Almost two hours west of Guanajuato, Mexico, in the Penjamo municipality sits Ex Hacienda Corralejo. Not only is it the birthplace of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, known as the leader of the Mexican War of Independence and father of the nation, but it is also the birthplace of one the first estates to produce tequila as a commercial venture and become one of Mexico’s most well-known and sought-after tequilas; Tequila Corralejo.
History of this Emblematic Tequila
Documented as being created in 1755, Corralejo tequila is one of the very few tequilas made only with the Blue Weber Agave plant found only in Guanajuato, Mexico. Traditionally, to be called 100% agave tequila, the distillation would have to be made in Jalisco.
Because of their scarce and highly rated agave plant, Hacienda Corralejo is among a tiny list of chosen tequila distilleries granted the right to produce the liquor in any other province outside of Jalisco, Mexico. Since the agave plants are privately owned in an estate in Guanajuato, the jimadors (farmers who tend to the agave plant), can ensure the highest quality, from planting the seed to the eventual distillation process for the end product of Corralejo Tequila.
Owned by Infinium Spirits in San Diego, California, this tequila has a deep and colorful traditional Mexican heritage. Despite its relatively young redistribution year (1994), this tequila is becoming one the most popular brands in all of the U.S. This popularity not only exists because of its beautiful bottle art and fair price point but is also due to its unique flavors boasting from the wealthy, nutritional soil that any new and experienced tequila drinker would be happy to taste.
The Process of Making Mexico’s Famous Liquor
The process of producing tequila is a straightforward method that most tequila distilleries still follow. First is harvesting the agave plant by cutting the plant with a special knife called a coa, which separates the leaves from the pina bulb. Next is the baking stage, where the agave bulbs are baked traditionally in clay pots to extract the sugars, which will, in turn, become the agave liquor. When baking the agave is completed, the extraction process begins.
Traditionally a giant stone wheel and a mule are tied to a column and spin around in a circle while each baked agave bulb is thrown in the wheel pit to be crushed, and the juices, called Moscato, then flow out of the side to be collected. Nowadays, most big distilleries will use machines to complete this process, but some stick to the traditional methods.
Wooden barrels are used in the fermentation process
Next, the fermentation process takes place. Usually, the Moscato is placed in either wooden barrels or stainless steel tanks and left to ferment for anywhere between 4-13 days. The Moscato is ready to be distilled when the fermentation process is complete. This process not only creates a higher alcohol consolidation but also purifies the murky liquid into the clear spirit. This process usually happens twice to generate the highest quality liquid to age. Lastly, the aging process can begin. All tequilas must be aged a minimum of 2-3 weeks to ensure flavor and color. Silver or “Blanco” tequila can be bottled right after this minimum aging. Reposado tequila is aged for 4-6 months, and Anejo tequila is aged for a minimum of 1 year.
Hacienda Corralejos Tequila Production
Corralejo tequila’s full production process of making tequila is done essentially in the traditional ways. However, the Corralejo hacienda differs in some ways, from picking the best agave plant to the fermentation process. Since the Blue Weber agave plant they exclusively use is privately owned, the jimadors have access to the healthiest shoots or Hijuelos. The jimadors then find certain Hijuelos that are 2-3 years old and considered ready for the next step.
Once selected, the plants are uprooted and replanted in a unique blend of rich soils that help prevent common defects that can plague other crops. The newly planted agave will take an additional 6-8 years in the ground before becoming fully ripe, at which point the jimadors will cut the leaves off, just leaving the pina, the core of the agave plant used in the extraction process. After the pina is carefully cut into smaller pieces, they are transferred into the hacienda, placed into massive clay ovens to be slow-roasted for 36 hours, then rested for an additional 12 hours. This is done to soften the meat and make the extraction process more manageable. The pinas are pressed between 10-15 bricks, heavy enough to extract most of the sugars but not too heavy to damage or lose any liquid ultimately.
The sugar will ferment into alcohol
The sugar that is pressed will ultimately be used to ferment into alcohol. The sugar is placed into massive 20 thousand liter fermentation tanks with a special yeast only used in the Corralejo Hacienda for 36 hours, where the sugar will break down into the liquid to be distilled. The yeast is unique to the region and was used in the very first press of the agave over 250 years ago. Developed with a partnership with the Universidad de Guanajuato, the yeast helps control the complete aroma, taste, and overall smooth nature of the tequila that the Corralejo brand is known for.
Corralejo’s Unique Distillation Process
The distillation process is where Hacienda Corralejo stands among a special few in the country. While most distilleries will distill twice in either copper or stainless steel pots, Corralejo uses an over 400-year-old French method known as “Charentais”. The Charentais method was originally and still used to produce Cognac, a native french liquor made from distilled white wine. “Cognac distillation is performed in a two-stage process, with a specific Charentais copper still, with its pot (or boiler), its swan’s necks and its cooler and its condensing coil” (Destination cognac)
These massive stills were imported to Hacienda Corralejo from Tomelloso, Spain, which makes Corralejo tequila one of the most unique in all of Mexico. Corralejo tequila utilizes a double distillation process, which is common among most distilleries. The first distillation occurs in giant column stills, removing any imperfections the liquid may have contracted from the fermentation process.
The Charentais method is performed in the second distillation process, resulting in refined and wholly aromatic tequila. Along with the unique distillation process, the hacienda also bottles all the tequila in-house, which exemplifies the complete quality oversight which Corralejo is known for.
