In this final cut, Germán González discusses the real reason he creates such fine tequilas, reaffirms the lessons he has learned in life, and imparts his belief in higher ideals. In the process, we learn what really makes him tick.
How do you describe Tears of Llorona? How do you depict what you have no benchmark for? How do you relate something that is at once incomparable and incomprehensible, yet, strangely familiar, like déjà vu?
Perhaps the closest touchstone is given when deconstructing or reverse engineering Tears of Llorona.
For this first batch, Tears of Llorona is barreled in used sherry, scotch whisky and brandy barrels, achieving a spirit that does not betray its agave and tequila roots.
Instead, cradling the agave notes is a heady spiciness that continues to whisper to your senses the longer you swirl it in your glass.
Notes of bitter chocolate, sherry, leather, tobacco and coffee, along with hints of scotch and memories of the finest cognac or brandy culminate in a finish that resembles “a warm scarf on a cold day.”
While other extra añejos attempt to masquerade as something remotely similar to (or anything but) tequila, it is evident that Germán González has created Tears of Llorona to be Tequila’s higher octave.
Deliberately distilled to be lingered over, this gem is, as its website states, “an opus.” A symphony composed and conducted by a true Master.
Germán Gonzalez, distiller of T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorana, discloses why, up until recently, the term master distiller was not given the proper recognition by the Tequila Industry, nor by the people of Mexico.
Like deceased comedian, Rodney Dangerfield, Germán struggled to gain respect and to become recognized for his distilling acumen until he risked creating T1 Tequila Uno.
We’re sure that after you sample each of his offerings, you, too, will understand what it truly means to be a master at your craft.
Read the full story of Germán González and T1 Tequila Uno here.
[In early November of 2014, San Antonio resident and neighbor, Germán González, joined us at our home office. That evening, he brought his full array of Tequila Uno (T1)–Ultra Fino, Selecto, Excepcional, Tequila Estelar, along with the much acclaimed ultra-aged Tears of Llorona.
In a more relaxed atmosphere and without his signature Panama hat and guayabera, Germán guided us through a tasting of each of his offerings while sharing his wit, wisdom, and knowledge.]
“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts–such is the duty of the artist.”–Robert Schumann
What strikes you first about Germán González is his intense modesty when he discusses his vast accomplishments. Secondly, it’s realizing the level of genius he possesses as a Master Distiller. Thirdly, you are awed by the depth of his artistry.
Distilling what was arguable some of the finest tequila available in the
spirits market in the past with his historic family brand, Chinaco, today Germán humbly pours us proper amounts from his own equally lauded labels, T1 (Tequila Uno) and Tears of Llorona, and teaches us his trademark “toast from the heart.”
Taking his branded Riedel Ouverture tequila glass held at the stem, Germán places it over his heart and says, “salúd, from the heart.” He then reaches out to each of us and, instead of touching at the rim of the fragile vessels, he turns his glass almost sideways and boldly tags the bowls sounding a lyrical crystal clang.
Afterwards, he lovingly looks at the platinum liquid inside his stemmed glass and says, “This tequila is amazing,” as if surprised that it turned out so well.
Coming from a family that played an integral part in both Mexico’s and Tequila’s sweeping history [you can read more about his family history here], Germán González is at once inspired by his past and firmly focused on his future.
A gentleman farmer by trade and a romantic at heart, Germán literally learned his profession from the ground up under the watchful eye of his father, Guillermo, a lawyer and politician.
At eighteen, Germán permanently moved to the family ranchos in Tamaulipas by himself instead of attending university. For several years, he spent intensive weekends learning about the land from Don Guillermo, growing agaves, chiles, corn, soybeans and raising cattle. He felt privileged and grateful to have his father as his instructor and mentor.
Don Guillermo also purposely kept him away from the La Gonzaleña distillery until he felt Germán was ready for the responsibility.
After several years of piloting Chinaco to unprecedented heights, creative differences with his older brothers caused Germán to seek a new distillery from where he could challenge himself to distill even greater tequila.
Luckily, his lifelong friend and owner of La Tequileña (NOM 1146) Enrique Fonseca, himself a celebrated tequilero, most recently with his Fuenteseca brand, literally gave him the keys to his distillery and allowed Germán to pursue his dream of producing the ultimate expressions of tequila that have ever been realized.
