I didn’t want to go back to Tequila. Sure it’s one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos, but I’d already done the Jose Cuervo tour, sampled the best of their cheaper tequila, and taken a few token photos of the rest of the town. By and large, the pueblo didn’t seem all that magical. I’d assumed I wouldn’t be coming back.
I did, though. Different tour to a different distillery: La Marquesa, maker of the Tres Mujeres award-winning ‘organic’ tequila (when it comes to tequila, it’s a pretty fine line between organic and inorganic).
And the tour was awesome.
This was not your hairnets and stand-behind-the-safety-line kind of tour. This was a saunter through a small distillery, poking our noses in pretty much wherever we wanted. If I’d wanted to stick my arm into the agave-shredding machine, I could have done so.
The tour started in the agave fields, with a jimador hacking away at the plants, trimming a mass of blue-green barbs down into a crisp white heart. We progressed past the ovens, past the agave-shredding machine, and were offered as much boiled, syrupy agave as we could chew on (which wasn’t very much).
At the open fermentation tanks we were invited to dip our fingers in and sample the different flavours of fermentation. Some tanks had thick, breadish foam on top. Some were fizzing and bubbling. Some were still, deep and clear.
We supped from the freshly distilled, thousand-proof product, fresh from the tank. It tasted like hot, blazing nothing, searing away at the mouth, the throat, and the lungs.
The tequila tasting was done in the way that tequila tasting should always be done. A bunch of chairs pulled up around a table. A bowl of salt (to keep the foreigners happy), a bowl of limes, a plate of fruit, a stack of plastic cups, and four brightly coloured bottles – Blanco, Reposado, Añejo and Extra Añejo. After we sampled each one, we were offered the bottles and told to help ourselves to whichever took our fancy, to sample and resample and to develop a favourite. I was immediately drawn to the Extra Añejo, partly because I knew I’d never be able to afford to drink it again (let alone to drink as much as I wanted of it). By the end I think the Añejo was my favourite, though I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe the green bottle.
We left La Marquesa with a taste for booze we cannot afford and won’t be able to find again; Tres Mujeres is available in only a few very fancy restaurants. We left grinning, clutching precious bottle from the store to remind us of how tequila should be. We left in a midday drinking haze, thinking only of tacos, and of a long nap in the cool afternoon shade.