Types of Corralejo Tequila
The Hacienda Corralejo produces 3 types of tequila, Blanco, reposado, and Anejo, with a couple of “luxury” tequilas that are specialty aged and distilled variations which we will discover more about below.
Corralejo Blanco Tequila
The first and least known of Corralejos tequilas is their silver or Blanco. Like all Blanco tequilas, this variation is bottled fresh from distillation and has a pure agave alcohol-forward taste. Because this style is not aged, it has a natural sting that most people would associate with “cheap tequila.” Luckily with the high quality and specialty agave plants, Corralejo Blanco does not have so much of that bite and has more of a pleasant sensation.
Blanco tequila has a pure, clear color and an aroma of white and pink peppercorns. The most abundant taste is pure agave and sweet peppermint with a peppery finish that is not too long-lasting. At USD 20, this “cheaper” bottle will stand out at any function, not only from the beautiful 15-inch bottle but with the knowledge that this isn’t your “college bar tequila.”
With most silver tequilas, the best way to enjoy Corralejo Blanco is by mixing in your favorite cocktail or taking chilled shots. Either way, you are guaranteed to have a great experience and, more importantly, an excellent time.
The most well-known of the Corralejo tequilas is by far the reposado. Its 15-inch beautiful blue bottle and traditional colorful label stand out in any store, restaurant, or home bar. For this particular style, the tequila is double distilled and aged for a minimum of 4 months in white American, French, and Encino oak barrels.
After the aging process is finished, the tequila has taken on a light yellowish hue accompanied by honey, spice, and sweet vanilla aroma with a hint of oak. The wood barrel aging process also unlocks new tastes, including peppercorn, lemon-lime, oak, and honey. These are flavors you can commonly find separately in tequilas, but to have them all in one solo tequila is something quite special.
Corralejo Reposado Awards
Corralejo Reposado is not only known for its taste, but it is also a multi-award-winning tequila. In 2020 it hit a staggering 92 points (out of 100) in the New York International Spirits Competition and 93 points from the wine enthusiast in 2018. It also collected a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2007, 2009, and 2019.
Corralejo Resposado tequila is perfect for sipping on a large ice cube or spicy margarita. The familiar notes of this complex tequila would be an ideal introduction for any novice tequila drinker or a great addition to a seasoned vet’s collection. With an average price point of USD 30 per bottle, this is truly a fantastic value for exceptional tequila.
Corralejo Anejo Tequila
Corralejo Anejo tequila is the most award-winning brand, and after experiencing the tastes and aromas, it is not hard to tell why. To achieve Anejo status, a tequila must be aged for a minimum of one year in a wood barrel. In Corralejo’s case, the hacienda chars the inside of American oak barrels before transferring the unaged alcohol into them, resulting in a truly unique experience.
The resulting tequila has a pale gold color that is truly fit for premium liquor. With the longer aging process, the tastes and aromas that are achieved are highly renowned in any tequila lover’s circle. The charred barrels leave an oaky undertone with vanilla, peppercorn, and hints of chocolate aroma accompanied by a taste of caramel, white peppercorn, cardamom, and of course, oak. With all these intense flavors, one would think the tequila itself would be overwhelming and harsh, but it leaves a luxurious and full-bodied finish that stands up to most “luxury” tequilas out there.
Corralejo Anejo Awards
The taste and smell of Corralejo Anejo tequila, while being what most tequila shoppers look for, is not to be outdone by the accolades this tequila has won. In 2020 alone, the Anejo won 91 points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, Gold medal & 94 points at the New York International Spirits Competition, and the Innovation Award at the SIP Awards. Along with multiple others, some notable awards were the Gold Medal in 2016 and the Double Gold medal in 2006 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
You’ll never be able to miss the bottle standing at 15 inches with a deep red color and traditional Mexican symbolism on the label. With a price point of around USD 40, Corralejo Anejo is a tequila true tequila advocates will always seek out. This tequila is what the experts call a “Sipper”, best served with a large ice cube, but as most bartenders would say, “drink it how you like it”.
Corralejo Luxury Tequilas
Hacienda Corralejo spends most of its efforts and focuses on the main three types of tequila: Blanco, reposado, and Anejo, but they still need to make exclusive and luxurious styles of tequila. Corralejo makes four other types: the Extra Anejo, the 99,000 Horas, the 1821 Extra Anejo, and the Triple Distillado Reposado.
The Extra Anejo, which is aged for 36 months and smooths out the flavors to an almost sweet and spicy syrup taste. The 99,000 Horas is named for the 99,000 hours it takes from when the agave is planted to when the liquid is bottled. 1821 Extra Anejo which is the year Mexico gained its independence, this tequila is aged for three years.
Halfway through, the tequila is refilled in old oak barrels used for American bourbon. Triple Distillado Reposado, which is triple distilled for a smoother reposado. And lastly, Gran Corralejo Anejo, aged for 2 years in French Limousin casks, some of the most sought-after woods in France.
With high-quality standards and over 250 years of knowledge, Ex Hacienda Corralejo has brought exceptional tequila to the world fit for the most extravagant and simple alike. With a deep-rooted history of Mexican Independence and ways of distilling only known from the other side of the world, Corralejo Tequila has solidified itself as a brand that can be very accessible and enjoyable without worrying about the cost. Next time you find yourself at a bar or a liquor store and you notice a beautiful tequila bottle that stands taller than the rest, order one, you will enjoy it.