Waves of warmth moved from the small tequila glass to my tongue, down my esophagus and gently, subtly, into my belly.
At $350 dollars a bottle, I was being introduced to the cream of the tequila crop — Herradura Seleccion Suprema. Like liquid gold, the tawny colour had been honed and refined to perfection. And in the Amatitan Valley near the large inland city of Guadalajara, Mexico, I learned just how this tequila had been born.
Visiting the Casa Herradura Distillery, located within the old walls of Hacienda San Jose del Refugio (an old Mexican estate), is like stepping into another world — a world of magic horseshoes, witches, priests and ghosts. Visitors can ride by horseback through Casa Herradura’s blue agave fields to see the plant from which tequila is derived. Then, after ambling through the dry, rolling landscape, it’s time to learn how tequila is made.
What’s unique about visiting Casa Herradura is that the entire process, from the laborious efforts of hard-working Jimadors who harvest the agaves to the cooking of the agave hearts in massive clay ovens, to the extraction of the brown, sugary nectar, is on display for the public to see. After extraction, the juices are pumped into vats where all they need is time to ferment naturally from yeast present in the Hacienda’s air supply. Surrounding fruit and flower trees provide natural yeast, so absolutely nothing is added to the agave juice. Then it’s through the stills, and pure, all-natural tequila is born.
The Hacienda boasts a modern processing plant, but its roots extend back to an original distillery. This is perhaps the neatest part of a Casa Herradura tour. This old area (Casa Herradura was founded in 1870) is filled with cobblestone floors, deep, spooky wells and shiny copper stills. Perhaps this is the area of ghosts, where Herradura legend and lore extend from.