José Cuervo® Especial is the best selling tequila brand in the world so unsurprisingly it is made at a huge purpose built distillery. However, Cuervo’s original distillery, Mundo Cuervo in the centre of the town of Tequila still operates and this is where the company’s super premium tequilas such as Reserva de la Familia and 1800 are made.
Cuervo’s story starts in 1758 when Sr. Jose Antonio de Cuervo purchased a plot of land that included a distillery in the village of Tequila. Unfortunately for Jose Antonio, in 1785 King Charles III of Spain, the then ruler of Mexico, banned production of alcoholic beverages in an attempt to raise revenue from taxes on imported wines and brandies. After his death in 1792, the new king, Charles IV, lifted the ban and in 1795 granted Jose Antonio’s son Jose Maria Guadalupe Cuervo a permit to cultivate and distil from agave. This was the first license to produce “mezcal wine”, the antecedent of what we know today as tequila and it is this 1795 date which marks the official establishment of Tequila Cuervo La Rojeña, S.A. de C.V - the oldest continuously running tequila company for which there are definitive records. The company expanded rapidly and Jose Guadalupe prospered until his death.
When Jose Guadalupe died he left the company and all of his property to his son and daughter Don Jose Ignacio Faustino and Dona Maria Magdalena de Cuervo. Dona married Vicente Albino Rojas who took over control of her properties. He changed the name of the distillery from ‘Teberna de Cuervo’ to ‘La Rojeña’ and modernized and increased production, although the methods remained traditional. When he died, everything was left to his two daughters who handed over control to Sr. Jesus Flores, who owned two other distilleries in the region (La Florena and La del Puente, the latter later known as La Constancia). Jesus Flores was the first tequila-maker to bottle his tequila rather than sell it in barrels. The tequila was exported to the United States for the first time in 1873.
On the death of Jesus Flores, his wife, Ana Gonzalez Rubio, inherited the La Rojeña distillery and in 1900 married José Cuervo Labastida, master distiller at La Constancia. Flores took over management of the company and shortly after changed the name of the tequila produced by the company to the now recognisable José Cuervo Tequila. By this time the company had more than four million agave plants located in fields and farms such as Santa Teresa, La de Guevara, Camichines, Santa Ana, Las Cuevas, La Camotera, Los Colgados, La Fundicion, El Colorado, Las Marias, San Pedro and Guamuchil, among others. Jose Cuervo was now an international brand and won many prizes at international expositions such as the ‘Gran Premio’ in Madrid in 1907 and the ‘Gran Prix’ at the 1909 International Exposition of Nutrition and Hygiene in Paris.
Jose Cuervo and his wife Ana gave generously to the local community, built schools, established water supplies, built washing facilities, paved streets and bought land so that townspeople could be buried without cost - something the family continues to this day. Against a background of unrest and the threat of revolutionary army forces threatening
Guadalajara, in 1914 Virginia Gallardo, the heir apparent to the Cuervo empire, married Juan Beckmann, the German consul in Guadalajara. In 1921, Jose Cuervo died and management of La Rojeña distillery was taken over by administrators before eventually passing to the Cuervo Heirs, Juan Beckmann Gallardo and Juan Beckmann Vidal.
Over 200 years since its incorporation, Cuervo’s heirs still own Tequila Cuervo La Rojeña S.A. de C.V, the largest tequila company with the world’s best selling tequila. Cuervo now operate three distilleries but La Rojeña distillery remains practically untouched by modern changes in tequila production, still making tequila using traditional methods. The distillery is open to the public with regular guided tours. For information see ww.mundocuervo.com
Tequila Cuervo La Rojeña S.A. de C.V, the largest agricultural company in Mexico, owning a staggering 38,500 hectares of agave fields with over 15 million agave plants. Cuervo employ 200 jimadors which still use the traditional tools and methods handed down through generations to each harvest up to 200 piñas a day. Some of Cuervo’s fields are not accessible by road and so donkeys are still used to carry piñas to the main roads. Cuervo also helps sustain local farmers by purchasing a small percentage of piñas from them and the pick of the ripest piñas come to La Rojeña distillery where their sugar content are randomly checked and the entire batch will be sent back to the farmer if the piñas tested plants do not meet Cuervo’s standards.
