September 16th is the Mexican National Day of Independence. Much like our Fourth of July, it’s kind of a big deal down there. On this day, uproarious chants of “¡Viva Mexico!” and “¡Viva la independencia!” will be echoed throughout the land. They refer to the day as “Fiesta Patria” or Holiday of the Fatherland. They’ll party, have festivals, eat amazing food and most importantly, drink tequila.
In honor of Mexican National Day of Independence Tequila Partida Master Distiller answered a few questions about his job, the distillation process and his favorite way to enjoy it.
Did you always know you wanted to be a tequila maker?
No I did not. I graduated from College with a BS in Industrial Engineering and at the time Guadalajara was promoted as becoming the “Silicon Valley” of Mexico. Companies such as HP, IBM and others were already established in this city. The demand for engineering labor was high, so I started my career in this industry.
How did you get involved with Partida?
After a couple years working in the electronic and manufacturing industries I met Vinicio Estrada (my boss and VP of Partida in Mexico) and he introduced me to Mr. Gary Shansby, the founder of Tequila Partida. Mr. Shansby told me about the project and offered me an opportunity to join to his new company and I accepted.
I have been working in the production process of Partida since the birth of the company, so I have had the opportunity to be part of all the production batches we have produced. My team and I at the distillery have been witnesses to the high quality standards and consistency we have established for the production of all of Tequila Partida. Literally I have tasted every single production batch of Tequila Partida.
Now I hold the classification of Tequila Expert and have a degree in Tequila Production. Also, I am accredited Tequila Master Taster and last year became a member of the Mexican Academy of Tequila Tasters. Not an easy task to do.
The production process is very similar across the board for the production of Tequila, Mezcal, Sotol, Bacanora and all the spirits that come from agaves. There are mainly five steps: cooking, milling, fermentation, distillation and aging.
Although the production process is similar, there are many differences in Tequila when compared other spirits that come from agaves. The most important difference is the type of agave. In order to be called Tequila, the only agave that can be used is Blue agave cultivated in the appellation of origin land (the whole state of Jalisco and a few municipalities of Nayarit, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Tamaulipas).
Our philosophy in the production of Tequila Partida is to focus on the quality and consistency, starting with the raw materials, which in the case of 100% Blue Agave Tequila is only two: agave and water. We only use very high quality blue agave from the Tequila Valley cultivated in a natural field and avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides.
The production process is also very important. In Tequila Partida we combine antique and modern methods. We use autoclaves (stainless steel ovens) for the cooking process. We make this process longer (lower temperature) than normal to ensure the agaves are cooking evenly. Also fermentation occurs in open stainless steel tanks. We don’t use any type of artificial yeast, only the wild yeast that comes from the agave and from the environment it is grown. The distillation occurs in alembics made out of stainless steel and some copper. Finally for the aging process we use 200 liter Jack Daniels barrels made out of white American oak, once passed. Our aging times are six months for Reposado, eighteen months for Añejo and forty months for Elegante. These times are above the minimum required which is two months, one year and thirty-six months respectively.
What characteristics are you trying to bring out in your tequila? And are you looking to express something different with each type of tequila Partida produces?
Blanco is the base of Reposado, Añejo and Extra Añejo. Therefore it is the most important type of Tequila to focus on during production. Our goal is to produce an excellent expression of Tequila from the Tequila Valley. We produce a well-balanced Tequila Blanco with high notes of both agave, fresh and cooked. Other aromas include herbs, citrus and complex spice notes. In the case of our aging tequilas, you find the flavor and aromas of the Blanco plus vanilla, banana, dark chocolate, oak, maple, caramel, cinnamon just to name a few.
Is there one singular quality that you think is important in a premium tequila?
To me, quality is everything – in the raw material (agave and water), the production process procedures, the equipment used, the people involve, the packaging. I think everything is important, but I believe that one of the most important factors is the agave because it can take 7 to 12 years to mature before harvesting. That’s something that no other spirit in the world can say when it comes to the fundamental creation of the beverage. Also, premium tequila has to be made with 100% blue agave, with no artificial flavors or colorings.
Partida Tequila is the only tequila company I have worked for. I know many people in other tequila companies. Every tequila company has its own history and philosophy which I respect but I don’t agree with all of them.
What I like most about Tequila Partida is the philosophy that comes from it’s founder, Mr. Shansby. He has an amazing passion and commitment to quality and integrity, thus keeping his focus on the people and results. This philosophy runs throughout the entire company.
How much control do you have of the process? Is there a committee involved, or do you make most of the major decisions?
In order to keep the production controlled, we define our own quality standards, production procedures and policies. Even though I have the final decision in production, I always work with my team at the distillery especially in important decisions relating to quality.
What is your favorite way to enjoy Partida?
Neat for each type – Blanco, Reposado, Añejo and Extra Añejo are all favorites depending on the occasion. I really enjoy Blanco because is the purest expression of tequila. In the case of aging tequila, sometimes the flavors of wood distract me from the flavors of agave. I like paring Reposado during a meal and both Añejo and Extra Añejo with the dessert course as a digestive.
I also like cocktails especially if the bartender is good at mixing and balancing flavors. Our Brand Ambassador and mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout is a master at bringing out the subtle and complex flavors of Tequila Partida in his great cocktails.
*If you enjoyed this peek into the world of tequila production, look forward to an interview with Jacques Bezuidenhout for my next Drinking Made Easy article in two weeks.
Editor for Chilled Magazine