Here’s how the legend of tequila goes: Ages ago, lightning struck an agave plant, causing the fruit at the center of the plant to turn into liquid. And tequila was born. It’s not really made that way anymore. As you know, tequila has to be made in Jalisco, Mexico, and it has to be made from 100% blue agave. About that blue agave—it’s an unruly plant, with the ability to grow up to seven feet in any direction, with sharp, protruding stems that burn if they pierce your skin. It’s a brutal plant for man, but apparently, the ideal habitat for rattlesnakes, tarantulas and scorpions. Jesus. And the various distilleries that operate in Jalisco manage millions and millions of these little bastards. When an agave plant hits maturity, it’s cut down and stripped to its core. Those cores, which can weigh up to 250 pounds, are gathered, split in half and then baked for hours, crushed and fermented in open air tanks. From there, most tequila is distilled twice, then it’s moved to either stainless steel tanks for resting or on to barrels for aging. We’ve gathered some photos of the tequila-making process from some of Jalisco’s most storied distilleries so you can get a sense for how this beautiful spirit is made.
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Rows of blue agave waiting to be harvested for Herradura Tequila. Herradura maintains 25 million blue agave plants.
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Getting the blue agave down to its core, called the pina.
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The agave pinas lining up in front of Fortaleza distillery, a relatively new brand, but one owned by the Sauza family, which is steeped tequila history that dates back to the late 1800s.
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Harvesting blue agave.
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One of the oven doors at Fortaleza.
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The oven ramped up to cooking temps.
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The massive stone grinder that crushes the agave core.
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Separating the fiber from the pulp after the agave cores are crushed.
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The wood fermentation vats at Fortaleza, called pipones.
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The final product: Herradura's Reposed.
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