Tag Archives: Destilando Amor

Dazed & Diffused: More on the Diffuser in Tequila Production

We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? and in Craft Tequila–WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 2  where we featured our Craft Tequila Gauntlet to help you make better buying decisions when seeking quality craft tequilas.

 Here, Tequila Aficionado Media delves deeper…

What’s Not on The Menu

The Pastry War's stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal., We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating?, diffuser, diffusor, difuser, difusor

The Pastry War’s stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal.

On the wall of The Pastry War, a world renowned mezcalería and restaurant in the heart of Houston, TX, this chalkboard message proudly explains why owners, outspoken agave advocates Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta, staunchly refuse to serve tequilas and mezcals produced with a diffuser.

In their view, it’s a battle between traditional methods of tequila [and mezcal] production which yields “delicious tequila [or mezcal],” versus more cost-conscious methods adopted by distilleries that produce “a shitty version of tequila [or mezcal].”

Let’s look more closely at this cursed contraption.

[Tweet “The Pastry War @ThePastryWar in Houston refuses to serve tequilas & mezcals produced with diffusers”]

WTH Is It?

Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary diffuser definition–

“a device for reducing the velocity and increasing the static pressure of a fluid passing through a system.”

Diffuser, by its own definition, denotes watering, stripping, deflecting or softening down the finished product, whether it be light, air, or agua miel, what will eventually be distilled into tequila.

[Tweet “Diffuser denotes watering, stripping, deflecting or softening down. Is it necessary for tequila?”]

Using only hot water and sulfuric acid to extract up to 98%-99% of the sugars from raw, uncooked agave, the resultant tequila, as described by noted agave lover, Fortaleza tequila brand ambassador and blogger, Khyrs Maxwell, in his detailed instructional post, There May Be Too Much Agave in Your Tequila or Mezcal  tastes like…

“…what I would consider to have a chemical/medicinal taste–sometimes slight, sometimes overbearing flavor profile that always seems to overshadow the beauty of the agave.”  

He further states that it “tastes very much like vodka” and has coined the term “AgaVodka.”

[Tweet “AgaVodka: Tequila that has been stripped of all personality”]

Lastly, Maxwell warns…

“So if you come across a tequila or mezcal made with a difusor, the only way that there can be “notes of cooked agave” is by adding that flavor during the finishing process.  They can add “notes of cooked agave?”  Why, yes.  Yes they can…I’ve seen and smelled the additive.  It does exist.”

[Tweet “They can add “notes of cooked agave?” Yes they can…I’ve seen & smelled the additive. It does exist.””]

Maxwell’s statement above excludes the use of authorized additives to blanco (unaged) tequila, of course.

As of December 2012, such practices have been outlawed by the CRT in its normas (rules and regulations governing the production of tequila).  It remains to be seen how well it will be enforced, however, so your pricey, Fruit Loop scented blanco may still be safe for a year or two until inventories are depleted.

Spanish diffuser manufacturer, Tomsa Destil, offers a closer look at the mega-masher and its process, which seem to go hand-in-hand with column distillation.

The site mentions that they have installed 12 diffusers for use in agave processing, but makes no mention of their clients, nor if sulfuric acid to extract sugars from agave is also needed.

Tomsa Destil diffuser., Diffusor in Tequila

Tomsa Destil diffuser.

The Stigma

While controversy swirls around the use of a diffuser, most educated tequila aficionados understand that it is not illegal to do so.  In fact, its application was accepted by the CRT some time ago.

[Tweet “Diffuser use is not prohibited in tequila production. Read about it here.”]

As we mentioned in item #5 of our Craft Tequila Gauntlet, diffuser use by a distillery is a closely guarded secret even though it is a fairly large piece of machinery to try to hide.  There is a stigma attached to it, with most distilleries that have one completely denying that any of their star brands are processed with it.

While most of the Tequila Industry’s heavy hitters are known to possess diffusers, many also own regular shredders, autoclaves and even stone ovens.  Ask any major brand owner whose tequila is produced at these maquiladoras (large production facilities that churn out juice for contracted brands) whether they are a by-product of a diffuser, and they vehemently deny it.

