When in Mexico, you can’t miss out Tequila! I certainly didn’t plan to. And I don’t just mean the drink. Tequila is named after the town where it first came from and the surrounding agave fields are UNESCO listed. So even if you’re a teetotal, there is still a point in visiting. It is doable on public transport, but as I wanted to get to a distillery (and a good one) I opted for a tour. I went with GDL (Panoramex) Tours on their Tequila Trail. It was a day of tequila and agave!
Disclaimer: I was hosted on the Tequila Trail tour with GDL in exchange for honest and unbiased content. Therefore all opinions are my own and the post tells of my personal experience.
An Informative Drive
Luckily for us, Hospedarte had the breakfast out nice and early, which meant we were able to grab a bit before our pick up time at 9:10am. And let’s face it, if it was going to be a day of tequila, some food in our bellies was needed!
We were just heading to the reception when our tour guide, Gus, appeared. It turns out that we were the first to be picked up, so we had a bit of a drive ahead of us, but at least that meant we got the good seats in the minivan. Gus told us that we had to pick a few others up then we would head to the meet up point and be divided into the tours we were going on.
As we drove around the city, from the centre to Chapultepec and even more areas, Gus made sure we weren’t bored He told us about the history of the city, the different areas and pointed out recommendations. No question went unanswered. He pointed out the roundabout with the Niños Heroes statue and the one with the statue of the Roman goddess Minerva (he even pulled over on the roundabout fo this one). Over the years Minerva has come to represent to city – she is strong, powerful and wise. He pointed out the old city boundaries and where a river used to be. It was a very interesting drive to say the least.
When we arrived at the bus depo, Gus gave us all wristbands which would let the guides know which tour we were on. Then Gus went away to do whatever it was he was up to for the day. And the organised chaos began.
We waited to be told what bus we were meant to be on. And waited. No one knew what was going on. There were some that were in our minibus that were bilingual (Spanish was their first language) and even they didn’t know what was happening! So it wasn’t just the language barrier causing the chaos here.
I have no idea how long we waited. There were so many people around and no one had a clue. We kind of stuck to the bilingual people that were in our original group, as they had the same wristbands as us, but I have no idea where the rest went.
Eventually we were shepherded onto a large coach. And it was large. It was a big group. Bigger than I’d usual go for. But then again, it is a very popular tour.
Then the guide at the front of the bus starting telling us about the day, or at least that’s what I think he was telling us about, it was all in Spanish! So we had no idea what was happening, but I was sure the tour was meant to have a bilingual guide. Just a little confused here. Were we on the correct bus?
Tequila And Agave
After about an hour of driving, the coach pulled up. We were outside Tres Mujeres distillery. There were two coaches on this tour – like I said, very popular! As we got off the guide was talking in Spanish and walking off. I caught up with him to ask about an English guide – I was told that he would be here soon.
We didn’t really know where to wait or what to do. Or who else was English speaking. So we stayed close to the tour guide, hoping he would point out the English speaking guide when he arrived. We were taken to the agave fields of the distillery, and they were huge! They just went on and on, as far as the eye could see. Rows upon rows of blue agave, which is what makes tequila. Evenly spaced apart, in a monocrop field that serious just kept going. We were able to wander through the fields for a bit. There was no danger of anyone damaging the crops, the agave have their own defenses!
Suddenly me and Dave realised that the group was moving on from the fields, so we followed. We were still waiting for our guide and so didn’t want to lose the group! In front of the fields was a small building, the group went in here. Inside was a chapel. It was a plain and simple chapel, with big windows that meant it was well lit. But the main thing I noticed was the pews. They were made out of tequila barrels. It was actually a pretty cool effect, it looked awesome.
Exiting the chapel, we went into another underground area. The Spanish speakers had a tour and I picked up very little of what was going on. We were in an underground tunnel with lots of barrels. I think part of it was a function room, as there was a table. We were rushed through fairly quickly and I literally had no clue what was happening!
Finally! A Tour Guide
As we were exiting the tunnel we were told that the English speaking tour guide had arrived. Yay! There was actually a group of about ten English speakers, so we weren’t alone. Now I would find some stuff out… And I was not disappointed.
First the guide took us to the agave, it was a young agave and he told us all about the growing process. The blue agave are grown from cuttings and take seven years to grow before harvesting. You can tell when the agave is ready for harvest as the leaves become flexible. He even allowed us to test the leaves of different sized agave. You really could tell the difference!
However, it is not the leaves that are the useful part of the agave. The ‘heart’ is what is used to make tequila. This actually looks like a big pineapple and is under the ground. This pineapple is baked in a large oven and then mashed. The mashed up agave pineapple is then used as animal feed or fertiliser. The extracted juice is then fermented.
The fermentation process is not long at all for tequila. The longest it is fermented is seven days. So you really don’t have a long wait!
We moved into the fermentation room and were shown the tanks. The first tank is the Ordinario, this is where the fermented tequila is. However, the top third is poisonous. So that is not used. The bottom third is poor quality, so is sold on to make cheap tequila (the sort that is rumoured to make you go blind). You guessed it, only one third of the liquid is used. The middle third. This is moved into the smaller Terminado tank.
Now we were able to have a taste. However, at this point only one person was able to taste per tequila. A little weird.
Tres Mujeres add nothing to their tequila, so it is organic. According to the guide it is only non organic tequila that gives the hangovers. It is the added stuff that makes you ill. I’ve heard this said about all sorts of alcohol. Seems to be a theme.
