The Cooper and the Art of Making Tequila Casks

Mundo Cuervo
The Cooper and the Art of Making Tequila Casks

Have you ever wondered what is behind the best reposado and añejo tequilas that you have tasted? The aroma, body and flavor of tequila will captivate your senses and leave you wanting to know more about how a blue agave plant is transformed into that amazing golden drink that you’re tasting with such pleasure.

Mexican tequila producers such as Jose Cuervo are pioneers in the refinement of the tequila culture, the processes of cultivation, harvesting, fermentation, distillation and aging are recognized worldwide not only by ancestry, but for the high quality standards of La Rojeña Distillery and how strictly they follow the regulations dictated by the Mexican government during the different processes that result in the production of their tequila.

How important are tequila barrels?

Aging is an essential part of the process of making a good tequila. In this phase of the manufacturing process the barrels play a starring role so each tequila is infused with its distinctive color, aroma and taste.

There are several types of wood used in the manufacture of barrels in which the tequila is matured, but the French oak and the American oak are the woods that give personality to the best tequilas of La Rojeña Factory.

The wood, coming either from French forests such as Allier or Tronçais, or from the Appalachian Mountains in the United States, is carefully selected by the cooper, who has the experience and the refined criteria for the choice of the raw material that will be turned into tequila barrels.

 

The toasting of tequila barrels

Once the wood is chosen, the cooper turns it into staves that will have to dry for several months. When the staves are finally dry they must be toasted by the cooper based on the criteria dictated by the Maestro Tequilero, since the degree of toasting determines the taste, color and aroma that the tequila made in La Rojeña Factory will have. 

More than 600 combinations of flavor, aroma and color can result depending on how fast and superficial or slow and deep the toasting of the barrel is. A big amount of the success of a Maestro Tequilero in the manufacturing process of a reposado or an añejo tequila comes from the precise toasting of the wood, which is why many experts consider cooperage an art, a science even.

 

What is the life span of a tequila barrel?

Tequila barrels can be used five times to store and enrich the tequila they contain. Each time has a gradual duration: one year the first, two years the second and so on until reaching the fifth and last time. That means each tequila barrel can be used for a total of 15 years in optimal conditions.

While the tequila barrels are full, they are watered on the outside with sprinkled water so that the treasure they store does not evaporate. Eventually, the wood of the barrels wears out and stops adding color, aroma and flavor to the tequila. When this happens, the barrel is disposed of and the wood is used for the creation of crafts and furniture that you can find all over Tequila Jalisco.

Did you know that there are projects sponsored by the Jose Cuervo Foundation that propose to reuse the wood from the barrels in the construction of housing for people in a vulnerable situation? Learn more about the First International Sustainable Social Housing Competition! 

As you can see, for the best reposado and añejo tequilas to reach your palate, there is a long and detailed process that involves a lot of work. It begins with the sowing of the blue agave “hijuelos”, passes through the magical interaction of the tequila with the wood of the barrel for months or years and concludes with the bottling of this elixir blessed by the goddess Mayahuel. Enjoy it!

 

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