[Tweet “Why is there a stigma attached to using a diffusor in #tequila production?”]

#AskRuben

Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura, Diffusor in Tequila

Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura.

 

In the Twitter thread attached to The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? it was revealed that Casa Herradura had used a diffuser from 2001-2010.

The historic tequila maker initially implemented the super shredder during the last great agave crisis of the late 90s.  Years later, it was taken to task by an organized group of key concerned mixologists and tequila supporters who refused to use Herradura in their cocktails or to include it in their bar menus due to a drastic change in its original flavor profile and quality.  Herradura finally succumbed and stopped using it for that label.

Vintage Casa Herradura, logo, Diffusor in Tequila

In the following screen captures of a Twitter chat from May 1, 2014, Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura’s Director of International Brand Development, admits that the diffuser is now only used for their Antiguo, El Jimador, and Pepe Lopez brands.

 

[Tweet “The diffuser is used in the Antiguo, El Jimador & Pepe Lopez brands of #Tequila”]

Twitter chat #AskRuben.

More Twitter chat. #AskRuben

 

Aceves had previously come clean to spirits writer, Emma Janzen in her article for The Statesman here.

In Khrys Maxwell’s aforementioned blog, he lists tequila producers known to employ diffusers.  Tequila Aficionado also includes this list on every updated NOM List for your convenience.

Nevertheless, one of those distilleries mentioned in Maxwell’s list boldly refuses to hide behind a veil of secrecy–

Destilería Leyros (NOM 1489).

[Tweet “Destilería Leyros (NOM 1489) doesn’t hide its #diffuser use, taking pride in its efficiency.”]

In Defense Of Diffusers

Destilería Leyros, producers of their flagship brand, Tequila Don Fermin and many others, bills itself as a model for modern and efficient tequila making.

It was proudly represented that way even in the wildly popular Spanish language telenovela Destilando Amor, where it stood in for the then fictional Destilería Montalvo.

 

Enrique Legorreta Carranco, one of the owners of Leyros, agreed to answer some of our questions and to try to help dispel the myths and mysteries surrounding the diffuser.

Controversy

“I am aware about the controversy of using difusor [Spanish spelling] in the tequila process.  Here are some key factors and benefits of the process in order to be firm with the press:

“In fact, there is nothing to hide and we are willing to receive tequila bloggers, media or people from Tequila Aficionado in order to know first hand this innovative and ecological process.”

Process

“The difusor extracts the agave juice first of all, followed by the cooking of the agave juice to extract the agave sugars.  This cooked agave juice is called the agua miel.  In traditional process they first cooked the agave followed by the agave juice extraction.  We obviously need to cook the agave juice in order to get its sugars in order to be able to be fermentated (biological process where sugar turns into alcohol).”

Flavor

[We’ll note that Sr. Legorreta took issue with the portrayal of the tastes and essences of tequilas produced with a diffuser as described by some bloggers, believing them to be too subjective.]

“This process gives to the taster a more herbal, clean and citric experience.  Also this process is more efficient and as a result gives a tequila with better standards in methanol, aldehydes and other compounds not desired because at high levels produces hangovers.”

 

Traditional Process vs. Modern Technology

“We respect a lot [the] traditional process.  The only thing we believe is that the consumer has the last word to choose between one tequila flavor from another.
“There are people that prefer the traditional strong flavor from tequila.  Other people are preferring tequilas [that are] more pure, citric with subtle notes of fresh agave like if you are smelling [the] agave and [the] land.”
[Tweet “Diffused or no? Consumers have the last word in choosing between one #tequila flavor & another.”]

 

Environment

Reiterating what was demonstrated in the videos above, Sr. Legorreta explains…
“A difusor process uses less than 50% of energy, and less than 60% of water used in traditional processes to produce same quantities of liters.  Additional to this [at the] Leyros Distillery we recycle the bagasse that we get in the last phase of the difusor.  All this with our completely self-sufficient green boiler is fueled with bagasse from our own mill.”