Prior to cooking the very largest agave are split to ensure an even bake. The distillery operates 10 traditional masonry ovens, still used due to the flavour they impart. These reach temperatures of 92-96°C at a pressure below 4psi (in contrast to modern high pressure autoclaves). The piña are steam cooked for up to 48 hours, followed by one hour of resting without steam and then left to cool for another 14 hours. The piña are then crushed in a modern roller mill to release the plants sugary juice.
This is fermented using a cultured yeast in 50,000 litre stainless steel fermentation tanks. These are water cooled to keep within a range of 29-36°C. Fermentation lasts around 50 hours with air pumped into the tank for the first 10 hours as aerobic fermentation encourages yeast cells to multiply. This produces a mosto of 12-14% abv ready for distillation.
First distillation takes place in one of four copper pot stills, each with a capacity of 10,000 liters and produces an abordinario (distillate) of 30-34%abv. The second distillation is in one of another set of four stills, this time with a capacity of 6,400 litres producing a tequila at 55-60% abv. (Reserve de Famila is distilled to just 45% abv.) The wooden casks used for ageing are predominantly ex-American whiskey casks but a proportion are French Limousin. Newly acquired first refill casks account for 50% of the oak used at the distillery.
José Cuervo Tradicional
Mexican Tequila, NOM: 1122
38% alc./vol. (76 proof)
This 100% agave reposado tequila is only produced in limited quantities (although what that limited quantity might be is not communicated) and sold in individually numbered bottles. Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado recreates the tequila first created by the Cuervo family in 1795 and the number of años (years) recorded on each bottle’s label indicates the year of production. For example ‘214’ años would indicate the tequila was made in 2009 (1795+214=2009).
Tasting: (212’ años) An intriguing complex nose features hints of smoke, ripe banana and sweet yellow pepper. Wafts of smoke cross a chargrilled vegetable, woody palate spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon and delicate ginger. A more subtle earthiness is equally balanced by hints of vanilla.
José Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Platino
38% alc./vol. (76 proof)
Launched in the Autumn of 2007, this 100% agave blanco addition to Reserva de la Familia range is made only using estate grown 10-12 year old agaves. It also benefits from ‘Escencia de Agave’, a propriety method which apparently captures the steam emitted during the cooking process. This is condensed (turned back to water), distilled to purify and then used to dilute the tequila to bottling strength.
The limited edition, individually numbered, hand-signed, hand-dipped wax seal and a cork closure bottles come in a decorated wooden gift box.
Tasting: [bottle No. 04744 dated 05-04-07] Crystal clear. A nose of chargrilled vegetable and linseed oil with good agave notes. The palate also has vegetable notes, fried zucini and unripe pear. Finishes dry with slightly peppered notes and enduring agave flavours.
José Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Añejo
38% & 40% alc./vol. (76 & 80 proof)
Launched in 1995 to celebrate the second centenary of Jose Maria Guadalupe Cuervo being granted the first license to distil tequila, José Cuervo Reserva de la Familia is a 100% extra añejo tequila. Ten year old agaves are hand-selected and harvested just before the rainy season when at their peak. These are roasted in a traditional masonry oven for 72 hours - half the temperature and twice the usual cooking temperature and time.
Reserva de la Familia is aged for five years in a combination of new, ‘toasted’ French Limousin and ex-American whiskey casks, with addition of some reserve tequilas aged for more than 30 years. Steam collected from the ovens is condensed, distilled to purify and then used to hydrate the tequila to bottling strength.
Each bottle is hand-numbered, dated and sealed with wax. Every year the Cuervo family commissions a different Mexican artist to design the new collectible hand-painted wooden box. Only 17,000 bottles of Reserva De La Familia are produced each year.
Tasting: [bottle No. 2343 dated 26-07-06] Clear amber. Slightly smoky, vanilla, cacao nose with espresso coffee aromas. Elegant, agave palate with gingerbread, cinnamon, marzipan, bitter chocolate, coffee and a light citrus flavours with a slightly smoky garnish. The finish is almost cognac like with delicate smoky brandy notes.
