obvious, but Romero Mena’s methodology is an initial in Mexico’s tequila industry: No tequila on the mass market has ever used this model before.


To a sommelier, the idea might seem rather obvious, but Romero Mena’s way is an initial in Mexico’s tequila industry.

“We experienced 177 different trials,” says Fraser, right now Volcan’s CEO. “The ultimate version actually ended up using champagne yeast in the fermentation. Most people believe that’s because we’re consequently known for champagne-Dom and Moët therefore on-but it’s just as a result of those 177 tries, it was the very best. And there was no way we were going to put a product out on the market until it had been consistently the very best.”

But Romero Mena’s perspective went even further: Not merely would they pull plant life from both of both agave-growing regions, but each plant would need to be individually processed, a laborious and expensive effort that would make certain that only the virtually all desirable components of every plant make it into the fermentation. The piña, the massive center of a mature agave plant, develops specific flavor compounds as it roasts. Many manufacturers use the whole plant, but Volcán’s procedure focuses entirely on the piña, which requires master jimadors, as the agave harvesters happen to be referred to, to deftly strip each plant of its a large number of dense, swordlike leaves. The leaves, they found, manufactured way too many “green” flavors when roasted, which they felt muddled the style of the expression of the piña itself. Beyond your distillery, with the agave areas rolling apart behind him, grasp jimador Joaquín Parra Ortega expertly eviscerates the leaves from a 175-pound agave plant, lowering the monstrous growth, which has spent practically 8 years maturing, to an ovoid orb how big is a prize-winning pumpkin.

The trimmed piñas are then roasted: The lowlands piñas get into a normal horno, a brick oven where they’ll bake low and slower for 44 hours, concentrating the sugars and developing deep caramel flavors. Even now nice from the oven, a shred of the roasted piña’s fibrous flesh gets the sticky sweetness of glucose cane and, after a preference, leaves a juicy trail dripping down my arm. The highlands piñas go into an autoclave, where they cook at an increased temperature for only 12 hours, which really helps to emphasize its lofty floral aromas. The lowlands agave, making up 75% of Volcán’s tequila ferment, is normally pressed on a tahona, a massive set of rock wheels dragged in a circle repeatedly, until the soft, fleshy piñas are lowered to a pulp. The liquid is normally siphoned off into tanks to ferment-with a proprietary champagne yeast for the highlands and a rum yeast for the lowlands-while the fibrous pulp is normally piled in heaps to dry, destined to come back to the soil and offer nutrients for the next generation. The mosto is certainly distilled just simply twice, lest it lose an excessive amount of its delicately crafted flavors, and blended, regarding to Romena Mena’s exact recipe, before proceeding to a little machine where it really is bottled merely four bottles at the same time.

Tequila has been made in much the same way for more than 100 years in Mexico, but while Volcán has were able to innovate on the genre, it’s still, in its heart, a good pure expression of the art work. Back at Gallardo’s house, the jacaranda trees shaking in the breeze, a bottle looks up for grabs. “They state it’s quite healthy also,” he intones playfully. Murmurs of assent ripple around the desk; true or not, we’re glad for the excuse to enjoy another glass.