At the same time, Germán uprooted his family and moved to San Antonio, Texas in 2007 to learn about the liquor distribution system and also to study the fickle American palate. He officially launched Tequila Uno in 2009.
Germán memorized two very important principles from his father where tequila was concerned–
That the quality of the agave will always assure favorable results and consistency. That’s why he insists on using estate grown agave from a single plot of land or grove (huerta), and…
Used scotch whisky barrels are the secret to capturing just the right balance when resting tequila.
He deliberately employs the used barrels to take only the rough edges off of the Selecto when resting for his Excepcional. Germán believes that this practice results in a more traditional reposado.
“It’s how reposados should taste–not like añejos,” Germán declares.
Then, he boldly adds, “I don’t care about the color, I care about the flavor.”
The Meaning of Mature
Germán believes the maturity of blue agave has nothing to do with the plant’s brix (sugar content) or age. He judges the maturity of agave by its look and feel.
He prefers using agave from Atotonilco, in the highlands of Jalisco, since he determined that they produce a close flavor profile to agave from Tamaulipas, and thus, compliment each other.
He had blended highlands agave with those from Tamaulipas when in charge of Chinaco during its second resurgence. At that time, La Gonzaleña didn’t have enough agave in reserve as it had in its heyday.
Inside the Mind of An Artist
“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” –Michelangelo
Behaving more like a painter or chef–hands on, using all of his senses–Germán González has in mind exactly what he wants Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorona to taste like and what effect he wants to attain with each expression.
He knows that flavor profile exists within the plant and the resulting juice, just like Michaelangelo knew that inside each slab of marble was a statue waiting to be released.
Germán distills Tequila Uno to set the flavors free!
Chemistry vs. Alchemy
“Tones sound, and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes.”–Ludwig van Beethoven
Unless prompted, Germán never talks about the numbers, the chemistry or science of distillation like famed Master Distillers Carlos Camarena (Tapatío), Marko Karakasevic (Charbay), or Melkon Khosrovian (Ixa Tequila by Greenbar) have been known to do. In fact, those were Germán’s worst subjects in high school.
Much like a mezcalero (mezcal distiller) does when producing mezcal, he uses his senses to tell him what alcohol by volume (ABV) his tequila should have to achieve the desired flavor and aroma. The numbers then become minor details in the entire scope of things. He allows the formation and density of the lingering bubbles (perlas) in his glass to be his signposts that he has succeeded.
Balance Is Everything
Germán asserts that alcohol in tequila is not just about getting drunk. He describes it as a necessary element in any tequila’s flavor profile. In fact, he contends that mezcals, by and large, should be distilled at 45% ABV or higher to achieve its balance and to acquire its unique flavor profiles.
The key is finding the balance between the ABV and other elements of the highlands agave to bring about the nuances Germán demands for T1. That’s why Selecto is at one measure of ABV and Ultra Fino is at another. It has allowed him to produce two types of tequila for different
The novice just beginning to explore tequila (Ultra Fino), and the collector or connoisseur (Selecto, Excepcional, Estelar) with more discerning tastes. We encountered this technique at our tasting of Roca Patrón. González has perfected this method into his own signature art form.
Germán González shares his global desires for T1.
Composer, artist, distiller–Germán González has elevated tequila into what it has always aspired to be–
A spirit worthy of the attention and appreciation of the masses throughout the world.
Whatever Germán’s next composition, be assured that it, too, will be a work of art, from his heart to yours.
All across the country, in carefully selected cities where the beautiful people roam like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco, the Patrón PR machine (which spent a reported $34.1 million in measured media in 2013), is rolling out its new Roca Patrón line of tequilas.
Here in Tejas, on August 11, 2014, at the famed Brazos Hall in Austin, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to the head of the line and behind the braided rope to be one of the first to try this new offering from Planet Patrón.
The Brazos Hall was entirely furnished with wooden Roca Patrón branded furniture, fixtures, barrels and props, along with its own stage where a dynamic digital screen replayed a two minute silent video that was programmed to pulsating club music at deafening decibels.
Besides coming with its own publicity campaign that includes a stylized knockoff of their familiar bottle, projecting the Patrón name and iconic bee symbol onto the walls and some snappy slogans on ads and cushy sofa pillows, the entire experience is designed to embed a feeling of Old World rustic tequila-making with a modern twist.
What makes this new addition to the Patrón portfolio any different from its usual ho-hum juice?
