In aid of National Tequila Day, Style Cartel's Amira Arasteh takes a look back on her trip to Patrón’s headquarters in Mexico - where she gained an insight into the distilling of this sustainable spirit.
Ever wondered what the inner workings of a tequila brand are like? We won't lie, 'sustainability' isn't something we immediately associate with the drinks or spirits industry. Not because it's not either one of those but because it's just not commonly linked. But always willing to learn more, we ventured into Patrón’s hacienda in the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, to learn more about what is behind one of the world’s most premium tequila brands.
As well as producing ten million cases of tequila, Patrón is keen to find ways to produce more with less or to reuse or recycle what is used during production. Speaking with the brand's Head of Production, Antonio Rodriquez, we learn that from the very beginning Patrón’s founders knew they had to be sensible with investing money and responsible with waste. “The company has never compromised quality, consistency - or the environment.” Antonio tells me confidently. Okay, tick so far.
Onto the flavour of it all...
If you're a tequila buff, you might have noticed a sweetness to the taste of Patrón's tequila, specifically. This sweet, rich taste is obtained by carefully-produced, 100 per cent Blue Weber agaves. Antonio tells me that “one of the complexities is that agave takes six or seven years to grow so if you're not in conversation with local farmers, you have a crisis.” Another tick; Antonio has revealed to us the connection between the locals and Patrón, still now, after many years of being in the tequila business.
Patrón has a strong relationship with farmers they've worked with for years and it is this way that they know they're getting premium ingredients to create their product. In order to make the cut as an agave, it needs to be very sweet when raw. We tasted some of this magical agave and can confirm that, raw, it tastes a little like a cantelope melon. The agave must also be cut as close as possible to the heart (which incidentally is the sweetest part should you be gunning for a piece). The final factor in the agave qualifying process is that there needs to be less than 10 per cent of red patches on the plant; more than this adds a bitter taste to the end product. So that's something to think about next time you get that sharp kickback from your tequila shot. Is it too many red patches or too many shots? Hopefully it's all smooth, sweet tequila we're drinking for National Tequila Day - and for every other tequila-drinking event in the future.
A bit more on the distilling process...
The agaves are cleaned by letting the honey drip off of them for the first 12 hours. 12 more hours on and the honey is collected. Patrón's ovens can fit 14 tonnes of agave and cook for over 70 hours. It’s a dedicated job, this tequila-distilling business.
The designated agave-loaders even have to make sure all the fibres of the wet agave are reabsorbed. The agaves are crushed using large Tahona mills - this is also done responsibly, with there being zero-emission electric motors powering the mills, for example. So far, the environment has been taking into account every step of the way. Patrón combines this way of crushing the baked agave with the modern Roller Mill method too. The agave juices from each mill are fermented separately, with the process taking three days.
It's important to note that all liquid waste is treated and its colour and odour removed so the leftover water can be used for cleaning. This is just one of the ways in which Patrón is ensuring its tequila production is as sustainable as possible. All solid waste is composted; the hacienda and distillery is home to five hectares of compost. The company produces 5,500 tonnes of natural fertiliser a year, which is used for the hacienda's vegetable garden - the source of food for the 1,600 workers who, in one way or another, help create your tequila. The compost area can be used by other tequila companies too; there's no discrimination as the ultimate goal is to be sustainable and eco-friendly above anything else. “I am always looking for improvements in how we produce tequila,” Antonio explains. This is something that even the Mexican government is aware of and continues to be the prime ethos of the brand.
Although sustainability is at the forefront of the brand's ethos and tequila production, technology is, surprisingly, not. Patrón prefer to do most of the hard work by hand and it is for this reason that all phases include human hard work - bar part of the fermentation and actual distillation process, that is. Still, Antonio muses that finding new technologies to allow for a faster treatment of the agave could keep up both the speed of the tequila production and the treatment. "The treatment controls the production; if you don't have the treatment capacity, you cannot produce." He looks back to years ago, when the compost area was open so the treatment had to stop when the rain came. He confirms that the use of new technologies and improving efficiency in production - whilst maintaining sustainability - is high on the conversation list at Patrón. "It is one of our priorities.”
Everything is done by hand at Patrón. Next time you take a sip, think that even the label on your bottle was stuck on by someone at the distillery. Only the actual measuring of the tequila going into each bottle is done by a machine - and that’s only so you don't lose out on any precious and tasty tequila, now.
Ready for some cocktails? It's National Tequila Day, after all, and who doesn't crave a cocktail come Friday night?
60ml PATRÓN Silver tequila
150ml Fever-Tree Citrus Tonic Water
Orange slice or twist for garnish
1. Combine all ingredients in a glass over ice
2. Garnish with a twist or slice of orange
50ml PATRÓN Silver tequila
150ml Grapefruit soda
1. Add Patrón Silver tequila to a highball glass with cubed ice
2. Top with grapefruit soda
3. Garnish with grapefruit slice
Perfect Patrón Margarita
35ml PATRÓN Reposado tequila
15ml PATRÓN Citrónge Orange liqueur
20ml Lime juice
1. Chill a coupe glass
2. Garnish class with lime wedge and ½ salt rim
3. Add all ingredients and ice to a shaker
4. Shake and strain into glass
Añejo Old Fashioned
50ml PATRÓN Añejo Tequila
7.5ml Simple syrup
1 dash Bitters
Orange peel for garnish
1. Over a double old fashioned glass, use a vegetable peeler to take off two strips of orange zest, making sure to express the oil into the glass.
2. Add Patrón Añejo, simple syrup, and bitters.
3. Add ice – the biggest cubes you can find – and stir.
4. Adjust sweetness to taste.
Patrón is available on Amazon, £43.98 for 70cl