Admire the Land of the Blue Agave
Fields of blue agave spread out over a vast landscape in the western central plains of Mexico, creating a unique vista. By law, tequila can only be produced in this region, which besides the state of Jalisco also includes parts of the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. This area was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006 due to its unique features of the natural landscape and cultural traditions. The designated area encompasses 85,650-acres of land between the Tequila volcano and the Rio Grande River. This region contains a living, working landscape of agave fields, including distilleries, factories, and haciendas.
Experience the Magical Town of Tequila
The town of Santiago de Tequila is located about 60 miles west of Guadalajara. Your visit to tequila country will not be complete without a stroll around this charming town, which has a fascinating history. You can visit the church on the main square and wander the town's cobblestone streets. This town is among the places that the Mexican government has dubbed "Pueblos Mágicos" because of its cultural elements and historical interest.
The town's main parish church, Our Lady of the Purísima Concepción, dates to the 18th century. The church has a stone facade, a bell tower and an inverted truncated pyramid (estipite) pilasters that flank the main portal. Inside there is a statue of Our Lady of the Conception which dates from 1865.
Besides visiting distilleries in the town of Tequila, you can also visit the Tequila Museum, located at Ramon Corona #34. This museum contains over 300 artifacts in five exhibit rooms and gives insight into the history of tequila production.
See Agave Harvested in the Traditional Way
The cultivation of agave dates back to ancient times. It was cultivated for a wide variety of uses, the fiber, the flower, the spines, leaves, and sap were all put to some practical purpose. A fermented drink known as pulque was made by fermenting the sap from the agave plant. Although there is some question about whether the people of Mesoamerica were familiar with the distillation process before the arrival of the Spaniards, it is likely that the distilled spirit was not produced until after the 15th century.
You can see how tequila is produced, from the agave field to the finished bottled product. La Jima is the term that refers to the harvesting of the agave plant. Agave is harvested in the traditional way in a very labor intensive manner. The worker, called a jimador, uses a special tool, like a sharp, pointed shovel to remove the spikes from the agave and extract the heart of the plant. The heart of the plant, with the spines removed, resembles a pineapple and is called a piña.
Tequila has a similar origin to mezcal, both spirits are made from the agave, but tequila is made only with the blue agave and in this specific area. The separation between the two began with the regulation of tequila in the 1940s. The law "de Calidad para el tequila" was passed on June 14, 1949, and has been upgraded and revised ever since. It wasn't until 1974 that the Mexican government passed the "denomination of origin" that specified that tequila could only be produced in a few specific places in Mexico.
Learn How Tequila Is Produced
The oldest distillery is the Jose Cuervo one, called La Rojeña. This was the first tequila distillery and still produces the Jose Cuervo brand range of tequilas. Tours are offered periodically throughout the day. Don the proffered hair net and witness how this area's signature drink is made.
You'll see the agave hearts being chopped up and taken to the ovens, the labs where the tequila is tested to be sure that it meets the factory's strict standards, and the barrels where the spirit is aged; up to one year for reposado tequila, up to five years for añejo, and up to eight years for the special product.
Enjoy Mariachis and Mexican Culture
Charreria is Mexico's national sport. It consists of Mexican cowboys who dress in the clothing that you've seen on mariachis (the musicians took their costume from the charros). They do a variety of different tricks and manoeuvers, some on horseback, leading their horses through fancy step work and also doing ropework called "Flores de Soga" intricate moves with a lasso. Jalisco state is considered the cradle of Charreria and mariachi music, and visitors to Tequila can witness some of these cultural manifestations.
Take a Train
If you want to make your visit to tequila country a memorable day-long excursion, take the tequila train. The Jose Cuervo Express departs the Ferrovia station in Guadalajara on Saturdays (and some Fridays and Sundays),
Alternatively, the Tequila Express departs Guadalajara and visits the Herradura distillery but doesn't actually visit the town of Tequila.
Spend the Night
For a longer stay in the town of Tequila, a good option is the boutique Hotel Solar de las Animas.
Those looking for an event space need look no further than the Hacienda El Centenario, a lovely spot for a wedding or any other large event. The hacienda has meeting spaces as well as lovely grounds that can accommodate a few hundred guests.