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 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 create 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.
Igor the Shredder
Sure, it sounds like a metal band, but we assure you, it’s an essential and critical part of the process of how El Pandillo Distillery makes the world’s best tequila. The shredder nicknamed “Igor” was invented by Felipe Camarena. It resembles a tree shredder, but the insides are proprietary. The shredder takes the large chunks of agave and turns them into fine fibers, all without damaging them. The more fine the agave fibers are, the more complex the tequila is.
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.
Traditional tahonas are a large volcanic stones – but the mechanical tahona, nicknamed “Frankenstein” after our Master Distiller Felipe Camarena, does a better job at gently extracting the sugars and leaving the things we don’t want in our tequila. Also it 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, frankenstein is driven by a 1 hp motor.
This one of a kind mechanical tahona from El Pandillo rolls over the agave and gently squeezes it while not damaging the fibers. 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 at El Pandillo Distillery, 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.
Distillation: Copper Pot Stills
Volans Ultra Premium Tequila is distilled twice in traditional copper pot stills. There are so many details in this process that Felipe Camarena and his team at El Pandillo Distillery have mastered, it would take a Netflix series about distilling tequila to describe how the process in making Volans tequila is unique and exciting.
In short, the copper in the pot still creates a better flavor and removes the undesirable sulfur-based compounds. It is also how the distillate is cut. – heads, hearts, and tails. This process helps to eliminate undesirable elements – Volans is very low in these unwanted elements, such as methanol.
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 and our Single Barrel Reposado 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. Our Single Barrel Reposado is aged under one year. We use barrels that were once used to make bourbon, as they give a slightly sweeter and complex profile than whiskey barrels.
Our tequila goes into these beautiful used 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).
When we age the tequila, it adds the characteristic flavors of American oak: the dried fruit, caramel, vanilla, and other subtle flavors. You’ll find that the barrels don’t overpower Volans tequila – they simply complement the existing tastes and make the tequila richer, subtler and more complex.
100% Additive Free
One thing we never do with our tequila is add flavors, colors, sweeteners, thickeners, or any other additives. We can prove it too: Read More. These additives are added to some tequilas in an attempt to mask poor quality, impart a certain sweetness, certain characteristics, or to maintain consistency.
We NEVER introduce any artificial colors, flavors or additives to our tequila. When you taste our Ultra Premium Tequila, you’re tasting nothing but the pure, true flavors of the tequila. In all, there are only three ingredients in our tequila: water, blue Weber agave, and natural yeast.