 

About That Stigma…

“About why many distilleries denied they have a difusor, I can guess without knowing a reason from first hand–that is because traditional process with ovens sounds more romantic than the technology of a difusor.”
“In fact, a lot of distilleries focus their marketing efforts around traditional processes.  I guess this is working.  If not, I [suppose] they would be focusing more in the tasting notes of the final product.”
Indeed, Destilería Leyros’ website and videos play on the romance using a smattering of phrases as, “It tastes like countryside, like fire in your blood,” and “Like a passionate kiss, the Taste of Mexico.”

A New Style

In much the same manner as importers, brand owners, and maestro tequileros defend

Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.

Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.

(and advertise in their marketing materials!) the use of additives in their aged tequilas (“finished and polished”), Sr. Legorreta asserts that juice made with a diffuser is simply another style of tequila.

“The essence of tequila is the agave, and both processes distill agave, just in different ways.  There are some people that love traditions [and] there are others that like to innovate and improve things.”
Just as Leyros’ website and videos “invites you to taste and compare, and then let your palate decide which tequila you’d rather raise in a toast,” Sr. Legorreta concludes:
“At the end of the day, or the end of the history, [it] is the consumer [who] chooses their tequila without a bias in the information.”
Some Truths to Consider

The Leyros videos above claim to use machinery as a way to “considerably reduce the risk of injury” to the people on their workforce.  Yet, as Maxwell points out…

“Not only is the difusor a way to pump out product, it also uses a very small labor force.  As more distilleries use the difusor, there will be less jobs available to those, who for hundreds of years,  have built towns and created families by working in the agave distillate industry.  So what happens to the unemployed?  …do they leave for the US to become illegal immigrants?  Or do they work for the narcos?”

[Tweet “Consider the economics: As more distilleries use the #difusor, there will be less jobs available.”]

At the risk of being redundant, it bears repeating what noted agave ethno-botanist, Ana Valenzuela said about the diffuser here

Shredder.

Shredder.

 

“…to prohibit the use of diffusers (in hydrolysis of agave juices) that takes the “soul” (the flavor of baked agave) out of our native distillates, singular in the world for its complexities of aromas and flavors.”

In conclusion, if current figures are correct, exports of tequila rose 16% to US$568 million in the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period last year.  It is expected that China will import 10 million liters of tequila in the next 5 years.

Where will Mexico find enough agave to serve their thirsty customers?

Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.

Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.

These guys know where.

Turning A Blind Eye

On September 4, 2014, dozens of mezcaleros (mezcal producers) dumped 200 liters of mezcal onto the streets of Oaxaca City in protest for their government’s lack of support against tequileros from Jalisco who are allegedly raiding tons of espadín and other maguey (agave), the prime ingredient in mezcal, to produce tequila.

In the process, say Maestros del Mezcal Tradiciónal del Estado de Oaxaca (a trade association) 15 of the 32 varieties of maguey native to Oaxaca are in danger of becoming extinct.

[Tweet “Are tequileros from #Jalisco raiding tons of #espadín to produce #tequila?”]

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.

Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.

Thanks to these transnational maguey marauders, the burgeoning mezcal industry’s days are numbered, it seems.

If indeed a diffuser strips away the agave’s regional characteristics leaving behind a more citric, vodka-like, cookie cutter flavor profile that easily lends itself to clandestine adulteration, over distillation and multiple barrel blendings, then what’s to keep these pirate tequileros from pilfering agave from outside the requisite growing states and using a diffuser to crank out “tequila?”

These days, filling orders to emerging world markets is more important than the blatant disregard for the Denomination of Origin.

[Tweet “Is filling #tequila orders for #China more important than the blatant disregard for the DO?”]

New NOM List (19 August 2014) Becomes Tequila Adventure

Administrative Adventures With The Tequila NOM List

crt, consejo regulador del tequila, tequila, tequila aficionado, nom listkThe 19 August 2014 NOM List provided by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) proved to be quite an afternoon adventure for us at Tequila Aficionado Media.

New Privacy Laws Affect NOM List

First we noticed the “Representante” (Representative) column was missing as well as the “Titular” (Brand Owner) column.  Thanks to social media, we were able to make contact with the CRT and they explained:

“Due to recent changes in the privacy laws in Mexico, the data of our associates are protected and cannot be published on our website. That maybe the reason why you cannot see them anymore…”   

[Tweet “New #Tequila NOM List dated 19Aug2014 with lots of changes!”]

