| After presenting this find to her
husband, the unnamed spouse fermented the solution from the blue
agave plant, much to the delight of the gods, high priest and
warriors (not to mention the generations that followed).
The Aztecs also knew that by hacking off the plant's spiky
leaves, they could expose the core, or piña, then press the
juice from it to create a mildly alcoholic libation.
The roots of this spirit -- derived from the Agave Azul Tequilana
Weber plant -- can indeed be traced back centuries from the
cruder pulque to a more refined elixir.
At the beginning of the 19th century, in the Jalisco
countryside, tequila production emerged in the region of the
same name (derived from the resident Tiquila Indians), where
the crop thrives today. The valleys surrounding Guadalajara
teem with the majestic, blue-green plant.
Once the plant matures roughly 10-12 years - and following
a careful selection process - the agave is harvested by hand,
leaving its pineapple-like hearts exposed.
Slowly heated in old-fashioned stone and mud ovens, the must
is extracted after a meticulous fermentation process. The heart
of the agave - the purest part of the plant - is then distilled
in copper cauldrons.
Finally, the learned passing of time allows the brew to age,
reaching a dark, amber color with a distinctive aroma and delicate
There is an old saying, so I'm told, that says: "To speak
of Tequila is to speak of Mexico ... to speak of Mexican tequila
is to speak of Tequila Cuervo."
Though many people can readily identify Jose Cuervo as a tequila
(it is considered the world's best-selling tequila), few realize
that the Jose Cuervo company is recognized as the first tequila
producer in the world.
In 1758, Jose Antonio Cuervo founded a distillery in the village
of Tequila, near Guadalajara, and 37 years later, his son Jose
Guadalupe was granted the first license by the King of Spain
to produce what was called at the time "wine of the earth."
The La Rojeña distillery, the oldest such commercial
facility in the western hemisphere, has been continuously producing
tequila since then. Throughout its history and right up to today,
the elegant, hacienda-like La Rojeña and the Jose Cuervo
company have remained securely in the hands of the descendants
of the original Cuervo family.
Though its Cuervo Gold is its most well-known product and
associated with the old tequila-salt-lime routine, the distillery
also produces fine sipping tequilas: from Gran Centenario Reposado
(first made in 1857 to celebrate Casa Cuervo's 100th anniversary)
to Reserva Antigua 1800 (a major export) to Agavero (a tequila
liqueur) to its top of the line Reserva de la Familia (as smooth
Taxis and buses are also available for travelers who wish
to visit the seemingly endless fields of blue agave surrounding
the village of Tequila. Some hotels can also make chartered
arrangements for larger groups wishing to explore the agave
fields or visit the Casa Cuervo.