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5 Places You must visit On Mexico's Tequila Trail

Emily Becker

Senior Contributor

In western Mexico, a little over an hour from Guadalajara, the second-largest city in the country, fields of agave line the roads. The blue-green plants that seem to burst from the ground have been the staple crop of this region for centuries, and families have spent generations perfecting the process that turns agave into the real cash crop of the area - tequila. Like Champagne or Bourbon, as of 1974, tequila must be produced in certain Mexican states in order to be able to be called “tequila.” Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006, the town of Tequila, Mexico, naturally, is home to the best versions of the liquor in the world. Forget those cheap shots that quite literally leave a bad taste in your mouth. Here, tequila is made to be sipped and savoured. And there’s no better way to rejuvenate your relationship with tequila than by taking a day (or two) to travel along the Tequila Trail that has made this region of Mexico famous. These are our top picks for where you need to stop along La Ruta del Tequila.

Mundo Cuervo

Start where it all began at Mundo Cuervo and their La Rojeña distillery, the oldest active distillery in the Americas. Legend has it that José Antonio de Cuervo y Valdés first started growing agave as far back as 1758, and the family was the first to receive a license from King Carlos IV of Spain to produce and distribute tequila.

Today, half of the visit to Mundo Cuervo is how you get there. The Jose Cuervo Express, one of two luxury trains that operate in the area, runs on the weekend and offers the chance to get into the Tequila spirit (no pun intended) on the hour-trip from Guadalajara to Tequila. Enjoy tequila tastings and get a lesson in the liquor from a master tequilier as agave fields roll by outside the windows of the vintage train.

Once in Tequila, a visit to Mundo Cuervo and the La Rojeña distillery includes a tour through the entire production process as well as opportunities to visit the cellars where the liquor is aged and the fields to see how the agave is harvested and prepared before distillation. Don’t forget to leave yourself time to have a drink at one of the outdoor margarita bars. 

Guadalajara, Mexico

Photographer: Alvarado Alvarado

Casa Sauza

Don Cenobio Sauza is one of the oldest names in tequila, and he can take much of the credit for the fact that Americans were introduced to the liquor when he first started exporting tequila to the U.S. in 1873. The company’s distillery La Perseverancia, or The Preservation, is responsible today for bottling and exporting its tequila to 73 countries around the world.

There are four different tour options at Casa Sauza that include activities such as tasting tequila right out of the barrell in the aging cellar, planting your own agave plant in the botanical gardens and a three-course meal, complete with tequila-based cocktails, of course. 

Agave distillery, Mexico

Photographer: Zstock

La Alteña

To see what tequila production looks like on a smaller scale, head to the highlands of Arandas, Jalisco and the La Alteña distillery, where the Camarena family has been making artisanal tequila for three generations. Here, all the tequila is 100 percent agave (legally tequila only has to be 51 percent agave to be classified as tequila and distillers can fill out the rest with a neutral spirit made from cane sugar in what is known as a “mixto tequila”), and the agave is farmed without chemicals or pesticides. Water from a spring on site is used in the distillation process and the agave is typically cooked and aged longer than other brands.

The company’s unique process has not gone without notice, and its Tapatio brand has racked up accolades from bartenders and liquor-focused magazines. You will have to book a reservation in advance, but it’s worth it to get an inside look at how La Alteña’s award-winning tequilas are made. 

Tequila barrels

Photographer: T photography

La Cofradia

While comparatively young to the tequila scene, La Cofradia was founded by Carlos Hernandez after he decided he had enough of working at a tequila factory and founded his own company in 1990. With the help of his wife and their growing family, Hernandez worked to build La Cofradia in the spirit of its name, which means “brotherhood.”

The small distillery is located just south of the town of Tequila. There, you can watch agave be cut and mashed as it is prepped for distillation, artisans hand-paint the ceramic bottles the company uses for its boutique tequilas and, of course, sample some of their Casa Noble brand of tequila. Make sure to leave time to visit the Museo de Sitio del Tequila at the distillery to learn more about the cultural heritage of tequila, and to eat at La Taberna del Cofrade, an underground tavern with a very speakeasy feel. 

Blue agave harvesting, Tequila, Mexico

Photographer: T photography

Tequila Herradura

Surrounded by agave fields in Amatitán, Jalisco is Casa Herradura. The distillery has been producing tequila since 1870 and was the first to serve the reposado and extra añejo varieties of the liquor.

You can get to the distillery by car or bus - or take the Tequila Herradura Express to and from Guadalajara. There are three booking options available on the train, all of which include snacks and beverages on board as well as a tour of the distillery, a tequila tasting, and a lunch with traditional music and dancing afterwards. Once at Casa Herradura, visitors have the chance to see an agave harvesting demonstration, the ovens where the plant is cooked and the large, open-air tanks where the agave juice ferments. 

Blue agave plantation, Jalisco, Mexico

Photographer: Foto Para Ti

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