Roca Patrón (a Spanish corruption of the English word rock) is made exclusively using a tahona or volcanic stone wheel to macerate agave piñas to extract its juice. Until the invention and adoption of more efficient and less labor intensive shredding machines, this was once how all tequilas were produced.
In this clip, Patrón Quality Director, Mario Chavez, explains why they settled on a 90 proof blanco and reveals some of the details in the pre-planning of the Roca line.
Mario explained that the tahona has always been part of the tequila making process for regular Patrón which they blend after distillation with juice that has been shredded. This method was made famous by Tequila Siete Leguas, Patrón’s original producer, and eventually pilfered by Patrón. For Roca, however, no blending occurs.
In his passion, Mario was sure that there were no other tequilas produced exclusively using a tahona. I reminded him of the sought-after Fortaleza brand which he acknowledged, and Suerte, which he had never heard of. But, why would he? He is so engrossed in his own line that it figures that he would be oblivious to any other ones. An honest, and forgivable, mistake.
The Roca Patrón website has plenty of signature cocktails, but for each of the other 40 odd launch cities including Austin, original recipes were created by hired hot mixologists.
As previously pointed out in our reviews of Cabeza, Tapatío 110, and the entire Dulce Vida line, overproof tequilas shine in cocktails and Roca Patrón is no different.
Both myself and Mario agreed, however, that for a purist, a tequila the caliber of Roca
Patrón would be much better served either neat, or simply on the rocks.
The Break Down
For the sake of transparency, we were served Roca Patrón on tap at room temperature in branded champagne glasses. (Don’t be fooled by the lit-from-behind liquid lines viewed through false tequila barrel tops. Patrón invented the art of visual illusion for these events.)
Patrón reps that evening admitted that it was not the best way to taste test tequila, but considering the amount of guests invited to the launch, it proved more cost effective.
Due to the darkness of the Brazos Hall, observing Roca’s color was next to impossible.
Roca Patrón Silver–90 proof
At first sniff, instant piedra (tahona, rock) with barely any hint of alcohol. The nose gives no warning for what’s to come, however. Extreme agave on the entry, so brace yourselves. Light to medium finish that lingers on the palate, not down your throat. On the second intake, more sweetness is evident.
Roca Patrón Reposado–84 proof
Instant butter on the nose to go along with the wood notes, vanilla and caramel. Mario confessed that his wife is even able to pull some pineapple and pear on the entry. Both were slightly noticeable, again with very little to no alcohol. Aged in American oak barrels and guaranteed to coat your palate.
Roca Patrón Añejo–88 proof
Aged 14 months, mas o menos, there is evidence of dried fruit, nuts and some citrus. Again, very little if any alcohol was present in the nose. Very easy finish, but not as memorable as the reposado even though it, too, will coat the palate.
Both at the event and in digital print, Patrón reps and officials have admitted that there has been a gradual decline in demand for its tequila in the United States. Consumers and industry professionals alike have dismissed it as a brand that rests on its colorful past and deft marketing.
Whether this trend has been due to the rise of mixologists and their demands for better and more artisanal ingredients for their cocktail creations, a more sophisticated and educated consumer, or focusing on its ravenous rise to dominance in the overseas Duty Free market, Roca Patrón is their bold statement to these allegations.
Despite Patrón’s attempt to backpedal into the current craft tequila craze with Roca, it is still a mass produced tequila targeted to their own particular customer base–
Those willing to spend anywhere from $69, $79, and $89 for silver, reposado, and añejo expressions.
Don’t expect to see these prices drop, either. Patrón was one of the only tequila producers that refused to roll back prices during the recession even though consumers were trading down to cheaper brands.
In the end, those faithful Patrón followers who enjoy the Gran Patrón line (Platinum, Piedra, or Burdeos), but not the heady price tags, will appreciate Roca Patrón’s assertive flavor profile and less aggressive cost.
As for the Patrón Road Show…
It was an elegant, eventful, and enlightening affair. Like watching Cirque du Soleil but without the embarrassing costumes.
Watch for a future Sipping Off The Cuff(TM) featuring Roca Patrón, coming soon!
On two separate occasions, Carlos Camarena, the third generation master distiller of El Tesoro de Don Felipe and the equally famous and classic Tequila Tapatío, stepped outside of Las Perlas mezcal and tequila bar in the heart of downtown Los Angeles to enjoy a cigarette.
