Many say that every wine or liquor tells a story. First you have the story of the product itself — how they grew it, what processes they used to make and age it, and of course the story behind the packaging. No one can argue that marketing and publicity have a tendency to reign supreme in a free market economy.
Which brings us to the other side of the coin: the deeper story. The “why” of a product, and of the people who make it. These stories build a legacy, not simply create a brand, and I often find that these products leave more of a lasting impression than the everyday products on the shelf. To me, and I’m sure to others as well, this type of story ranks far higher.
In this vein I thus introduce to you La Gritona, a tequila designed and created by a woman who wished to honor her father. With no knowledge of distilling and a full-time business in a completely different field, Melly Barajas Cárdenas dug in deep to create La Gritona. Her company, Vinos y Licores Azteca, hires primarily women, despite the fact that Mexico considers distilling and the production of tequila a “man’s job.” The company also has a hand in ongoing sustainability, both by offering the remnants of their agave plants to farmers and ranchers to use as feed, and also by employing glassblowers to use recycled glass for each bottle of La Gritona.
Barajas Cárdenas also chose to produce all of her tequila using traditional methods, while many bigger brands instead industrialize and use what’s called a difusor. Here’s a brief breakdown of the differences:
- Traditional tequila production, according to a 2021 edition of Masterclass, involves several steps:
- Harvesting — all of the agave must come from the Blue Weber variety to be considered tequila
- Baking — the use of clay ovens in order to extract sugars
- Shredding — allows the release of the sweet juice after baking
- Fermenting — turning the sugars into alcohol
- Distilling — this is completed twice to increase the alcoholic proof and to create a clear liquid
- Ageing — often using barrels to add complexity and flavor to the final product
- By contrast, with production using a difusor (or diffusers/autoclaves):
- Sugar extraction occurs before the agave is cooked
- A lot more space becomes required for production
Taste Tequila further mentions in a 2017 article that sometimes the agave is soaked in hydrochloric acid as opposed to cooking, saving time and money spent on heating ovens in the traditional method; it’s a difference of hours versus days, increasing productivity… but at what cost?
In direct comparison, the latter method creates a product with less complexity of flavors, instead more neutral and sometimes artificial-tasting on the palate (Grover, 2017). Melly Barajas Cárdenas, by choosing to stick to the traditional methods, offers consumers a tequila with high minerality, earthiness, and vegetal notes. As opposed to some more popular brands, La Gritona doesn’t burn the palate or the throat on the way down, instead softly coming to rest with a gentle warmth after an initial crispness with each sip.
Look for La Gritona in the liquor “Feature Space” for all of July, as well as in our tequila section in aisle 15B.
Sources and Additional Reading:
(1) MasterClass. (2021, March 04). How Is Tequila Made? The 6 Steps of Making Tequila – 2021. Retrieved from https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-is-tequila-made#what-is-tequila
(2) Safronova, V. (2018, May 25). Her Father Loved Tequila. Now She Runs a Company That Makes It. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/25/business/tequila-mexico-women.html
(3) TasteTequila. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tastetequila.com/2017/putting-diffuser-made-tequilas-to-the-blind-taste-test/