f your only reference to Tequila is a mind-bending hangover, then it is time for a refresh…
Tequila Espiritu De Mexico, the tourism arm of the legendary Jose Cuervo Tequila brand is forging the redevelopment of Tequila, Mexico. Led by Jose Cuervo’s visionary, Juan Beckmann has personally funded the USD $250 million development project with the goal of bringing 1 million tourists to Tequila annually by 2020. Year 2040 marks Beckmann’s 100 year birthday, and this refreshed, redeveloped Tequila will be Mr. Beckmann’s gift to the community that has contributed so much to his family’s success for generations. Phase 1 has been completed including a luxury hotel, state of the art conference facilities, distillery tours, fine tequila tastings, and the Jose Cuervo Express Train making it easier and more entertaining for tourists to travel to Tequila. Once only accessible by car or bus, tourists can now relax in luxury on the train, while taking in the breathtaking views of the blue agave field landscape and sipping on fine Tequila. Phase 2, scheduled for completion in September 2016, will be enhanced by additional guest rooms and a 4000sm shopping mall. The mall will feature a regionally focused Arts and Crafts Center and Museum where visitors will be able to observe regional crafts in the making. Authenticity will be the key asset to their development and discovering the charm of Tequila and Mexico’s heritage.
Read the interview below with Cees Houweling, Director of Operations of Grupo JB, and Juan Pablo Ramirez, Maestro De Tequileo of Jose Cuervo to learn about the new vision and development of Tequila, the destination and how to properly experience fine Tequila, the spirit.
A Conversation with Cees Houweling (CS), Director of Operations of Grupo JB
TL: Founded in 1795, what core value is essential to the Jose Cuervo 220 year old iconic brand?
CS: Heritage and Family. With more than 10 generations in one family, the appreciation of heritage and family is at the center of our value system. Tequila has been the main source of trade within this community for over 200 years. Many of the families who work for Jose Cuervo have worked with us for multiple generations. At Jose Cuervo, we are one big family.
TL: As the first commercial distillery of Tequila, how has Jose Cuervo maintained brand loyalty and the global title of “Top Selling Tequila Brand”?
CS: Each generation of the Jose Cuervo legacy has created a unique trend, drink, or way of experiencing Tequila, which is relevant to their generation. In the 1950’s, Don Juan Beckmann’s father made the Margarita famous introducing the drink in Tijuana. Today, Mr. Beckmann is promoting a new way of experiencing Tequila with fine Tequila tastings led by our Maestro de Tequila team.
TL: What inspired this new vision for Tequila as a tourist destination?
CS: After visiting Napa, California and Champagne, France for many years, Mr. Beckmann observed how these agricultural communities developed into prosperous tourist destinations. Mr. Beckmann was convinced that, with the right investments and infrastructure, Tequila could also become a first class tourist destination. In 2014, there were 180,000 visitors, and that number is growing in parallel to an increased global interest in Tequila, the spirit. Three years ago, the company secured the rights to a luxury train service from Guadalajara, the Jose Cuervo Express Train, improving access and incorporating the train into the overall experience of the destination. Once we got the tourists here, we realized they wanted to stay, so the next step was creating state of the art facilities and exciting experiences. Mexico is known for three things, Mariachis, Charreria (Mexico’s Rodeo), and Tequila, and we have all three here in Tequila as well as the UNESCO Weber Blue Agave landscape. We are creating new and exciting ways for visitors to fully experience the authentic heritage of Mexico.
TL: What are some of the unique activities visitors can currently do in addition to visiting the Jose Cuervo distillery.
CS: In addition to hot air ballooning and horseback riding throughout the spectacular landscape of the blue agave fields, tourists can spend a day with the jimadore, in the fields, and try their hand at harvesting the blue agave plant. We are currently working on a concept to incorporate luxury tents, “glamping” in the agave fields. Visitors will be able to stay overnight in the fields and experience an authentic Tequila experience harvesting side by side with a jimodore. If culinary is an interest, we have an incredibly sophisticated series of Fine Tequila Tastings with our Maestro de Tequila team. Our guests can even bottle their own Tequila to bring home. If there is a meeting incentive program, we have over 7000sm of very unique space including a Tequila factory, exceptional gardens, and an original Hacienda featuring a 22 meters long bar, accommodating 300 people. The bar was taken from a 100 year old pharmacy, sourced in Queterero, Mexico and completely outfitted with Mexican antiques. It is a very special addition. The possibilities are endless.
TL: How has the perception and demand of Tequila, the spirit, changed and impacted Tequila tourism?
CS: Tequila used to be perceived as low-end liquor for “macho” men or a drink ingredient for mainly a domestic market, with the largest international consumption in the US. This perception and geographical demand is changing. We have fine Tequilas being produced with exceptional culinary pairing and interest from sophisticated palates. While the US continues to be our largest international market, we have an annual growing demand from new markets including China, Brazil and Moscow. The accessibility of Tequila, the spirit, through globalization creates awareness and interest in its destination of origin. We are creating all the necessary element s of a first class tourist destination, so we can welcome more visitors interested in Tequila.
Premium Tequila Tasting with Juan Pablo Ramirez, Maestro Tequilero, Jose Cuervo (JPR)
TL: How complex is Tequila?
