By Mariana Gonzalez
TEQUILA, Mexico – A second Tequila Train will begin operating in April in the southwestern state of Jalisco, giving tourists a first-hand look at the blue agave plantations that are the source of Mexico’s world-renowned alcoholic beverage.
The tour will begin around midday at a train station dating back to the late 19th century that Tequila Cuervo La Rojeña, maker of the world famous Jose Cuervo brand, is renovating outside Guadalajara, Jalisco’s capital.
The train will return in the afternoon so the tourists can admire the view as the sun sets over the greenish-blue, agave-dominated landscape.
A project conceived of by Tequila Cuervo La Rojeña, the train will begin running on April 1 under a different concept than the Tequila Express – a tourist train operated by another local tequila producer, Casa Herradura – the director of promotion and public relations for the Jose Cuervo brand, Araceli Ramos Rosaldo, said.
“We want the tourist to be seduced by the aromas, the colors and the history that surrounds this beverage. For it to be an educational, intimate experience in which they can taste a good tequila and are left with pleasant memories” of the Jalisco town that gives the blue agave-based spirit its name, she said.
The big three tequila distilleries – Jose Cuervo, Herradura and Sauza – are located in Tequila.
The train trip will be based on the same concept as the “Mundo Cuervo” visitor and events center tours, which the company has run for several years to walk tourists through its 250-year-old tequila-making process.
Efe took a tour of the blue agave plantations situated just a few miles from the Tequila Volcano, whose eruption 22,000 years ago covered the area in mineral-rich volcanic soil that is ideal for growing the plant.
There, amid the reddish-tinted soil and sharp, volcanic obsidian rocks, farmers patiently wait the 12 or 13 years it takes for the blue agave plants to mature and become suitable for processing.
Once ready, their long, thorn-covered “pencas,” or leaves, are cut to reveal the core, known as the “piña,” or pineapple, whose interior contains the nectar that can be fermented and distilled to make tequila.
Visitors who make the journey to the town of Tequila can see the more than 35,000 hectares (86,420 acres) of blue agave fields that cover the nearby hills and appreciate the tranquil communities of that region with their colorful houses.
They can also stop and purchase at roadside stands the famous “Cantarito,” a regional beverage made with citrus juice, grapefruit soda, tequila and lots of ice that is served in a special clay jug.
Jose Cuervo’s La Rojena distillery, whose building was once a convent, still uses traditional, room-sized clay ovens to cook the raw agave and “alambiques,” or stills, in which tequila has been produced since 1758.
After the tour, tourists can sample traditional Mexican food accompanied by one of several Jose Cuervo tequilas: Jose Cuervo Black, ideal for mixed drinks; Gran Centenario Plata, a white tequila with a high alcohol content; or Jose Cuervo Tradicional, the preferred beverage of beloved Mexican singer and actor Pedro Infante (1917-1957).
The agave landscape and the ancient industrial facilities of the town of Tequila were included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List in 2006. EFE