Reserva 1800 Silver
38% alc./vol. (76 proof)
100% agave rested for 15 days in ex-American whiskey casks and named after the year when the first oak aged tequila was released.
Tasting: Clear, very slight green/yellow hue. Sweet chargrilled red pepper with slight raw celery/asparagus aromas. The clean, light palate has a hint of agave sweetness and delicate smokiness from grilled pepper. Lightly sprinkled black pepper coats the rounded herbaceous finish.
Reserva 1800 Reposado
38% alc./vol. (76ºproof)
100% agave rested for 6 months in American and French oak casks.
Tasting: Clear, light gold. The nose features toasted coconut, vanilla, mocha coffee, and subtle candied fruit with light spicy pepper and sweet cinnamon aromas. Initially sweet entry to the palate with butterscotch, vanilla, green roasted green pepper. Long, dry, rounded finish with good agave notes. A flavoursome, light, easy tequila that is short on faults.
José Cuervo 1800 Reserva Añejo
38% alc./vol. (76 proof)
This 100% agave Tequila is aged for over a year in small French oak charred casks.
Tasting: Clear, red copper colour. Roasted coconut, toffee-apple and cigar box feature on the woody, perfumed nose. The woody, spiced palate has generous nutty notes, caramel and chocolaty roasted agave. Dry woody finish with spicy toffee, pepper notes.
José Cuervo 250 Aniversario
40% alc./vol. (80 proof)
To honor 250 years of history, Casa Cuervo is releasing Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario on November 2, 2009. This will be one of the most exclusive tequilas ever made.
The pedigree is insane: It’s made with a blend of 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-year-old añejo tequilas, plus a selection of blanco tequila uncovered in the Cuervo cellars that had been stored there for 100 years. That blanco was aged for three years in oak barrels before mixing with the rest of the tequilas in the blend. Finally, the entire blend was aged a second time in sherry casks for an extra 10 months.
José Cuervo 1800 Colección
38% alc./vol. (76 proof)
This very limited edition, super premium, 100% agave, extra añejo tequila is aged in new French oak casks and blended with reserve tequilas, some of which are as old as 50 years. The bottle comes in a leather and burlap handmade box that also contains an empty pewter and Belgian-crystal decanter weighing in at four pounds by itself. The pewter was specially designed by acclaimed Mexican artist Alejandro Colunga.
Tasting: Clear, dark amber colour. A nose with orange citrus, marzipan, vanilla and spicy clove aromas. The slightly smoky palate has strong mandarin notes with well integrated earthy, vegetal, vanilla, caramel, lightly spicy (cinnamon and pepper ) supple oak, a hint of chargrilled vegetables, cinnamon and buttery butterscotch at the edges. Dry but luscious finish.
Finally, it is here! The Diageo Reserve World Class competition has landed in South Africa. Coming in as the 49th Country in the 4th year of existence, this has to be one of the biggest bartending competitions South Africa has ever seen. In conjunction with super Luxury brands such as Johnnie Walker® Blue Label™, Gold Label™, Ciroc Vodka, Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, Don Julio Reposado Tequila, and many more, this competition is considered nothing less than ultra deluxe.
The program first started in 2009 in the renowned city of London. The first winner to take home the title of World Class Champion was a Greek bartender, Aristotelis Papadopoulos. In 2010 the finals of the competition moved to Greece, and took place in the town of Athens where London bartender Eric Lorincz took first place. In 2011 the finals were hosted in New Delhi, India of which a very talented Japanese bartender, Manabu Ohtake was crowned World Class Champion. And now in 2012 the finals will take place in Rio, Brazil and is going to be bigger and better than ever before. With a total of 49 countries competing and over 11,000 bartenders being trained, this is truly a global sensation. Not only does the program challenge the bartenders in every aspect of bartending, but it enables them to become a star on a global platform. There is a surplus of knowledge, skills, techniques and flair brought together to highlight the standard of which these spirit brands represent. Industry legends such as Dale DeGroff, Salvatore Calabrese, Peter Dorelli, Gary Regan, Hidetsugu Ueno and Daniel Estremadoyro come together to impart their skills and try identify a true World Class winner. The overall winner this year will take home the following;
• Publish a cocktail book, co-written by Simon Difford and distributed globally.
