Eric Rubin’s Journal: Tequila Interchange Project

Should foreign ownership of Tequila brands be allowed? Some argue no, but Eric Rubin disagrees with this view. In his most recent blog, Eric shares his thoughts on his trip to Mexico with the Tequila Interchange Project…

Ok, so I recently took part in the 2nd trip of the Tequila Interchange Project.

For those of you not familiar with the Project, I’ll let their mission statement do the talking:

“We’re a network of professionals engaged in promoting the education of the culture of Tequila in their local communities and abroad. We strive to create a highway of knowledge between teachers, workers, and connoisseurs of the culture of tequila, from the agave fields in Mexico to the cocktail bars across the USA. We are a network of connections and partnerships. We are both professor and pupil. We are the bridge of communication towards the future of tradition for tequila culture.”

I was fortunate to be selected and had a blast with my fellow team members. I admit that the radical leftist views of Latin American professors took me a little surprise, proposing no foreign ownership of Tequila brands! – but their knowledge, passion, and connection to the region were all very impressive.

The education and conversational aspect of the trip is what I found the most interesting, but I did feel that some of the goals expressed – while rooted in good intentions – could be problematic if not impossible to implement, and may be unfair to the large producers; not to mention small producers that are just starting to forge their own path…

Tequila Talk – NOM

“NOM” is short for Norma Oficial Mexicana (Official Mexican Standard) which are the official standards and regulations dictated by the Mexican Government.

Tres Agaves Tequila label with NOM info highlighted.

The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) regulates production of NOMs for the industry and it specifically identifies that the spirit meets government standards to be classified as Tequila (much like a bottle of Champagne must meet certain standards in France.)

Since 1990 all 100% agave Tequila must have a NOM identifier on the bottle. The NOM number on the bottle indicates the distillery. In general the lower the NOM number (starting around 1100) the older the distillery.

The art of making Tequila

One of the great things about my recent trip to the Tequila Valley was that I got to see a lot of distilleries and learn first hand how each distillery adds their personal stamp to their batches.

All Tequilas start with the basic ingredients- agaves, water, yeast- and must be produced in one of five states in Mexico – Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. The master distiller adds his/her own processes and techniques to arrive at a very distinct flavor. Some distilleries are mammoth like Herradura. Others like Cofradia are contracted by many to produce a variety of brands.

El Llano (meaning “the Plains”) is a small, boutique distillery that was founded in 1900 by one of Mexico’s foremost Tequila families. Eduardo Orendain is a fifth generation Tequila master. His pride and passion show in every word he utters. He was a complete joy to talk with and meet. While down there we recorded Tres Agaves’ Eric Rubin as he took us on a tour of the “fabrica” and highlighted why some might fine Tequila flows from El Llano’s stills.

Note: The “tour” progressed to the tasting room and, er, we “forgot” to get footage. Next time I’ll add more from the cellars and tasting rooms.