Cazcanes Tequila New Distillery: A Trip to Tequilera Tap, NOM 1614

03/15/23
Cazcanes-New-Distillery

Photos from Lucas Assis

If you have followed me on my social media pages in the last year or so, you have undoubtedly heard of my high praises about Cazcanes. It’s one of my favorite brands and I’m so happy to see that it is (slowly but surely!) winning over the hearts of enthusiasts all over, too.

Their recent momentum and success can be attributed to Collin Edward, one of Cazcanes’ owners, whose winemaking background gave them an advantage in the industry in my opinion. His background gave the company the unique ability to think outside of the box and to push the envelope in fermentation and aging, all while respecting the culture.

I love tequila (duh, Lucas), but within tequila’s domination of origin it’s hard to be different or surprising. The blue weber agave has a distinct taste that of course is incredibly delicious, but it doesn’t leave you much room to be surprised. We know what an amazing tequila tastes like. Cazcanes surprised me and they’ve had me hooked ever since.

I often joke that some Agave spirits occasionally give me goosebumps. It really doesn’t happen that often. I don’t know… maybe it is my body’s way of telling me when something really is just that incredible and memorable. 

Cazcanes’ Joven Batch #1 was one of those for me. 

Their Joven is a blend of their beautiful Blanco, a touch of their Extra Anejo, and a Reposado done with highland agaves and Malolactic fermentation, which is a technique used in wine. Malolactic fermentation lets the fermentation go twice as long as usual, which creates a memorable funkiness. It’s like a blend of banana bread and parmesan cheese, and since it was expertly blended with other expressions, it really enhances a unique fruitiness that tastes like parmesan covered strawberries. I know, it’s wild, but it is delicious and really blew my mind when I first tried it.

All of this to say that I love how Cazcanes is made, who makes it, and their innovative ways. 

***

By now, you have probably heard from my friend Doug Price and his podcast The Agave Social Club, where he recently featured Jon-Paul Fortunati, who mentioned that Cazcanes is changing homes. 

So, should you be worried?

Short answer is absolutely not … Long answer? Well…

Cazcanes took us to their new home for a first look at why you should be excited about this and not worried at all.

We started our day early in Guadalajara, like left our hotel at 7:45 am and headed to Tequilera Tap (T TAP 1614) type of early. During the one hour drive to the new distillery, I got to finally meet two of the owners, Jose, and Jon-Paul, who I have met before. 

My first question was, “Why?”

Why the move if they were creating something so delicious already? We all know the demand for tequila right now is completely unprecedented. The combination of tequila and mezcal has outsold both whisky and vodka in the US today per Drizly. I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon. Cazcanes has experienced a 600% growth in the last years, Cazcanes wanted to meet that demand without having to sacrifice their product or their DNA of experimentation and innovation—all they needed was a bigger house.

It was no easy task, as Jon-Paul mentioned in the Agave Social Club announcement. There were many sleepless nights and a whole lot of pressure to keep their DNA and the quality they are known, and celebrated for.

T TAP offered all those things; state of the art equipment, room for innovations, and size to meet the demand, amongst other things.

When we arrived at the gates of T TAP, we were handed some construction vests and hard hats to tour the facility in. At the entrance, we were greeted by two 25-ton autoclaves—a bit bigger when compared to their previous place. They assured us that the autoclaves are loaded with the same amount of agave and the same low atmospheric pressure as the distillery before. 

Passing the autoclaves there were two exciting sights—a brick oven and a Tahona. These are two things that Cazcanes hasn’t been able to explore because their previous home didn’t house either! If Cazcanes is such an agave bomb done in an autoclave, just imagine what they’ll do with a brick oven and Tahona expression. BTW, the Tahona is brand new and has never been used. I’m guessing Cazcanes will have some fun with that.

As we passed the Tahona, we saw a big clear window and two huge black water tanks sitting outside. I’ve mentioned various times that water is one of the most important ingredients in any given tequila. Cazcanes has always trucked their water from the Navichi springs, which is located at the foot of the Landeros mountains of Jalisco. 

Well, they might have moved, but their water is still the same. Cazcanes still trucks their water to their new home. 

As we passed the windows, we worked our way up the roller mill. They told us that even the dimensions of the roller’s slits used to crush the agaves are the same as before. This place is huge and so are the fermentation tanks. The tanks are still stainless steel like before—just in a bigger size. We climbed the stairs to give us a view of their fermentation tanks and we were introduced to their chemist, Nestor, who is in charge of fermentation. You may have guessed, this is the same chemist as before. I was so amazed that they really brought the whole team with them. Keeping that DNA was such an important thing for Cazcanes, and you don’t, and can’t, do that with another team. 

We walked back down the stairs and stood next to the stills with Maestro Tequilero Don Chico. He greeted us with such a warm smile and walked us through the process of distillation. This is the ONLY difference from the previous Cazcanes. They are still using stainless-steel stills as before, this time with copper coils. For me, that is a positive change.

We then walked to the bottling facility, and something caught our eyes that I hadn’t seen before. These stainless-steel barrels were lined up in a wall. Single barrels are a huge part of what Cazcanes has been doing, but these stainless-steel barrels will make their lives so much easier to stop aging barrels that are exceptional and either stabilize them or use it for the blends they are famous for. Another positive change.

At this point, we had toured the facility, taken in the size of it, the similarities to what Cazcanes was doing, and the new positive changes as well. But that means nothing if we can taste it right?

We stepped out of the distillery and walked over to a beautiful building. They led us to this gorgeous tasting room with the new Blanco from Cazcanes. It was the same exact batch but at 40, 50, and 55 Abv. In front of the table there was this glass wall and a view of over 4,000 barrels, which were aging in T TAPS aging room.

We headed to the aging cave. As the door opened, we were greeted by a sweet, woody, damp, fruity and acidic air. It was the smell of the tequila and the woodworking together and it was delicious. Jon-Paul took us to the small section of where the future Cazcanes barrels will be. This gives room for Cazcanes to experiment even more with aging, different barrel sizes, different woods, and different techniques of aging and blending. Overall, it’s super exciting to see Cazcanes having more room to grow and experiment.

We headed back to the tasting room and each started with No. 7 at 40%, No. 9 at 50%, and No. 10 at 55%. For me particularly, as the proof went up, the expressions just got better and better. The experience was definitely enhanced by the vibe—everyone in the room was so excited to watch us try it. That DNA I keep talking about is still very much part of it. 

That agave bomb I always mention is present just as you open the bottle. Cinnamon, black pepper, that minerality, and salty brine marry so well with the sweet finish. So incredibly balanced. It is Cazcanes, but a bit better. 

We later sat together and talked to the Don Chico, Nestor, and the distiller of Tres Agaves to hear about all of the new plans that they have. Maybe a rosa coming soon?! A new malolactic expression?? Um, yes PLEASE! 

It was great to see the room they have to play with and experiment in, the new barrels they can get and honestly…. It’s all super exciting. As the industry experiences this boom, tequila will just keep growing. My guess is that we are going to see more and more brands changing homes to meet demand. 

But I don’t think there is one that has cared more and succeeded at keeping their DNA and allowed for positive changes like Cazcanes has now done. T TAP 1614 bottles will start to hit shelves in California by the end of March, and I definitely recommend you get one. Salucita!

Further reading on Cazcanes Tequila:
My No. 9 Blanco Review
Mireille’s NOM comparison & Cazcanes Blanco review