We slept in a barrel and drank tequila

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Matices Hotel de Barricas

This hotel had popped up on our social media timeline forever.  I think we might search for tequila a little too much. Many comments indicated that this was a bucket list place to stay so we decided to book a few nights and take the trip to Jalisco, Mexico. At Matices Hotel de Barricas, they have barrels you can crash in after a day full of tequila drinking.  There are about 30 barrels situated on the property that you can book. These single room barrels are complete with a bed, bathroom, everything you would have in a regular hotel, including a free shot of tequila in your room.

The hotel is situated right in the middle of an agave field and has a distillery on property (La Cofradia) which adds to the ambiance. They offer tours of the distillery, horseback rides through the agave fields and harvesting agave like a jimador. There are two restaurants onsite which offer buffet breakfasts and an underground location that has delicious dining at night. If you want to take a trip to downtown Tequila, it’s a short ride where you can visit other distilleries, eat and shop.

There is an onsite shop with a wide variety of tequila if you want to pick up some bottles to take home. It’s situated right next to a barrel room where you can smell the tequila aging. They even let you try samples before you make a purchase. We took home three bottles for only $45.

We talk more in detail about the entire trip on our  The Tequila Tester podcast. To hear the report which includes a ride on the Herradura Tequila train. Watch or listen below.

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Unlimited Tequila on a train and distillery tour

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Herradura Tequila Train

Want to drink tequila all day and do it in style?  We took a ride on the Herradura tequila train and had a wild time.  We booked the experience a month in advance. It was 2,500 pesos per person for the club car, which is about $120 dollars each.  They also offered less expensive options with a VIP car and general seating.  They also had first class seats and then a general admission ticket. The club car looked more like a lounge – there was a bar and it was adults only, so it was more of a festive atmosphere.  Included is a train ride to and from the Guadalajara train station, plus unlimited drinks and tequila while you’re on the train, each way. Once there, lunch is included, all the tequila you can drink during lunch, plus cocktails, a mariachi and dancing show and a tour of the distillery.

Then, once you got to Herradura, you get VIP seats to the mariachi show. I would recommend that if you’re going to go on this train ride, that you go ahead and get the upgrade.  This is a full day experience. We arrived around 9am, checked in at 10, and the train left at 11. The train returns to Guadalajara around 7:30pm, so you really do get a lot of value for what you pay.

When you arrive for the distillery tour, you get to see the entire process of how it goes from the plant to the bottle. You see the workers throwing agave into brick ovens, crushing the agave and juicing them using roller mills. You tour past the fermentation tanks and get an up close look at the stills.  We also got to see how the jimadors cut the agave.

Old Herradura Distillery

They don’t allow picture taking, but the highlight of the Herradura tour was their old distillery, which was built in the 1600’s. The old distillery isn’t used anymore other than for tours, but you can go inside and check it out.  In 1870, they started making tequila; it’s actually one of the original places that made tequila.

You walk into this place and it’s basically a museum and really incredible. It was extremly dark  They had underground fermentation tanks. They had the copper stills there. The whole place is stone; the ceiling is brick. It really gives you a look at that era of history.

It was definitely the highlight of the tour. As I mentioned, they don’t allow flash photography so it doesn’t ruin the experience for others, but it’s something you’d just have to see for yourself. It gave us goosebumps to be able to see this old distillery, so I’d really recommend the tour if you’re a tequila enthusiast.

Then at the end, they walk you to the back of it and you’re still in the same facility, and it’s time to try a bunch of different varieties of Herradura. It was great because we also got to try some of the non standard ones that you don’t see very often, if ever, in the U.S.

On a side note, if you have around $10,000 to $12,000 laying around you can purchase a barrel at Herradura. You do a tasting to pick the barrel you like best after sampling a handful of them. You sign your name on your chosen barrel, and then whenever it’s ready, they will give you 240 bottles of your tequila.  Your friends will love you!

This was taken from part of The Tequila Tester podcast. To hear the entire trip report from Mexico, watch or listen below.

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Tequila and family with Master Distiller Carlos Camarena

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We spoke with Carlos Camarena recently about his distillery, family and processes to make his highly regarded tequila brands.

Carlos Camarena: My name is Carlos Camarena and I’m the third generation master distiller at La Alteña Distillery, who produces tequila at El Tesoro, Tapatio, Tequila Ocho, mainly, little bit of Villa Lobos too. Those are the brands that we produce at La Alteña. If we do my family’s background on growing agave and producing tequila goes back all the way to five generations. I’m fifth-generation tequila producer and agave grower.

