It was not without a subtle hint of irony that Jose Cuervo, a brand whose name could serve as a stand-in to many for Tequila itself, invited a brigade of American journalists, fashionistas, and jetsetters to Mexico on Cinco de Mayo. While many Americans celebrate the 5th of May as if it were Mexico’s 4th of July, the fête in fact marks an obscure nineteenth century battle won against the French, and as we were reminded walking out of the Guadalajara Airport, a day much like any other. So with assumptions adroitly pushed aside, and a glass of Cuervo Tradicional in hand, what ensued over the subsequent weekend was a revelatory unfurling of the artisans, ecology, and craftsmanship that go into every bottle.
While a definitive multi-volume history of Tequila “On the Tipple of Your Tongue” can be found in FLAUNT Issue #74, but to recap, in 1795, Jose Maria Guadalupe Cuervo y Montana was granted the first license to produce and distribute the spirit by King Carlos IV of Spain. Ten generations later, the brand is still family led, producing Tequila at La Rojeña, Latin America’s oldest active distillery, and the heartbeat of Mundo Cuervo, the house’s hospitality initiative at the intersection of spirits and sustainable tourism in the region. Cuervo’s Tradicional expressions follow the centuries old recipe, using 100% blue agave, which are native to the region.
Each of these bounteous succulents grow between 6 and 12 years before reaching maturity, their leaves pruned and the volcanic soil in which they grow, tended to by Jimadores. As the field’s caretakers, the Jimador's tools, craft, and stories, which we learned about first hand, are generations in the making, much like the spirit itself. After harvesting by hand, the agave’s large core or piña are slowly roasted for several days, a sweet molasses-like smell wafting through La Rojeña before fermentation, distillation, and in the case of reposado and añejo, aging on-site in a forrest of oak barrels between 2 and 36 months.
While Jose Cuervo prides itself on the history and integrity of its roots as the original Tequila, the house has continued to embrace innovation in the spirits world. Cuervo Tradicional Cristalino, the brand’s latest expression, is a blend of reposado, añejo, and Reserva de la Famila extra añejo–the house’s most premium of spirits, carefully selected, distilled, and hand packaged, with a new vintage unveiled each fall–filtered until crystal clear (baccarat presumably). Vanilla, spice, a hint of melon and oak. Full of energy, Cristalino served on this trip as the ideal addition to Cuervo Tradicional’s annual Akamba Music Festival.
For one night each year, partygoers and dance music revelers descend on the rolling agave fields of Jalisco to celebrate the spirit of Tequila. This year’s festival included a venerable lineup of house, tropical and techno heavyweights the likes of Polo & Pan, Bob Moses & Moodyman. With an international array of headliners, Akamba reminds us of the global reach of Tequila, and the moments of connection that both spirits and music foster. While there is no wrong way to enjoy tequila (responsibly of course), as we sipped and toasted to new friends and good music, amidst the agave fields and under the stars, it certainly felt as if we were doing it right.