First came the “White” tequila, this has barely been matured. Then there was “Rested” which is matured for up to a year. Next “Over One Year”, I’m sure you can guess how long that’s been maturing. Lastly came “Extra Mature”, which is left for years. According to the guide, tequila gets better the longer it is left. However, as we did not all have a taste I couldn’t say if this is true. The liquid itself also becomes darker, more yellow and no as clear.
We all managed to have a taste of the Extra Mature, after some convincing of the tour guide. And it was good. There was worm salt and lime to go with it and we were shown the proper way. The way I know from back home is salt, tequila, lemon. Which is wrong on so many levels, not the least that you use lemon, not lime, and the salt doesn’t have worm in it! The correct way is to dip the lime in the worm salt, take a sip of tequila and then bite into the salty lime. I must say, it is much better this way.
Mariachi And Tequila
Back on the coaches and we took a short trip to our next stop. I was feeling a little put out at the lack of tequila if I’m honest, I thought we would all be able to have a taste.
The next stop fixed this problem. I have no idea where we stopped. But there were agave fields and a Mariachi band greeted us from the bus. We were walked down a path, through a sheltered bit, a little further down the path and into another sheltered area. The English speaking tour guide had left, so me, Dave and another two English speakers from our bus just stuck together and followed the crowd.
In this area the lack of tequila was rectified. Completely rectified. The samples appeared! They were the four Tres Mujeres tequilas that we had seen. They came round in the same order, youngest first, and I can confirm that they got better and better. Though we weren’t drinking the tequila properly, there was not lime or worm salt!
Lots Of Tequila
It was quite amusing though, there was a very serious looking woman who came round and poured half a small cup for you. Following her was a very jolly guy, who topped your cup up told (or motioned for) you to drink it quick and poured you another if you did. From this experience I really have decided that the older the tequila is the better, and drinking it quickly as a shot is not a good way to drink tequila!
There was also an extra bottle here. The bottle was black and this was an extra special “Extra Mature”. It was definitely the best. I managed to get an extra shot of this one and it was definitely the best tequila I have had!
After we had all had our fill of samples, we went back to the first sheltered area. Here the Mariachi band was playing. I have never felt like an outsider so much in my life. The Mexicans knew all the songs and all started dancing. I didn’t have a clue! So I couldn’t join in! Instead me and Dave purchased some kind of tequila cocktail. I have no idea what was in it, but it certainly went down far too easily.
A Stop For Lunch
After the Mariachi band had finished, it was back on the coaches. The next stop was our “Lunch Spot”. It was a complete tourist restaurant. A buffet, and not too cheap either, for Mexican standards. Me and Dave had both eaten out for half the price of one buffet. But we felt like they had us “over a barrel” so to speak, as we had just been filled with tequila, knew we needed food and had no idea when we would reach the town of Tequila. Plus there was a free drink with the purchase of a meal.
I will say, the free drink was disappointing. It was tiny. However, for a tourist trap buffet place, the food was pretty good. There was lots to choose from and so me and Dave made sure that we got our money’s worth. A three course buffet was definitely a good idea after all the tequila we had just consumed!
The Town Of Tequila
Shortly after lunch we arrived at the town of Tequila – at this point I wished we had held on for food, we could’ve got some cheap tacos here! Oh well.
We had one and a half hours to explore the town, so me and Dave quickly headed to the centre. It was a tiny town really and definitely set up for tourists. Tourist shops, plenty of places to buy tequila cocktails, really taking advantage of being Tequila.
There were plaques all over the town, telling of the town, the church and the small chapel opposite. The church is in the square and around here there are lots of Tourist Buses, that give a tour of the town. They are shaped like Tequila barrels, talk about a gimmick. This isn’t really my thing, so we didn’t go on one, plus the tours were in Spanish so we wouldn’t have understood a thing anyway!
We wondered around, checked out the chapel and the church, read the plaques and wandered some more. The trees in the square were beginning to bloom, as spring had begun. They were rather pretty. We came across the City Hall, in here is a mural of the “Seven Virtues Of Tequila”. It’s a good mural, though there was no explanation as to what the seven virtues are, any one have any ideas?
Mezcal Wine To Tequila
My favourite bit of information was about how Mezcal Wine developed into Tequila. The natives fermented the agave and used the juices. When the Spanish arrived they brought with them the process of distilling and called the juice from fermented agave “Vino de Mezcal”, which was a corruption of the Nahua word, “Mexcalli”. The drink from Tequila became the most popular in western Mexico and soon was called “Vino Mezcal de Tequila”, which soon became simply “Tequila”. The wine of Mezcal is said to have healing properties, and a Spanish doctor in the 1600s published a testimony about this. Local traditions say that it helps with respiratory illnesses and more.
Unfortunately we found the Tequila museum too late. We did not have the time to go in and it was shutting soon anyway. But we still had a nice time walking around the town and reading the signs.
Back To The City
Our time was up and it was back on the coach for the long journey back to Guadalajara. In all honesty, I had expected to visit more than one distillery on this tour and to have an English speaking guide throughout. Despite these minor points I still had a great time and managed to sample quite an impressive amount of tequila! The tour wasn’t fully what I expected, but it was still a fun day.
It was a long drive back to the city, made all the longer by traffic. But we were dropped off outside our hostel eventually and that was the end. That evening was spent sleeping off the tequila!