Day 1: Tequila Tasting El Arenal, Jalisco

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

cascahuin, tequila distillery
Area Map on wall in Cascahuin Distillery

@cascahuin @tequilatrips @casamarengo @tequilaselecto #tequila

Day 1 started with an on-time pick-up at our hotel in Tequila from David from Experience Tequila. Experience Tequila provides private and group tequila tours from Tequila or Guadalajara. We elected for the private option, which was $200 per head (which should have been a little cheaper considering there was three of us IMHO), but the car was comfortable, air conditioned (it was over 90 degrees), and David was personable, extremely knowledgeable, and spoke great English. I'd briefed Experience Tequila prior to pickup on the experience we were after, but David confirmed and gave us options throughout the day.

First stop was at the Cascahuin NOM 1123 in El Arenal, which is 30-40 minutes drive out of Tequila (tripadvisor has some great pics and reviews here). It was established in 1904 and makes tequila under their own label as well as contract manufacturing for many others - they were bottling for Revolución when we were there. This distillery makes tequila using traditional methods - there are no autoclaves. We did get the impression that most of the tequilas they produce doesn't use stone/tahona to extract the agave sugars. We got to walk in the traditional ovens and get a description, from David, of the tequila making process from start to finish, including the modern bottling plant. Tequila was fermenting in the stainless steel barrels - they offer fermentation in brick, wood and stainless steel, and we got to taste the tequila raw and fresh after the first distillation. I think it was over 60% proof.

After the tour was the tasting. We went through their private label varieties; Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, and Extra Añejo. All were served in Riedel flutes - optimal glassware for tasting tequila. I arrived thinking I was partial to Reposado, but the Extra Añejo was spectacular! Notes of caramel, coffee, pineapple and smooth vanilla taste - not too sweet. Liked it so much I jumped in and bought a bottle even though this was the first of many tasting to come.

I highly recommend a visit to Cascahuin, unless you don't have a guide and don't speak Spanish.

Next was Casa Marengo (Facebook page), also in El Arenal. I believe this distillery is a contract manufacturer and we tasted 20 to 30 tequila out of plastic cups. We did not tour their distillery or get very many insights into the tequila they distill. I believe most of the brands they produce use roller mills and stainless steel fermentation. Brands we tasted included; Adictivo, Mexila's, Casa Verde, and Casa Chica. Nothing in this huge sampling stood out except Adictivo Reposado which was syrupy and sweet - not to my taste.

Time for much needed food! David asked if we liked carnitas and we all started drooling! About 100 yards from Casa Marengo in the town of El Arenal is a restaurant called Carnitas??? You select your carnitas-bits from the cooker at the front and you pay by weight. Brad hit the offal and Dave and I were more cautious. It was fantastic! Pictures tell the story, but I highly recommend.

Next was a big commercial distillery - Tequila Selecto of Amatitan - NOM 1459. By the time we got here we were well on our way. We stopped at a nice scenic bar for a margarita prior to arriving. We toured the distillery but not much was operating, including the large autoclaves. Looked over a very impressive collection of Ford trucks, and then decided to taste more tequila. We did a vertical of Los Tres Tonos and it wasn't memorable. Great setting, but we had to ask for glasses, and at this stage the tequila wasn't memorable. Time for a nap!

After a brief nap it was time for dinner. We'd made a reservation at the La Antigua Casona, a high-end restaurant in the hotel Solar De Las Animas. I had a tuna tartar and it was fresh and tasty, but the Smokey Margarita (house specialty - see pic below) that's served with burning rosemary was REALLY good. Service was fantastic as was the decor. Highly recommend for a special night out in Tequila. We then hit the back bar (see pic below), we were the only ones there in a beautiful bar, for a De La Familia (wasn't game to order anything else as the hotel is owned by Jose Cuervo) and a cigar. Take note, if you are a cigar smoker, they are difficult to find in Tequila.

I wish I could say we then retired to our hotel but we hit a bar for some cleansing Tecantes.

We that's Day 1 of our Tequila, Jalisco odessey. I'd love your comments, shares and likes. My next post will cover Fortaleza!

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