Can you touch on the family aspect and how important that is to you?

Carlos Camarena: It’s very important. I mean my family has been carrying on producing tequila again for generations, and if I look at a bit around things in the area, I mean my brother has his own distillery and then I have cousins with their own distillery and I have uncles and I have aunts that also they have their own distillery. So, tequila runs through our veins. When I say that we’re a family company, it’s not only because of the fact that it’s the family the one who owns the company, is the fact that also at La Alteña, we have people that it’s third even fourth generation producing or working together with us. To me what family means in that in a big sense is, we are big family, a big community because again, those families also have been with us for generations and I don’t know why, but they don’t want to leave. They want to stay there, which by the way, it’s very good for us. Besides the fact that we have a very low rotation is the fact that once they come to work with us, they stayed there forever. They will bring their kids or their grand kids or the great grand kids or more. That means to us that they are well treated, they are treated with respect, we respect their job, we pay them good money. We’re one of the companies in my area who pays the highest salaries and it’s a win win situation. Therefore, they don’t want to leave. We don’t want them to leave, we’re a big family in that sense of the word.

Did you know you were going to go into the tequila industry?

Carlos Camarena: I knew I was coming into this direction, but not exactly the tequila industry. I am an agronomist. I studied agriculture. Since I was a kid I used to work in the fields and I got more in love with it, with the field aspect, with the agricultural aspect of the business. My original idea, when I went to college to study agriculture, it was okay, I will leave my father to produce his tequila, he knows how to do it. I will be in charge of the agave, because in my opinion if we can always have first quality agave, then it becomes kind of easy to produce first quality tequila. If your raw material is second or third class, I don’t care how good your process is, you can never produce first quality tequila. Everything begins and ends with the agave, and therefore my vision it was okay, I will grow the agave, I will produce the agave for you to dad …To my surprise, actually when I came back from college, my father told me, “I’m glad that you’re here because somehow I’m sick and tired of being sitting here dealing with paperwork and dealing with the government and rules and regulations and all that. So, you sit in my chair and do what I would do because, I am going to the fields and I said, “wait a minute, there’s something wrong here”. I know nothing about tequila besides the fact that I used to consume a lot when I was in college. That’s all I knew about tequila. I said, “I don’t know how to produce tequila, I know how to drink it, but I don’t know how to produce it and of course I have no idea how to run a company and you want overnight give me that responsibility”?

When you were taking on the company originally into the more of the role that you’re in now, how easy was that transition to jump into?

Carlos Camarena: At the beginning, it wasn’t that easy and actually most of the employees would laugh at me because they knew that I had no idea what I was doing and they were teaching me how to do things and training me. There was a lot of people saying that the company would be a complete failure in my hands because I didn’t know what I was doing. At the beginning everybody was a skeptic because they knew that I was good at throwing parties with my friends. I had free tequila, I was good at drinking tequila, but they didn’t take me very seriously on really working with tequila and learning to do things right from the beginning. And again, is when probably the perfection hit on me, came to my head and I said, okay, if we have to do this, it was not even my choice but if I have to do it, let’s do it right. Let me learn and then everybody has to align up doing things right from the beginning. It was not easy but it was worth it.

How much hands on do you have now in the actual production rather than the business part of it and the travel part of it? Or have you put some of those duties onto other people?

Carlos Camarena: I actually, I have all of those hats and I wear those hats according to the occasion. I like to be on top of it. If you asked even being in Arandas, what is the daily work? Usually it is, first of all in the morning is, go to the fields. Because I know if I get to the office I will be stuck there. First of all is go to the fields, to the agave with the years that are working the agricultural side. After that I will go to the distillery to first be checking everything on the distillery again from the cooking, the fermentation, the distillation of the process, the chemical elements, everything on the distillation. And then finally, and because I have no more choice, then I will go to the office and got stuck with paperwork.

If you go somewhere and none of your tequilas available, is there a tequila that you would drink?

Carlos Camarena: If I don’t find any of my tequilas available? Yeah, there’s no secret. Let’s say if it’s from the Highlands, I would drink Siete Leguas. It’s from the valley, I would drink either Cascahuin or Fortaleza. If I don’t find those either, then I drink scotch whiskey. No other tequilas. No thank you.

This interview was originally conducted on The Tequila Tester podcast. Listen or watch the the full episode at:

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