To even begin to understand tequila, you have to learn something about the Free and Sovereign State of Jalisco (just say “Jalisco”), and what makes it so special. It’s kind of like Wakanda, if only in this way: it’s a small region in a big country and blessed with properties from something extraordinary in the soil and rocks and waters.
Ever heard of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt? That’s ok, neither have most people. It’s a hot geographic rift bisecting central Mexico East-West. Its revved up volcanic soil—mother to cocoa, chili peppers and peyote—also brought forth the mystical Agave. Often mistaken for a cactus because of its succulent leaves, the Agave plant is the basis of all Mezcal, and for eons before that it was the key ingredient in a Pre-Columbian grog called pulque. But certified Tequila is made only from the Weber Blue Agave variety originating in Jalisco’s highlands.
That’s enshrined in Mexican Federal law, by the way.
The town of Tequila is the historic birthplace of the spirit, but Mexico’s most exclusive brand of Tequila is made in the Jalisco town of Atotonilco El Alto. It was here in the 1930s and early 40s that young local Don Julio González changed a farmer’s drink into a cultivated luxury spirit.
The origin story is well known—delivering his own small batch tequila by horse or donkey as a teen, borrowing an audacious sum to open his first distillery—but Don Julio was a natural horticulturist as well. His signature idea was planting Blue Agaves farther apart than the typical grower. He reasoned that each plant would get more nutrients, sun and space to reach full potential. Then he waited 5 to 10 years to harvest before slow-cooking the agave hearts and aging his nectar in white oak barrels.
These inspirations paid off. Today, his La Primavera distillery, still in Atotonilco, is considered the first home of high-end tequila. From the bracing Don Julio® Reposado to the oh-so-sippable Don Julio® 1942 Tequila aged nearly three years; his name is synonymous with “superior.”