El Tequileño, pure energy from Mexico


24 maggio 2024

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Winner of prestigious awards including Agave Producer of the Year and Best Tequila of the Year at the International Spirits Challenge and one of only eight tequila brands entirely produced on-site at the distillery, El Tequileño is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets. We had Vice President for Exports Steffin Oghene tell us about its history and tequila varieties.

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The founder of El Tequileno, Don Jorge Salles Cuervo, comes from one of the most important families of tequileros: can we look back together at the key moments in the brand's history?

Don Jorge Salles Cuervo purchased his distillery in 1941. Although he comes from the famous Cuervo Family, he never worked within the Cuervo brand. He always chose his own path. From 1941 to 1958 he produced tequila that he sold exclusively to Cuervo. However, in 1958, Cuervo completed the expansion of their facilities and no longer required his services. Therefore, Don Jorge spent the year upgrading his facility and preparing to launch his own brand. On January 1st 1959 he launched El Tequileño, the name given to those born in the town of Tequila. He named his tequila in honor of all those from the Town of Tequila where his distillery was located.

What are the main differences between the tequilas in your portfolio?

We have a variety of different tequilas for all to enjoy:

  • Blanco - 70% agave 20% Piloncillo 10% Sugar Cane 

This is our most famous product. It’s in the top 3 best-selling tequilas in Jalisco, the main tequila-producing region in Mexico. For the past 63 years it has also been the tequila of choice at the world-famous La Capilla Cantina, where you can enjoy it in their signature cocktail, La Batanga.

Why 70%? In 1959 most tequilas were 70% agave and 30% sugar cane. Don Jorge enhanced his product by not following the normal recipes and including Piloncillo, a craft handmade sugar which is rich in flavor. In the 1980s the Mexican Government increased tax on sugar and many tequila producers moved to 100%, since agave was cheaper. Don Jorge retained the same recipe. Then, in 1994 the CRT – Consejo Regulador de Tequila - was formed and created different categories of tequila - Regular Tequila (Mixto) and 100% agave. They set out regulations requiring Mixto tequila to be a minimum of 51% agave + 49% other sugars. Many producers who still produced Mixto moved to this standard. However, Don Jorge retained his 70% agave recipe, which has been kept through the generations to this day.

  • Reposado

3 months rested in American oak Pipons - large barrels ranging from 5k to 40k liters in size. The result is a gentler aging process and a softer wood influence.

  • Platinum 

Blanco tequila made from 100% agave

  • Reposado Gran Reserva

8 months rested in American oak Pipons and blended with a minimum 20% 1.5-year Añejo aged in American and French oak barrels.

  • Añejo Gran Reserva

This is a limited release of only around 15k bottles per year - we create a new blend every 6 months from a combination of our highest-quality Añejo barrels and sometimes Extra Añejo as well. The current batch in Italy was our original blend which was 2-year Añejo barrels - French and American oak - blended with 6-year Extra Añejo aged in Jack Daniel’s barrels.

  • Reposado Rare

6-year Reposado - there is no more of this left, only what is currently in Europe. It’s aged 6 years in a 23k-liter American oak Pipon.  It cannot be called Extra Añejo since the barrel exceeds a 600-liter capacity. To be called Añejo or Extra Añejo it must age in barrels of 600 liters or less. For this reason, we had to call it Reposado.

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Can we go through the different production steps of tequila?

  • Mature Agave – 6+ years - only selected from the Los Altos Region. Why? It has a more fruity, floral and naturally sweet influence on the tequila;
  • Roller Mills;
  • Mineral-rich water from a volcano in the area around Tequila;
  • Open fermentation - our distillery is surrounded by over 30 mature mango trees, which have an influence on our open fermentation;
  • Copper Distillation;
  • No chill or carbon filtering - we retain the natural fatty esters from the agave which give so much flavor.

We also would like to know more about the selection process of agave, and how important it is for the final product

Agave is one of the most important factors - we only use mature agave aged 6+ years from the Los Altos region, around the town of Tototlan. We own some of the land and also contract local producers in that area. 

To give you an analogy, take a green banana and a banana with black spots. The green banana is hard to peel, the fruit is hard, it’s very green in flavor and not very sweet. The banana with black spots is soft, sticky, rich in flavor and very sweet. It’s the same with agave and our 6+ years give us our banana with black spots. We need that maturity to give us the sugar content we need, as well as the flavor. Many industrial producers using the diffuser process harvest agave at 3 or 4 years old, which I would call a green banana. This results in very different styles of tequila in the industry, but we are proud that our process has remained the same for 65 years.

Can you give us some anticipation regarding the future of El Tequileno?

El Tequileño has been well received across the world and demand is big, but we have taken it slowly introducing our product to ensure that we find the right partners. We are currently in 28 countries. Mexico is still our no. 1 market with an estimated 75k 9-liter cases in 2024. The US is growing very fast and the UK has been extremely strong for the past 3 years. We anticipate that our brand will only become stronger as we strengthen our distribution in each market. We are a quality-focused brand with 65 years of history and heritage. Trade and consumers enjoy the integrity of our brand and the positive experience they have when tasting our products.

We also continue to win the most prestigious awards at the world’s most reputable tasting competitions, which only further verifies the attention to detail across every production stage by Tony Salles, our 3rd-generation Master Distiller.

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