The Best Distillery Tour: La Altenia Distillery

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2008 by Priest

I grimaced in displeasure when I first drove to the Altenia Distillery, makers of Tapatio and El Tesoro De San Felipe brand tequilas. The building looked somewhat drab and unassuming. It’s bare brick exterior walls gave it an appalling look. This tour was not on my schedule but when I overheard two patrons at a local restaurant mention the upcoming 70th year anniversary of this distillery, I went out my way to stop by and visit. Approaching the building, I noticed only one car parked in the front, dirt parking lot. To my surprise, a middle-aged man came out to greet me. He said the distillery was closed. I offered to bribe him with a reward of $25 American Dollars if he would permit me to walk around and take a few pictures. To my delight, he not only declined my “mordida” but he volunteered to guide me around the distillery. Fernando was not a tour guide per say, he was more of a Jimador foreman but he did know a thing or two about the distillation process of Tequila. While the outside walls of the distillery initially made me second guess why I made the extra effort to tour this place, by the time I walked back to my rental car, I told myself of the dozen or so distilleries I visited/toured, this was my best experience by far.

Located a short distance from the outskirts of Arrandas, you have to travel by dirt road to get to the distillery. Unlike all the other distilleries I visited, where modern technology has made the traditional way of making Tequila a thing of the past, the tequila production here is as close as you can get to taking a step back in time, decades before when handcrafted products were the norm, not the exception.

The charm of this distillery can be described with one word – tradition. Everything around here is a moment frozen in time. The water boiler dates back to the 50’s and is used to make every single batch of Tequila. Unlike other distilleries that use either stainless steel or copper tanks to ferment the agave, La Altenia uses wooden barrels. Many can attest, wood containers give the tequila a more robust, genuine flavor. The distillery takes pride in itself by boasting it produces the last handcrafted tequila on Earth. There is only one way to challenge this boast – a sample of Tequila, por favor. All in the name of research and good will, I took a shot of El Tesoro and let me just say, “muy, muy bueno”!
I kid you not, taking a shot with a bull’s horn, pictured above, makes the tequila taste better. For more information on the Altenia Distillery visit

Paradiso, Tesoro, and Tapatio Tequila is produced at the Altenia Distillery.

Writers disclaimer: This distillery is not a sophisticated operation. Tours are provided by request only. Obviously, this distillery is family owned and operated. Tequila drinkers can appreciate the handcrafted flavor that epitomizes the Altenia brand Tequilas.


From Tequila Connoisseur Wannabe to Brewmaster God

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2007 by Priest

Last week I finally revealed my new concotions (Mexican American Idol Beer and Lucha Libre Beeronga) and let my coworkers sample my new homemade beer. As a reward for putting up with all my beermaking jargon,they were the first in the world to taste my all-natural Mexican flavored beer. What an honor it must have been for them to be the first in the planet to sample a new, world renowned product. Surely, they must be grateful! In the end, one out of 5 coworkers agreed – “This is the best fucking beer ever! After a highly successful product promotion campaign, I look forward to mass producing my Mexican beers and sell to all the suckas out there who can’t tell the difference between Bud Light and Coors Light … is there a difference? ” “This is the best fucking beer I have ever tasted.”
– Charlie

“It’s alright.”
– anonymous coworker (for the record, this coworker is jealous of me)

“It taste like Mexican beer.”
– my brother, Flavio (yeah, no shit)

“Forget the beer, sell the shirts”
– David

“You can get sued by American Idol”
– Leslie (you think?)

