In typical Flightless Kiwis style, we had made plans to be somewhere, faffed about and now had limited time to get to where we had planned to be by the time we had planned to be there.
This time the place we wanted to be was Guanajuato, in the state of Guanajuato we had to get there from Zacatecas, in the state of Zacatecas, but we decided to take a quick detour to Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco and Tequila also in the state of Jalisco to save us having to head west after our time in Guanajuato, Guanajuato, since after that we had made plans to head to Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo in order to fly to Havana in Cuba.*
Don’t worry, you can ignore most of the above, we clearly had—that was why we were short on time to explore the state of Jalisco. All you need to know to follow our travels in this blog post is that we were planning on visiting Guadalajara and Tequila.
First stop, Guadalajara.
We’d been warned that driving in town was a nightmare, but found it perfectly easy to get in to town. We’d found a central city hotel for not-quite as cheap as we’d hoped and planned to explore the area for a day or two. We rolled right up to the front door of the hotel with nary a wrong turn and were pleased to find that there were no shortage of street vendors selling tasty snacks in a nearby plaza.
However it turned out that the not-quite as cheap as we’d hoped hotel was also not particularly good value for said money. We had a couple of pricey cold showers in the slightly scary but expensive bathroom. Then we settled down to read up on what we could see in the city on their not-really working but rather costly internet. By this point we were well and truly missing more affordable nights spent in the tent.
Having never actually found out what there was to see in town, combined with the fact that we arrived late in the day meant we didn’t really see much of Guadalajara that day.
The fact that we decided not to stay another night in ‘Hotel Spendy’ and instead chose to carry on to Tequila the next morning meant we didn’t see much of Guadalajara the next day either.
So that was it, we essentially drove into town, only to drive out again. We’re not saying there is anything fundamentally wrong with Guadalajara, we’ve heard it is quite nice. It just didn’t work out for us.
Escaping Guadalajara proved to be far more difficult than driving in. Confusing roundabouts, strange lane layouts, misguided attempts at help from Javier (our directionally inept GPS) and just generally not paying enough attention to road signs meant the journey out of town was the kind of journey that tends to require months of counselling to recover from.
We were, surprisingly, still talking to each other by the time we escaped the labyrinthine streets of Guadalajara. It helped that we knew we were heading for Tequila. Despite still being just before lunchtime, we both felt like we needed a beverage to calm our shattered nerves.
Tequila is another of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos, the birthplace of the drink of the same name. It felt like it would be wrong to visit Mexico without dropping by.
Tequila is made with blue agave from particular areas in Jalisco and surrounding areas. The town of Tequila is not the only place where tequila is produced, it is also made elsewhere in the state of Jalisco and a few other locations in other states. Apparently tequila is only really tequila if it is made in one of these approved locations.
Upon arrival in the town of Tequila we were making our way straight to a local tequila bar.
Until Emma was distracted by an ice-cream parlour.
This little guy was hanging around the ice-cream parlour. There is some debate as to whether it was the ice-cream parlour or the cat that lead Emma to be distracted by this particular store.
Once Emma finally managed to drag herself away from the ice-cream store we did actually pop next door to sample some tequila.
But what we really wanted to do in town was tour a local distillery or two. Our ambitious plan was to visit several in one day, we wanted to see the process in a big commercial distillery and in a smaller artisanal distillery as well.
This ambitious plan was hindered by two things:
- You can only drink so much tequila in one day before you can’t really be bothered taking another tour.
- Most of the tours were in Spanish.
So we opted for a tour of the Jose Cuervo distillery for the following two reasons:
- They had regular tours with English speaking guides, which meant that we didn’t have to process tequila and Spanish at the same time.
- Emma really wanted to hug the crow.
Yet again, we were issued with stylish head nets for a tour:
The tour itself took us through the classic car collection and a video on the product. (For those more interested in the process there’s a bit more detail in the captions of the images below).
Then we really got into it with a look at the process of preparing and roasting the agave piñas.
Followed by extracting and distilling the sweet sugary roast agave into boozy tequila blanco.
We sampled the tasty tequila straight out of the distillation process. From there it just needs a bit of clarification and refining and it is good to go, no waiting around, your tequila blanco is ready to hit the shelves and cause hangovers the world over.
These guys sell both 100% agave tequila and a bunch of cheaper mixed options with only 51% agave sugar. Obviously it is the 100% agave variations they like to brag about.
Finally we saw where they let said tequila chill out for varying lengths of time, in barrels to take on oaky characteristics, this produces reposado (rested), ańejo (aged) and extra ańejo (really damn old) versions of the beverage.
In this area they were constantly misting to stop the tequila evaporating any more than it had to. Like anything you leave sitting in barrels you lose a percentage ‘angel’s share’ to evaporation. Damn boozy angels.
But that wasn’t all, from there it was down into the lair. (No photos allowed down there either). It is down there that they keep their extra ańejo, Reserva de la Familia. We can confirm that this one is Jose Cuervo’s tastiest tequila, but also a bit on the pricey side, we think we’ll stick to the cheaper options!
If we hadn’t tasted enough tequila on the tour itself, it was time for tequila tasting class:
We came out of the tour with a new-found appreciation for Mexico’s famous fire water. We’re still beer enthusiasts first, but we’re happy to expand our horizons to sample some more of the tequila Mexico has to offer. Now to sample some mezcal…
What was missing on this tour was a visit to an agave farm to watch the harvesting of the blue agave by the famed jimadores. This was available in one of the Spanish only tours with the crowd from Sauza Tequila. We considered doing this but after sampling all the tequilas at Jose Cuervo we felt we’d seen enough of the big guys and just wanted to check out a smaller artisanal operation at a later date.
On the plus side, the fields surrounding the town of Tequila are packed to the brim with blue agave, so you can see the little baby tequilas growing all along the side of the highway. It takes these wee fellas 8–12 years before they are ready to become tequila. What a wait!
We sampled all the tequila we felt we needed to sample while we were in the town of tequila, whilst avoiding getting in any trouble with the Tequila police.
Time was getting shorter, so we started to make our way to Guanajuato—we were due to arrive there in a couple of days.
We stopped on the shores of Lake Chapala for a night of camping which wouldn’t deserve mention but for the campground having what is either the world’s most disappointing or most amazing playground. It depends how you feel about clowns and rusty death traps. We personally feel like it adds an element of genuine danger and adventure for any five year old brave enough to enjoy it.
Hope you’ve had your tetanus shot.
And we’ll just leave you with this image to remind you that not all playground designers have their hearts in the right place:
Reminds us of a certain motel.
*Plus a couple of other detours, but we don’t want to make this any more confusing than it needs to be.