It's the Bartender Journey Podcast #202! Listen with the audio player on this page, or subscribe on iTunes, Android or Stitcher Radio.
A group of 25 Bartenders from the U.S. and Canada were treated to an amazing experience on this trip. We saw one of the farms that Patrón contracts with to supply them with harvested agaves. We enjoyed lunch at the beautiful Hacienda Patrón, and then given a thorough tour of the distillery, (more about this later).
Director of Eduction for Patrón Chris Spake – was our host and guide for the trip.
Patron works with about 10 agave farmers to source their agave.
So, as I said tequila must be made from AT LEAST 51% Blue Weber Agave. Quality tequilas such as Patron are made from 100% Blue Weber Agave. If you see the word “Mixto” on a tequila bottle…run away! This means they are mixing lower quality sprints into that bottle or adding raw sugar before distillation to save money.
To make it even more confusing, a Mixto tequila does need to state “Mixto” that on the label. It is usually labeled “Tequila”, (as apposed to “Tequila de 100% Agave”, (or similar wording)
There is a certain extremely popular tequila that is behind almost every bar, which will remain unnamed here, that IS a Mixto, but does not state it on the label. Carmel coloring may also be added.
The “Jimador’s” use a tool called Coa to harvest the Agave plants by hand. They separate the leaves and roots from each agave
Patron contracts with these farmers and guarantees them a price per kilogram when they plant…they do not necessarily need to do this, but Patron thinks it’s the right thing to do, and it ensures a reliable supply in the future. These plants take at least 5 years to grow, and like any commodity, the price fluxuatues. It can be difficult for the farmers to plant something, and take care of it for 5 years, and not know how much they will be paid for it when it finally matures.
The agaves are split by hand with axes into 4 pieces and immediately fed into an oven where they are cooked with steam for exactly 79 hours.
It gets a little complex because after coming out of the oven the agaves are split into two different, but similar methods for the remainder of the process. For the silver Patron that everyone knows (their most popular SKU), its blended together at the end. For simplicity’s sake we will just follow one path here…which is the Tohana method, (Patron does produce the Roca line, which is the Tohana only product and are amazing).
So following the Tohana process – as I said the agaves are cooked for 79 hours. A Tohana is a giant heavy wheel made from Lava Rock. It goes around and around in a circle crushing the cooked agave. Its basically shredding the agave, but it forces the juices in and out of the fibers.
The fibers are then separated from the liquid. The fibers will be sent to the composting area. The liquid is mixed with yeast and then sent to 10,000 liter pine barrels where it will ferment for 3 days.
This liquid will be strained and sent to copper pot stills. Patron uses quite small stills for the first distillation, and even smaller ones (with a slightly different shape), for the distillation.
After the second distillation, we have Patron Silver. It is sent to the bottling facility where each bottle is packaged by hand. Its pretty reparative work, but the people that work in the bottling facility are very fast and efficient. Interestingly, the assembly line stops for 15 minute out of each hour so the workers can stretch and get a quick break. This is of course to avoid repetitive stress syndrome.