Taking in the scenery of a chilly and overcast Sunday afternoon in early June, he witnessed the pursuit of a purse snatcher by LAPD, and then an attempted carjacking by another perpetrator while the police were arresting the purse snatcher!
Carlos smiled and shook his head. Surrounded by movie cameras and flood lights outside the front entrance to Las Perlas, his only thought was…
Another average day in LA.
La Perla Tapatía
Once inside the rustic and darkly lit Las Perlas, one of the more complete tequila and mezcal bars in Los Angeles, one realized that the movie cameras weren’t there to record street crimes or another TV reality show. They were there to film an historic event–
The triumphant entrance of the iconic Tequila Tapatío into California and the rest of the United States.
Jeff Couch and Vaughn Halyard, the co-partners of Congenial Spirits, a nimble distributor focused on boutique, handcrafted spirits, and the chosen distributor for Tapatío, had the foresight to sense the importance of documenting its US premier, even adding a professional photographer and a press wall for that red carpet feeling.
The invitees, comprised of LA spirits industry professionals and mixologists, settled in and Raul Yrastorza, the general manager and curator of Las Perlas, began the introductions for this question and answer segment with the guests of honor.
The Charbay Connection
Producing wines, ports, liqueurs, aperitifs, vodkas, rums, and whiskies at the famed Charbay Winery & Distillery in St. Helena, CA, Marko Karakasevic is also the importer of Tapatío under his Marko K Spirits of California banner.
Marko, a bear of a man who looks more like a right tackle for the Oakland Raiders instead of a barely 40 year old 13th generation master distiller, jokingly explains:
“In a family of distillers, no fruit, no root, is safe.”
Here, Marko recounts his first meeting with Carlos Camarena that lead to his family being invited to distill its own brand of Charbay Tequila at La Alteña distillery.
Heads, Hearts & Tails
So what do master distillers talk about in the wee hours of the morning over endless tequila? Distillation, of course!
Carlos Camarena and Marko Karakasevic tell the story of their awkward first encounter that turned into what can only be an enduring relationship based on mutual respect and admiration.
The Upside Down World of Agave Spirits
Carlos chuckled that Miles Karakasevic, Marko’s father, the retired 12th generation master distiller of Charbay, and he did not get along that evening.
Whenever Carlos tried to explain the physics and biochemistry of tequila distillation versus the distillation of other spirits, it was in complete contrast to Miles’ years of education.
Bullshit was uttered more than once.
“It’s not right!” exclaimed Marko.
Carlos discusses the upside down world of agave spirits distillation in depth…
Why Did It Take So Long To Get Here?
On my first visit to La Alteña in 2006, I asked Carlos what would happen if there was a sudden demand in El Tesoro de Don Felipe. Would he be able to fill orders, or be forced to cut corners?
He declared that at any given time, he had approximately one million liters of tequila in storage to handle any spike in demand. There would never be any need to cut corners and suffer a loss in quality. No doubt, his policy also carried over to the Tapatío brand.
Here, Carlos demystifies his reasons for taking almost 76 years to bring Tapatío into the US market, and gives a bit of family history, as well.
During the course of the question and answer session, Congenial Spirits’ Vaughn and Jeff made sure that each of the Tapatío expressions were being served to the crowd in specially branded Tapatío shot glasses, starting with the 80 proof blanco and ending with the stellar Tapatío 110 proof.
Sipping it immediately brought back fond memories of my first trip to La Alteña and tasting this tequila directly from the still.
It hadn’t changed a bit.
Once the Q & A ended, it was time to unleash the infinite possibilities that Tapatío 110 could provide. Amanda Gunderson, Tapatío’s brand ambassador and designer of the evening’s drinks menu, wowed the crowd with her signature cocktails.
Names like Lolita Swizzle and La Alteña guaranteed that everyone in attendance would get a feel of what it would be like to visit Tapatío’s legendary distillery. To say that these cocktails were lethally delicious would be an understatement.
Be aware that Tapatío 110 proof will not only shine in your cocktail and take you back to the Highlands of Jalisco, but it will sing to you for the rest of the evening. Definitely, sip wisely.
The Source Of Life
Since many in attendance weren’t as well versed in the science of distillation as Carlos and Marko were, I asked Camarena how he would define distillation to a lay person.
Here’s what he had to say…
When Tequila Tapatío can be considered the source of life on this planet, there can be no such thing as just an average day in LA–or anywhere else, for that matter.
View more photos of this momentous event on our Facebook page here.