Agave Spirit (not tequila?)
We make our Agave spirit just once a year, usually in early April to be ready for Cinco de Mayo celebrations. I’m getting ready for this year’s effort, and thinking back to prior years…
If you’ve tried our ‘tequila’ you know that we don’t call it that – we’re obliged to call it ‘Agave’ spirit. That’s because Tequila is a regionally-protected thing – a bit like Champagne (can only be made in a particular region in France), or Feta cheese(Greece). So, “real” Tequila can only be made in a particular region around Jalisco, Mexico. And then there’s the differences in production process. You may have seen pictures of traditional Agave pina processing – it’s awfully labor intensive! Very few Jalisco tequila distilleries (and no big ones) use this traditional process anymore, and have moved toward more mechanized, efficient, and repeatable machine-based processes to extract the sweet syrup from the pina. And I won’t argue that the flavor of the resulting spirit suffers a bit! Big producers’ tequilas tend to be much less flavorful than the guys ‘doing it the hard way’.
We buy agave syrup from a producer in Jalisco in an attempt to keep our spirit as authentic as possible. As usual, we’re very careful with our ferment and distillation, which makes our spirit very smooth – even though we usually bottle in the neighborhood of 100 proof. However, we always want to make the most flavor spirit possible! So last year, I had the bright idea that I’d roast up some agave pina & add it to our mash before fermentation. I posted a Craigslist ad for free removal ofone mature Blue Agave from residential property, and (surprise!) got a lot of calls from people who wanted my free labor! And boy was it a lot of work – aside from the obvious very pointy nature of the plants, they’re tough as hell, and the pina is heavy – mine weighed in over 50 pounds. I roasted it at about350F for 18 hours, then chopped up the now-softened pina into shreds &added the whole mess to the mash tun.
You can taste the results of this effort in Batch 15 of our Agave Reposado (or Batch 12 of the Blanco if you happen to have some still). While it is really good, I was disappointed by the minor flavor contribution of the pina. I think to get the extra flavor I’m looking for, I’ll need more than one– but I’m not sure I’m up for the effort of harvesting & roasting a lot of them. Any volunteers??