Purchased for the production of Tequila is via long term contract. We have written and oral contracts with our agave suppliers through 2025. This is critically important especially in view of the predicted shortage of agave that will occur during years 2017 – 2019. Quality agave requires between 6 years and 14 years of growth before reaching maturity. Natural occurrences such as drought, moisture conditions (rain) and climatic conditions all contribute to agave growth and maturity.
We require that the raw sugar content of freshly cut agave we purchase contains at least 21 Degrees brix. We prefer and seek agave with 23 – 28 brix sugar content. 29+ degree brix is possible for agave harvested towards the end of May (end of dry season) just prior to rainy season. Also, and quite importantly, we require our agave piñas be trimmed very close to the heart…leaving almost a white appearance with very little green leafy exposure. This helps eliminate the oily/waxy taste and texture and lends to cleaner fermentation/distillation process and resulting final flavor.
The agave/piña ‘hearts’ (Blue Agave Tequilana Weber) are slowly steam-roasted in centuries old traditional thick stone walled brick ovens (hornos) for 36 – 54 hours. (Each of our hornos will cook 40 tons of agave). This traditional art of ‘slow cooking’ in brick ovens prevents the cooked agave from caramelizing while softening the fibers and transforming the carbohydrates into fermentable sugars. These ovens also help retain the sweet natural mellow flavors of the carefully grown agave. “Horno cooked agave” is combined with autoclave cooked agave on a 50/50 basis.
The sugar is extracted from the cooked agave via a shredding machine, known as a ‘molino’ or mill. Most molinos consist of a series of four milling cylinders. As the agave fibers pass through the milling heads, the agave is squeezed releasing the sugar concentrated sweet juice. All the while the fibers/juice is being washed with de-ionized/reverse osmosis treated water. This ‘molino’ system is an almost exact, but smaller, replica of the milling systems used in the process of sugar cane—sugar production.
We utilize a medium/slow fermentation system. Average fermentation requires 48- 60 hours. Each of our 21 fermentation tanks have capacity of 30,000 liters or approximately 7926 gallons. Natural occurring yeast is added to the ‘wort’ or agave juice and ‘beer’ is created containing an alcohol content of between 5 and 9 percent alcohol/volume. Many mass produced tequilas are fermented for only 10 – 12 hours. This results in a more neutral final tequila flavor. Typically, the slower the fermentation process, the more full bodied tequila/agave flavor.
We distill the fermented beer twice. A slow distillation process is utilized (approximately 5 hours per 5000 liter pot)We use alembic stills commonly known as ‘pot stills.’ The first distillation separates and concentrates alcohol from the fermented wort. The resulting alcohol content is approximately 25% alc/vol. The first distillation creates what is known as ‘ordinary’ tequila. It is quite high in volatile alcohols such as methanol, isopropanol, and ethyl acetate. The second distillation enriches the alcohol content to approximately 55% alc/vol which is the final product. Some producers utilize column stills. Column stills distill at very high alcohol content and produce a more neutral flavor.
Please note that we have discussed the production and manufacture of 100% agave tequila. For our mixto tequila, we are presently using cane sugar (granulated) that approximates 30% of the total sugars. We could legally use up to 49% cane sugar or other sugars. We do not use corn fructose.