Visiting Tequila Country Without a Tour
Drinking liquid gold in the birthplace of the world famous alcoholic drink, what could be more Mexican than that? A short bus ride away from Guadalajara lies the Mexican town of Tequila. You guessed it, Tequila’s main export is, well, tequila. Here, in Tequila you can go on a tequila tour in one of the distilleries. You will see for yourself the process of transforming the humble agave plant into the drink which is loved around the world.
First things first, trust me when I say this. You do not need to pay for an organised tour to take you from Guadalajara to one of the tequila distilleries. Simply get a bus from Guadalajara and pay for a tequila tour in the town of Tequila. You have much more flexibility with your day, you can choose which distillery you visit and it’s cheaper than an organised tour straight from Guadalajara. Sounds like a no-brainer to me, am I right or am I right?
Who wants to listen to some cheesy tour guide reeling off his tried and tested list of jokes that no one should ever hear out loud. That’s my experiences of organised tours and that is why I avoid them to the best of my abilities.
How to Get to Tequila From Guadalajara Without a Tour
Getting from Tequila to Guadalajara is easy, don’t worry. It’s unnecessary to get a tour to pick you up from Guadalajara and take you to Tequila. It’s a waste of money. You will be paying way over the odds for a pickup and drop-off service from your accommodation.
You can get a bus to Tequila from La Central Vieja (Guadalajara Old Central). Buy your ticket from the ‘Tequila Plus’ stand inside the bus station. A return ticket will cost you 160 MXN (8.55 USD).
The buses usually run every hour. You can check the departure and return times on the Tequila Plus website.
Overall, the journey to Tequila and back will take 1.5 hours each way.
**There’s a charge of 1 MXN (0.05 USD) to enter Guadalajara Old Central Bus Station, so make sure you have some change with you.**
How to Book a Tequila Tour in Tequila
Booking a tour once you’re in Tequila couldn’t be easier. Yes, I realise earlier on this article I berated organised tours. However, the distilleries won’t allow you to roam around without a tour guide. I’m sure if they did, the majority of people wouldn’t be walking out, rather staggering after their fill of Tequila.
There are many distilleries around the town of Tequila, as you would expect. Due to our very poor Spanish, we opted for a distillery which we know runs English tours. This distillery is La Rojena, the Jose Cuervo distillery.
From the bus station, La Rojena is around a 15-minute walk. I was shocked at how easy it was to book the English tour. We entered the distillery, asked for an English tour and what time they were. The woman asked us if we would like tasting included in the tour or not. Of course, we opted for tasting. Who in their right mind wouldn’t? We handed the cash over, we received a wristband. There we had it, we’d be drinking tequila at 3 pm. Could it be any easier? No.
English tours at La Rojena cost 240 MXN (12.82 USD) for the tour without tasting and 385 MXN ($20.57 USD) for the tour with tasting.
Touring a Distillery in Tequila
Here comes the fun bit. The tequila tour!
I had heard that the English speaking tours wouldn’t run unless there was a certain amount of people taking the tour. Well, there we were, sat with 8 other Spanish speaking people, listening to a video in Spanish. The confusion and panic set in, were we booked on to do a tour in Spanish? Because let me tell you, my Spanish is non-existent. Thank the Lord, we hadn’t. The English tour went ahead even though it was the two of us taking it.
The tour guide was professional and informative. In fact, I couldn’t praise the tour guide enough. I learnt a hell of a lot about Tequila. My previous knowledge extended as far as – salt, tequila, lime.
The first stop on the tour is where they prepare the raw agave for the cooking process. Once cooked, agave turns soft and stringy and tastes as sweet as sugar. As Jose Cuervo is the world’s most popular tequila, it wasn’t surprising to see agave after agave unloading into the distillery.
Once cooked, the agave goes through a machine which crushes and extracts the juice. Following the crushing, comes the fermenting. Fermenting may be the most important stage for most people, it’s where alcohol comes into the process!
Next, is where you’ll get to sample your first tequila. The tequila that you’ll try is only once distilled, so you’ll more than likely find yourself wincing and pulling a face when you try it. There’s no lime on hand either!
The final stage of the tequila making process is the ageing. This happens in a huge room filled with 100s of barrels. Yes, all those barrels are full of Tequila. There is more than a lifetime’s supply there. The barrels have an important role in the tequila making process, as they add flavour and colour. The longer the tequila ages in the barrel, the more expensive it is.
Our guide informed us about the tequila that Jose Cuervo released for their 250th anniversary. This special edition tequila was discovered in the deep dark corner of a cellar by the owners and further aged from there.
We now knew the process of making tequila, had some small tasters, but now was to come the bit of the tour we were especially looking forward to, the tasting! I would say I learnt more from the tasting than I ever imagined. Who would have known tequila could smell and taste of nuts, coffee, chocolate, spices and more.
We had the pleasure of tasting 4 different tequilas. From the cheapest tequila to the most expensive one Jose Cuervo produce. The priciest tequila which is aged for 3 years, is served straight from the barrel. As a result, the tequila was a whopping 55% alcohol, rather than the usual 35% in the shops.
Also, if you smell the tequila from different areas of the glass, you smell something different each time. For example, from the bottom of the rim of the glass, there’s a distinctive scent of alcohol. Then, from the top of the rim, you will smell the other aromas from the tequila, such as coffee or chocolate. Amazing, hey!
Make Sure You Visit La Capilla, Tequila
No visit to Tequila would be complete without a visit to La Capilla, officially the 20th best bar in the world. La Capilla owns its rustic vibe, proving that you don’t have to spend millions on a bar to reach the worldly heights of being one of the best in the world.
Batanga is Don Javier’s (the bar’s original owner) most famous creation and I’d urge you to order exactly that. Batanga is a simple yet effective concoction. First, the rim of a tall glass is coated with lime juice, then dipped in rock salt. The glass is then filled with ice, lime juice, a healthy glug of tequila, Coca-Cola and finally stirred with the same knife used to cut the lime.
Tequila is a quaint and charming Mexican town. Of course, the main attraction here is… Tequila and consequently distilleries spread throughout.
I didn’t even know there was a town called Tequila until I came to Mexico. As soon as I read about the tequila tasting, Tequila became a must-do on my Mexico itinerary. While you’re in Tequila, as well as visiting a distillery; spend the day wandering around the town, meeting the locals, eating at the cafes and visiting the small local bars.
Doing what you want, at your own pace is one of the main benefits of avoiding organised tours. After all, what’s the point in jumping on a mini bus in Guadalajara, visiting a distillery in tequila, then getting straight back in that minibus to drive back? Then, of course, there’s the price. One of the cheapest tours I found going to La Rojena distillery from Guadalajara was for $59. I did exactly the same as the tour from Guadalajara was offering for a fraction of the price.
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If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section.
Are you planning a trip to Tequila? Would you rather take a tour from Guadalajara, or would you make your own way to Tequila and book a tequila tour in the town?
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