Hand Selected Spirits
If you've ever spent time surrounded by the simple and expansive beauty of desert terrain, you know that it's almost impossible to capture in a photo. The same is true of the quiet serenity one feels when
Harvesting Agave
A skilled Jimadore
surrounded by oceans of Blue Agave. As a visitor, we get to experience the peace and beauty, but the Jimadores who harvest the Agave have a different relationship with the plant. Up at six in the morning and usually done by noon when it becomes too hot, these hard working souls are a crucial part of the process of creating Herradura Tequila. There are no harvesting machines in the fields of Casa Herradura, this work is still done by hand. A single Jimador may harvest a hundred Agave in a day, artfully slicing the plant down to the Piña which is then ready for the ovens. Joey expressed no end of admiration for the Jimadores, especially after he gave it a try himself. He
Harvesting Agave
Joey gives it a shot
estimated that working at the rate he was capable of, Herradura would only be able to produce a few bottles of tequila annually. The process of carving the plant down isn't the only tough part of the job, as we mentioned, this work is being done in sweltering desert heat, and the Agave is often home to little friends like scorpions and desert spiders. And although you can tell from the photos that these are large plants, what you can't tell is that when an Agave plant has been trimmed down at harvest, the resulting Piña can weigh from thirty to seventy pounds. That's probably why our crew was ready to get back in the saddle and hightail it back for a tour of the baking ovens and distillery...

The Piñas & The Ovens

Fortunately, we didn't have to heft the Piñas back to the huge iron and clay ovens to begin the next phase of producing a fine tequila. As we mentioned, these
Steve holding a Piña
Mr Gracias holds a Piña for scale
things weigh from 30 to 70 pounds. We've included a picture of "Mr. Gracias" here for scale. Steve is a tall guy, a little over six feet. It's quite a sight seeing a literal mountain of these things prepped for the ovens like this. And that's where things get interesting. The Piñas are then carefully halved and stacked by hand in the massive ovens. When we say "massive", we mean MASSIVE. These ovens each hold 45 tons of agave! Once filled, the ovens are sealed and the Agave is steamed the traditional fashion, for up to 26 hours. The once-white Piñas turn a deep orange-brown color, and the pulp caught between the stringy fibers takes on
Ruben &  Joey
Ruben explains the baking process to Joey
an incredible sweetness. Joey sampled a piece, and - always the entrepeneur - said "This is incredible! You should market this as candy!" As it turns out, the sweet chunks of cooked agave are often sold as candy in the street markets of Jalisco. This deliciously sweet pulp then heads to the next phase of production, a process in which it is crushed in powerful mills to extract the fine sweet juices. This is a process controlled with the precious and carefully managed water from the estate. The rich juice extracted in this process is called "mosto", which is then fermented and aged in different ways depending on which specific tequila is being created.

Next: Fermentation & Distilling »