JPR: Tequila is the most complex of all spirits. There are 200 types of agave plants in Mexico, but only the Weber Blue Agave plant can be used to produce Tequila, taking 7-10 years to harvest by hand, followed by 1 week of processing, and an aging processes ranging from 2 months to 7 years. Like Champagne, the Weber Blue Agave plant is specific to its’ origin, and only 5 states in Mexico can produce Tequila. Jalisco is the largest area and home to Jose Cuervo.
TL: How do you convert non-Tequila drinkers?
JPR: We educate our guests on how to taste Tequila, showing them a different experience with Tequila than they may know. Many people only know Tequila as a shot or a mixer, but we slow down the tasting process and introduce and awaken each of your senses to Tequila. We start with simply smelling the Tequila, then taking a small sip and leaving it in the mouth for four seconds to feel the flavours.
TL: What tastes can you expect during a flight of Tequila from Blanco’s, Reposados, Añejos to Extra Añejos? Are there specific foods or dishes that you would suggest pairing with each variety? Are certain Tequila’s better before, during or after a meal?
TL: After our discussion with Juan Pablo Ramirez, the following guideline best communicates this information.
A Guide To Tasting Fine Tequila
|Aging Process||2 months||2 months to 1 year||1 to 3 years|
|Tastes||Earthy with notes of Agave, Citrus, Lime and Grass (most basic and youngest blend)||Barrel-wood, Oak, and Smokiness, Cinnamon, Orange (sweeter, Smoother tastes than the Blanco)||Heavier barrel and stronger wood note, Vanilla, Dried Fruits, Plums, Dark Chocolate (sweeter and Smoother than the Reposados)|
|When to Drink||Appetizer||Main Course||After Dinner|
|Food Pairing||Cheese, Quesadillas, Grouper, Ceviche with Lime Juice||Steak, Salad, Meat,
Duck Mole (Mole is a Mexican sauce containing vegetables, peppers, and unsweetened coaco, typically served with fowl, recipes vary by region.)
|Chocolate Cake with Almonds
On its own with a Cigar
TL: What part of the production process from harvesting to aging gives Jose Cuervo Tequilas their distinct flavours?
JPR: The company owns over eighty percent of the Weber blue agave plants used for production. This means that the jimadore (*the person doing the harvesting by hand) has a special relationship with the plant, knowing the plant through its harvesting life of 7-10 years. The jimadore controls sugar content by leaf pruning, adding nutrients, fertilizing the plants with tequila production compost, and hand selecting the blue agave plant for production. The harvesting in addition to the aging process and types of wood used for the aging barrels, including white oak to charred wood, contributes to the flavours.
TL: Is there a simple way to identify 100% agave tequila from blended tequila?
JPR: This comes with learning and experience. Tequila, which is 100% agave, smells like agave. This sounds simple, but most people are not familiar with this smell. Silver (Blanco) Tequila is the easiest to identify since the agave smell is more defined with a more basic processing.
TL: Can you tell me a little about the Reserva de la Familia, the premium brand of the Jose Cuervo collection of Tequilas? What is the best way to enjoy Reserva de la Familia Tequila?
JPR: An Extra Añejos, Reserva de la Familia requires 12 years to produce from plant to bottling. Only 10,000 limited edition bottles are produced annually. They are packaged in special wooden boxes decorated by a select group of Mexican artists. The body is rich, sweet and smooth, much like a cognac. We say the best way to enjoy this is to “Kiss the Glass” sip by sip to fully enjoy the flavour.
TL: What is the proper glassware for drinking fine Tequila?
JPR: With input from several Tequila companies, Riedel produced a specific glass for Tequila tasting in 2001 to enhance consumer’s experience of the body and flavour.
TL What are the do’s and don’ts of Premium Tequila Tasting?
JPR: Happy to share with you the do’s and don’ts:
Do’s: Serve Premium Tequila with dessert or a cigar, chilled or room temperature and in the specially designed Riedel Tequila glass.
Don’ts: Never use Reserva as a mixer, as a shot or over the rocks, as this will dilute the flavour.
TL: What is the best temperature to serve Premium Tequila and where should it be stored?
JPR: The temperature is a matter of personal preference. It can be served chilled or at room temperature. In terms of storage, if the bottle has not been opened, the shelf life will not change consistency or flavour. Once the bottle has been opend, it should be kept out of the sun at room temperature or refrigerated. If stored chilled, the consistency will change, giving the liquor a thicker, oilier, smooth body which some people prefer.
TL: Where are the Jose Cuervo Tequila tastings held in Tequila?
JPR: We have 8 tasting rooms within the distillery to accommodate 4 to 100 persons. In addition to these rooms, our underground cellar has capacity for 250 people and our aging rooms, where the oak barrels are located, accommodates 60 persons. Finally, our conference area is ideal for large groups up to 1000 people.
Photography provided by Tequila Espiritu de Mexico
Where to Stay: Solar de Las Animas: 93 luxurious rooms featuring authentic Mexican colonial style décor, many with mountain views. Meeting Accommodations up to 600 persons. Hotel Rates: Starting at USD $250.00++ | An additional 140 room, 4 star property in development with a total of 500 rooms projected by 2020.
What to Do: Premium Tequila Tasting, Distillery Tours, Horseback Riding, Hot Air Ballooning over Blue Agave Fields, White Water Rafting, WaterFalls, and Golf at a Jack Nicklaus Golf Course. | Extended Trips from Tequila: Guachimontones-Circular Pyramids (1hr), Puerto Vialltra (3hrs)
What to Bring Home: Tequila! | Contact: www.tequilaespiritudemexico.com