Tres Mujeres Distillery

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2007 by Priest

One of the most common sights you will see when traveling in tequila producing regions of Jalisco are tequila booths/stands located near a main road or highway. The booths are similar to firework stands that litter the U.S. roadways during the 4th of July. Pictured on this post is a booth located on the old highway to Tequila, Jalisco from Guadalajara. Many small scale distilleries use the booths to sell and market their product. Every booth I stopped by offered free samples … Ay, Caramba! The booth pictured on this post is located on the agave farm of the Tres Mujeres distillery. All of their brands are made from 100% blue agave and they do not use chemicals, flavorings, or other additives during the tequila process. Unfortunately, the tequilas displayed on the picture are not available in the U.S. Chuy, the tour guide, and I pose in front of the Tres Mujeres agave farm. The distillery is visible on the background. Chuy’s small stature caused him to get drunk due to all the free samplings early during our tour and made him pretty much incomprehensible. To start off with,his English was not that good. I do admit though, the more I drank, the more he made sense.

Arandas vs. Tequila: Which Region Has The Best Tequila?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 4, 2007 by Priest

There has been an ongoing contentious debate on which city produces the best tequila. 45 minutes west of Guadalajara, tequila giants Jose Cuervo and Sauza have their distilleries pumping out tons of tequila a year in the city of Tequila. The city of Arandas is one hour and a half east of Guadlajara and is the home to 15 distilleries, including the producers of Centinela and Cazadores brands. Many in the tequila industry have downplayed the rivalry that exists between these two tequila producing cities, but among local residents, pride and bragging rights cleary point out that an “undeclared war” exists between Arandas and Tequila. Although there are numerous other distilleries, both small and big, scattered among the state of Jalisco, Arandas and Tequila produce the majority of all tequila. The most important ingredient in creating an excellent tequila is the pina of the agave. Fermentation of the pina juice is the second most important factor determing the quality of the tequila. Arandas is situated in a region of Jalisco that is known as “Los Altos.” This word translates to “The Highlands”. The elevation plays a vital role in ensuring the pinas in Arandas are well hydrated; thus, producing bigger pinas than the pinas grown in the tequila region. The red soil in Arandas is also richer in nutrients and minerals. As I traveled from Tequila to Arandas, there was a stark contrast in climate and vegetative growth. As I progressed east, the land was greener and the temperature was milder. Pinas in Arandas are, on average, one-third bigger than their Tequila counterparts. They are also richer in sugars due to the rich soil composition. Many distilleries in Tequila mix their pinas with pinas from Arandas. Clearly, the best agaves are produced in Arandas! This does not automatically make Aranda tequila superior to the one produced in Tequila. There are other factors involved in the tequila making process that distinguish its taste and quality. These factors include superb fermentation and distillation processes, the quality of barrels used for aging, and other subtle factors that can make a good tequila into a great one. As I spent time in restaurants and bars in Arandas, I would survey bartenders and ask them to name the top 5 tequila brands. The one common tequila brand that was rated highly among all bartenders surveyed (yeah, i know, it was not a scientific survey) was Herraduras. This brand is produced in a small town, outside the outskirts of Tequila. For locals from Arandas to respect and acknowledge a tequila that is not their own shows the great quality and care that is estabished to make tequilas from Heradurras.

Priest vs. The Agave

Posted in Uncategorized on March 4, 2007 by Priest

Under the watchful eye of a Jimador, I go kick some agave ass! Notice the pina on the bottom that is cut in half. Pinas can weigh as much as 200 lbs. 15lbs of pina yield 6 bottles of tequila. Chuy, the tour guide, took this picture. We were visiting one of Jose Cuervo’s agave farms in Tequila, Jalisco.

How Tequila is Made: A Brief Summary

Posted in agave, mexico, tequila on March 3, 2007 by Priest

Tequila is made from the blue agave plants that are grown exclusively in the Jalisco region of Mexico. It takes between 7-10 years for the agave plant to mature. The pineapple-shaped bulb of the agave plant, refered to as the pina, is harvested and then baked in ovens. After the pinas are allowed to cool down for a day, they are crushed or shredded to extract its juices. Just like the sugars in grapes make wine and sugars in malts make beer, the sugars in the pinas make tequila by the process of fermentation, followed by distillation. There are 6 steps in making tequila:

1. Harvesting of the pinas

2. Baking the pinas

3. Milling

4. Fermentation

5. Distillation

6. Aging

I will explain each step in detail in other posts!