• Act as global representative for World Class, traveling to every continent as “The World’s Best Bartender” over the course of 9 months.
• Be the face of the World Class retail campaign in High End Stores all over the world.
• Become a recognized global media spokesperson for the art of mixology.
• Have an open invitation to visit the Reserve Brand distilleries, meet the distillers (all expenses paid).
• Become part of the World Class Guru family and take part each year in the Global World Class Final as a mentor/judge.
The Launch preparation
The launch took place over 3 days in the magnificent Crowne Royal Plaza Hotel in Rosebank of Johannesburg. Global World Class Ambassador/creator, Spike Marchant, flew in from London to be the spokesperson and representative of the program. Day 1 and 2 were for the employees of Diageo/Brandhouse and day 3 was the official launch of the Competition to the South African Trade.
Day 1 was all about category knowledge training and brand positioning with much focus on each of the spirit categories; Vodka, Whisk(e)y, Rum, Gin, Tequila, Cognac, Vermouth, Liqueurs and Creams. This was finished with a comparative tasting to understand the differences in production methods.
Day 2 was all about mixability and how the program puts a strong emphasis on Vintage and Classic cocktails and the importance of twisting them with a unique and innovative method. Each of the global delegates/mixologists spent a couple hours using the tools and ingredients to create world class recipes. This was all in preparation for the Trade launch taking place on day 3.
The Official Trade Launch
The official Launch started at noon with customers and bartenders flying in from all over South Africa. 20 selected outlets were invited to undergo an afternoon of sheer luxury. The afternoon started off with a presentation by Spike Marchant, followed by lunch. The second session started off with a tandem flair show put together by the Shaker bartenders Anil Sabharwal and Pieter Oosthuizen, which then went into the Launchpad Challenge. Teams of 5 had to work together to prepare a classic/vintage cocktail as well as a twist. The teams had to name their recipes and were judged on Taste/Presentation/aroma. The winning team members each got a bottle of Johnnie Walker® Gold Label™. The afternoon was finished off with a perfect serve demonstration of Johnnie Walker® Blue Label™ performed by myself.
Throughout the day we showcased some of our own World Class recipes that we had designed over the past couple of years to show our guests the level of sophistication we are looking to achieve. These recipes were briefed to the Shaker bartenders and were available all afternoon in the Circle bar of the Hotel. The recipes were as follows;
- JW Blue Label™ x 40ml
- Oloroso Sherry x 20ml
- Pedro Ximenez sherry x 20ml (a raisin(y) richly flavoured local sherry)
- Orange bitters x 2 dashes
- Garnish: Spray with an orange zest and discard
- Glass: Martini
- Tanqueray No.Ten x 50ml
- Lemon juice x 25ml
- Elderflower syrup x 25ml
- Cranberry juice x 50ml
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- 1 egg white
- Garnish: Orange zest
- Glass: Served in a tumbler
Four Floors Margarita
- Don Julio Reposado x 50ml
- Campari x 10ml
- Pink Grapefruit x 15ml
- Lime juice x 10ml
- Agave syrup x 10ml
- Garnish: Orange sugar/salt (orange rinds rubbed into a 2/3rd salt, 1/3rd sugar mix)
- Glass: Martini
- Ciroc Vodka x 50ml
- Pineapple mix x 35ml
- Grenadine x 5ml
- Maraschino/Kirsch liqueur x 5ml
- Lime juice x 15ml
- Garnish: Pomegranate foam with pomegranate seeds and a pineapple leaf string.
- Glass: Martini
*Pineapple Mix: Caramelize pineapple – pan fried with sugar and Ciroc until browned and blended until pureed.
*Pomegranate foam: 50% pomegranate Juice, 50% Pomegranate syrup, agar agar, egg white, dash of lime juice. N20 cartridge. Served chilled from a cream gun.
The competition has now begun and the countdown to find South Africa’s best mixologist is underway. In six months time we will be sending a bartender to Brazil all expenses paid to experience one of the toughest bartending competitions in the world. It up to us as the Diageo Mixologists to train and develop the guys to level in which they stand a possible chance of taking the title as World Class Bartender of the Year. Good Luck!