AIG, NOM List, agroindustria de guadalajara, consejo regulador del tequila

 

 

A Marriage of Marcas?

Then we noticed that NOM 1068, Agroindustria Guadalajara, had completely disappeared from the list.  Not just one or two tequilas, but the entire distillery was missing.  As we made our way through the list, we found all of the tequilas from Agroindustria Guadalajara listed in NOM 1529, Agaveros y Tequileros.  Now this could be news of a merger or buyout or it could be just a gross administrative error.  We couldn’t find any information regarding the two businesses in recent news, so we went back to the CRT’s Facebook Page and asked the question:

¿Por qué?

The CRT personnel behind the Facebook curtain replied with:

“Let me check that, I’ll have an answer in a bit.”

A bit went by and no answer.

 

Perhaps Mariana Franco was busy taking a call from Rodrigo Montalvo and needed some time to get her thoughts together?

They never did respond on Facebook, but they did edit the NOM List.  NOM 1068 has reappeared.

So here we are with the most recent updates to the NOM List with as much information provided as we have available.

Feel free to follow along in the continuing saga on the CRT Facebook Page.  We’ve embedded the initial post here.  Feel free to click on it and read along!

 

 

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Portraits In Tequila–Alex Viecco of Montalvo Tequila…

A full array of Montalvo tequila

A full array of Montalvo tequila

Alex Viecco, CEO of award winning and triple distilled Montalvo tequila is a new hybrid of tequila brand owner.

While he shares the passion of many of the family owned brands that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, he has a keen business sense that comes from his many years in the financial planning industry.

In other words…

He doesn’t let his emotional attachment to the juice get in the way of his business decisions.  Like a solid investment portfolio, he is also quite diversified.

Alex Viecco unwraps Montalvo tequila.

Alex Viecco unwraps Montalvo tequila

Alex is one of the founding investors of a company that I’ve been watching with interest for some time–Greenhouse Holdings (now Premier Alliance), a company dedicated to finding a solution to the alarming Vinazas Crisis that I’ve discussed here.

As outspoken and passionate as I have been about the illegal dumping of tequila wastewaters (vinazas) by distilleries into the rivers and streams of the Paisaje Agavero, Alex has been even more of an advocate for foreign investment in wastewater processing plants as a way of combating the pollution epidemic that still haunts the Tequila Industry.

Since this February 2011 Fox News Latino news release cited here, the original project that he brought to Greenhouse’s attention has been placed on hold due to the merger with Premier Alliance.  Viecco assures, however, that the mission to clean up tequila wastewaters is again gaining traction with the present company, whose new investors include basketball great, Shaquille O’Neal.

“They are exploring a couple of different options to provide yet additional solutions in the region,” explains Viecco.

Montalvo“As you know, many of the companies are a bit leery due to the Big Guys being in so much control.  The goal is to provide a much broader solution to the region which will include the small and mid guys [tequila producers].”

“We have been talking with two groups, Premier and another group, to see who will fund a project to get things cleaned up.  My partners and I are the ones bringing in the guns to make it happen.”

“Like anything else,” Alex cautions, “it is still about relationships and foreign companies overcoming their fear of investing in foreign lands.”

Montalvo tequila and Vinturi aerator.

Montalvo tequila and Vinturi aerator.

And relationship building is exactly what Viecco strives for when visiting new accounts to sample Montalvo blanco, reposado and añejo.

A small batch tequila whose agave is sourced from the Lowlands of Jalisco, Alex realizes that his brand isn’t for everyone.  And just like the fourth generation distillers who oversee the triple distillation of Montalvo (a brand named after a fictional family brand of the popular 2007 telenovela, Destilando Amor), he carefully and deliberately chooses who he will partner with and where he will place the precious bottles of Montalvo.

Another strategic partnership Alex has forged is with Vinturi, makers of wine and spirits aerators (an item we’ll cover in an upcoming post) that allows your wine and spirits to open or “bloom” in a much shorter time.

Finally, what would Alex Viecco like for you to know about Montalvo?

In a word, “explore” the wonderful world of tequila, and start with Montalvo.

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