Award-winning tequila doesn’t happen by accident. We pay close attention to every part of the process, making sure we infuse quality every step of the way. Let’s take a closer look into how our Ultra Premium Extra Añejo Tequila is made.
VOLANS ˈvō-ˌlanz n. 1 A constellation in the southern sky representing a Flying Fish. 2 An Ultra-Premium Tequila.
We Start With 100% Blue Weber Agave
The first step in the process is our Blue Weber Agave, also known as Agave Tequilana. This plant is very different from all other types of agave.
There are hundreds of different types of agave in Mexico – but there is only one that is used in the production of tequila. Here are some interesting things to know about this special plant:
- Blue Agave is a large succulent with fleshy, spiky leaves that can grow up to two meters high.
- Believe it or not – it’s not a cactus. In fact, it’s part of the Lily family.
- It can take nearly a decade for one agave plant to reach maturity and be ready for harvesting.
- It was named after Franz Weber, a German naturalist who classified it at the turn of the 20th century.
- The plant was used by the Spaniards to great the first agave distillate after conquering Mexico in the 16th century.
- The small town of Tequila was where the blue agave plant naturally grew, so it became famous for producing the most delicious form of the drink.
Blue Agave has different flavors depending on the region where it is grown. For example, some have sweet, earthy notes while others have a more intense herbal taste. Here in the Los Altos Region of Jalisco, our agave is grown at approximately 6,800 feet above sea level. The cool and dry climate allows the plant to mature more slowly – so the piña (the heart of the Agave) grows larger and sweeter.
Think of it like a banana – would you rather cook with the tart, unripe green one or the ripe, sweet, flavorful brownish-yellow one? We thought so!
We Take Only the Sweetest Parts
The male agave plants develop a cogollo – which is a waxy accumulation of leaves. It’s located on the top part of the agave where the pencas (stalk) forms.
We remove this part along with the other leaves before the baking process begins. By carefully removing the cogollo, we ensure that the agave syrup doesn’t become bitter.
When agave is processed in larger quantities with the cogollo still attached, it has a very bitter flavor and the finished product can only really be used as a mixer.
Of course, that’s not what we aim to create here at Volans. We take our time to craft the most delicious and flavorful tequila possible – good enough to be slowly savored on its own.
It takes a bit longer to remove this part of the agave plant, but the effort is absolutely worth it. The result is much sweeter with none of the bitter aftertaste.
Roast It in the Dual Steam Powered Stone Oven
The next step in the process is to bake the agave piñas in an oven to break down the sugars and fibers in the agave. We slow-roast the agave in our masonry stone oven (horno), designed with steam jets to roast it evenly from top to bottom. (The oven is a very important part of the process and it even imparts its own unique flavor into the tequila.)
We take this part of the process slowly. The agave is gently roasted from both sides, so it’s never over or undercooked.
The result? A perfectly cooked batch of mature agave that creates a smooth and richly aromatic tequila.
Extract It In the 19,000 lb Mechanical Tahona
What’s a tahona? It was brought to Mexico by the Spaniards and it has a huge grindstone wheel. Its purpose is to mash the pulp of cooked agave piñas in order to extract the juices.
The traditional tahonas had a huge volcanic stone – but our mechanical tahona is easier to clean, more efficient and saves much more energy. Unlike an old-fashioned tahona, which was usually driven by a horse or a mule, ours is driven by a 1 hp motor.
The steam roller with custom made metal dowels rolls over the agave and gently squeezes it while discarding the fibres. Tequila made with a tahona tends to have a sweeter and smoother profile. It is a slow process, but it allows us to retain the flavors we want.
The powerful tahona we use was built by Felipe Camarena, a 3rd generation master distiller. He named it “Frankenstein” because he upcycled spare parts from a steamroller & a train axel.
Once the sweet juices of the freshly cooked and shredded Agave are extracted, they are fermented with our natural yeast and distilled slowly in copper pot stills.
Add Fresh Rain, Spring and Well Water
Although the agave gets a lot of the credit for the taste of the tequila – the water used is just as important.
We use a mixture of natural spring water, deep well (450 ft+) water and rain water to make our tequila.
We harvest rainwater to make our tequila, not just because it is environmentally friendly but because it adds just the right flavor. The Jalisco region is famous for its rainy season and the roof at El Pandillo distillery is a giant rainwater collection system – leading underground to a 53,000 gallon cistern. This allows us to use the rainwater all year round, even during the dry season.
You know that wonderful smell in the air just before it starts to rain? That has been subtly captured in the nose of our tequila.
You’ll notice the rainwater character the most in our easy-drinking blanco. It has a wet mineral and wet grassy aroma that is a little bit sweet, with a touch of citrus and brine.
Mix In Our Very Special Yeast
One of the closely guarded secrets of our tequila production is the unique strain of natural yeast we use. This yeast has been in the family of Felipe Camarena, Master Tequila Distiller, for generations.
The yeast plays a very important role in the production of the tequila. It’s added after we have roasted the agave piñas in an oven – at which stage the starch has started to break down into sugars. The yeast then breaks down those sugars and converts them into alcohol.
There are two stages of the fermentation process – aerobic and anaerobic. During the aerobic phase, the yeast reproduce quickly. The anaerobic process takes a bit longer, sometimes a few days to a few weeks. This is when the yeast is busy converting the sugars into alcohol.
The final phase is the zymase reduction, where acetaldehyde turns into ethyl alcohol. That’s a lot of big words, but all you really need to know is that the yeast is busy working its magic.
Age to Perfection in American Oak Bourbon Barrels
The agave has been roasted, pressed, fermented and distilled – but we’re not done yet. (When we said that a lot of important details go into our top-notch tequila, we weren’t exaggerating.)
The final step is to age our Ultra Premium Extra Añejo Tequila in used American Oak Bourbon barrels. In order to qualify as an Extra Añejo tequila, it must be aged for at least three years. We use barrels that were once used to make bourbon, as they give a slightly sweeter profile than whiskey barrels.
Our tequila goes into these big beautiful oak barrels and is kept below the ground in an environment that experiences little to no temperature fluctuations. The Mexican rules for barreling and aging are pretty tough. Whenever a barrel is opened for any reason, it should be witnessed by an official from the CRT (Tequila Regulatory Council).
100% Additive Free
When we age the tequila, it adds the characteristic flavors of American oak: the dried fruit, caramel, vanilla and maple. The flavors from the barrels don’t overpower the tequila – they simply complement the existing tastes and make the drink richer, subtler and more complex.
One thing we never do with our tequila is add “flavor” additives such as vanilla or herbs. These are simply artificial flavors and they are added to tequilas in an attempt to mask poor quality. Also, some tequila makers add artificial colors to make the tequila look darker and more “aged.”
We never introduce any artificial colors, flavors or additives to our tequila. When you taste our Ultra Premium Extra Añejo Tequila, you’re tasting nothing but the pure, true flavors of the tequila.