Who knew there is an actual town called Tequila?
No, we’re not kidding. The town of Tequila is slap bang in the middle of Mexico in the region of Jalisco, and this area is where every single bottle of tequila in the world is (or claims to be) made using the blue agave plant that is native to the region.
That means this town is single-handedly responsible for a hell of a lot of hangovers.
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The good news is that just like whisky or rum, there is a whole lot of Tequila out there that is so smooth you can sip it neat. It turns out the clear stuff you’ve been having with salt and lime is about as far from what real Mexicans drink as it gets.
You can spend a day (or more if it’s really your thing) visiting the town’s distilleries and find out for yourself.
We’d suggest basing yourself in the nearby city of Guadalajara and booking in for a day with Jose Cuervo, one of Mexico’s oldest distilleries: They’ve been doing this for over 200 years, so they know what they’re talking about.
Start the day by jumping on the Jose Cuervo Express, a gleaming steam train that will whisk you in style from the city through the UNESCO-recognised fields of blue agave to the backdrop of clear blue skies and rugged volcanoes, and into Tequila itself.
From there you’ll start your tour of Jose Cuervo’s La Rojeña distillery and learn how the blue agaves become the liquor you know so well.
It’s an impressive operation: Jose Cuervo’s three distilleries produce a humongous 250,000 litres a day and ship them to over 160 countries.
First, the distinctive leaves are cut off the agave, leaving the ‘piña’, which is then baked in ovens for 40 hours, before being pressed to separate the liquid and the remaining fibre from the plant. The liquid is fermented and distilled until it becomes the clear tequila we all know and love to hate, most of which is exported to places like Canada, the US and Europe.
The next step on the tour is a comprehensive tasting, where you’ll discover the joys of barrel-aged Tequila: anything from 2 months to 10 years. You’ll still get that distinctive taste, but gone is the sharp bitterness that leaves you reeling, replaced with a sweet and oaky sensation.
We were a particular fan of the Jose Cuervo Reserva de la familia (of course… it’s the most expensive), but a word of warning: It’s hard to know when to stop when it tastes more like juice than alcohol.
Before you walk – or stumble – back to the train, take the time to wander around the town, explore the market stalls, admire the colourful houses and cobbled streets, and visit the beautiful cathedral. It’s worth getting to know the town in case you manage to bag yourself the coveted “Maestro Tequilero” job as taster for the Jose Cuervo family. Our application was in the post the minute we got home.