The tequila industry may not recognize their masters, but here at Tequila Aficionado, we know that we could never consider Germán Gonzalez, distiller of T1 Tequila and Tears of Llorona, any less than a Master at his art.
Enjoy this intimate talk we had the pleasure of having with German Gonzalez when he took off his iconic hat and joined us at our table with his stellar selection of tequilas.
The story of T1 Tequila Uno begins where the history of tequila begins. For centuries generations of tequila masters have perfected the art of making this unique spirit. A creation of Master Distiller Germán González, our tequilas have an acquired pedigree only achievable through heritage and continuity with the past. Handcrafted using these ancestral and traditional methods and from mature 100% Agave Azul grown in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, emerges a masterpiece collection of T1 Tequila Uno’s of extraordinary and exquisite caliber.
Tears of Llorona is an extra extra añejo tequila. It begins as 100% blue agaves from high volcanic slopes in Jalisco, where growth is slow. Master Tequilero Germán Gonzalez hand selects the agaves and has them harvested late, increasing their starch and sugars. The piñas are roasted slowly in the traditional way. His yeast is proprietary and fermentation is slow. Distillation is by copper pot still and barreling is at very high specific gravity.
Tears is aged in three different barrels — oak that has previously held scotch, sherry, and brandy — and brought together in very small batches to create a complex fusion that is more like a cognac than a tequila. Germán then bottles at 43% specific gravity to balance the flavors. This results in a very high rate of osmotic loss – the “angel’s tears” that are one reason for the name, Tears of Llorona.
About German Gonzalez
Master Distiller Germán González, is the great grandson of General Manuel González, former President of México between 1880 – 1884. In the late 1970s Germán’s father, Guillermo Gonzalez Diaz Lombardo, founder of La Gonzaleña launched what would become the first ultra-premium tequila imported into the United States, Chinaco. Germán worked closely with his father and learned how to handcraft tequila using traditional techniques. After years serving as Chinaco’s master distiller, Germán left the company to launch his own brand, like his father before him.
If you’ve seen Mike Morales’ article on the Top 20 Craft Tequilas you’ve overlooked then you’ll understand that picking one (or even 10) from this list is like picking your favorite child. It’s too difficult to do, so your best bet is to vote twice a day for your favorites and spend the rest of your time sipping all of them.
Congratulations to all the nominees. If Mike could pick a top 50 list, it still wouldn’t be enough. Thank you to all the wonderful brands out there who are constantly striving to produce the finest tequilas they can. We love you all!
In order to be called tequila, this spirit distilled from the juices blue agave must be made in specific regions of Mexico, most prominently Jalisco and the town of tequila. While no tequilas are produced in the United States, we want to find the best craft tequila brands available in the country, and to do so, we asked a pair of tequila experts to nominate their favorites. Unlike other spirits, tequila brands often share distilleries – there are about 70 of them producing more than 500 brands – so it’s often the brand rather than the distillery that indicates quality. Many of these 20 nominees for best craft tequila brand use traditional methods. Many of the brand owners grow their own agave and personally oversee the entire tequila-making process. All produce high-quality, distinctive tequilas available in the U.S. market. Vote for your favorite once per day until voting ends on Monday, September 12 at noon ET. Read the official Readers’ Choice rules here.
In early August of 2016, I received an email from USA Today asking me to weigh in on their craft spirits-themed Readers’ Choice contests, and in our case (at press time), the soon-to-be-launched craft tequilas list.
I’ll be honest, I dread these lists. What’s worse is, I dread being asked to participate in compiling them.
Let me tell you why.
It’s A List
In the Digital Age, everyone wants things in bite sized form and they want it now. It is also proven that numbered lists draw attention. And, there are so many of them out there on the Interwebs–
Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover…
The 10 Best Ways to Cheat On Your Mate…
Six Ways Your Cat Plots to Kill You…
A Word About Your Sins
Ever wonder why those numbered titles are so enticing?
It’s because they are aimed at the 7 Deadly Sins.
A steadfast rule of copywriters is to compose content that elicits an emotional response from readers to take action.
To drive your particular sin even further to cause you to read the content, the word YOU is hammered into every title.
[Editor’s note: See what I did with my title? You choose which sin fits best for YOU.]
Craft Is A Buzzword
As we thoroughly examined in our reports, Craft Tequila: WTF Does That Mean? Parts 1 and 2, the term craft has been kidnapped by marketers writing fancy copy to confuse the consumer.
While the instructions in the email required at least 20 selections from me, the contest will butcher the selections down to only 10–
Selected by those who are unaware of what a craft tequila really is, and…
Curated by someone whose job it is to find ways to engage USA Today’s readers.
It’s A Contest
When our COO, Lisa Pietsch, examined the contest website and the myriad of other pre-existing lists, she found that this is a clever way for USA Today to increase reader engagement.
Reader engagement translates to readers’ time spent on USA Today’s mammoth website, which in turn translates to money they charge advertisers.
The term we use is “sticky” as in spider’s web sticky.
Which leads me to–
Having been paid to ghost write Editor’s Choice lists in the past, I am fully aware that many times, spirits sponsors of major magazines and websites tend to sneak onto them.
This, despite my vehement objections to the editors that such a move invalidates the list altogether.
So, before any of the Usual Suspects wind up on USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards Craft Tequilas list, here are my selections. Bear in mind, I was limited to only twenty brands.
[On a sweltering August afternoon, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited by Mike Groener, CEO and President of Genius Liquids to sip and savor the latest addition to their Desert Spirit line, Texas Sotol, at their distillery in Austin, TX .]
Here Comes the Rain Again
Ask anyone who has spent any significant amount of time living in the Desert Southwest during Monsoon Season, and they will tell you that they can smell rain. At those times, your part of town may be sunny and bone dry, but a strong breeze will carry the scent of falling raindrops for miles. Sooner or later, the skies darken, thunder rolls, lightning strikes and the floodgates open.
Similarly, those who have sampled significant amounts of tequila or mezcal during their lifetimes will admit to the elusive “wet cement” flavor profile evocative of rain hitting a hot, dry sidewalk.
The latter is so rare these days with tequilas attempting to become smoother and more neutralized, and mezcals being distilled at the more accepting entry level 80 proof (40% ABV) than traditional higher strengths.
But try to describe true sotol such as Don Cuco as I meekly attempted to in Tom Barry’s insightful article, A Sotol Story , and you can fumble to find the words.
“To me, Don Cuco Sotol carries the best of all worlds. It opens up — blooms — so much that it demands to be treated like a fine wine. It has the smokiness of some of the best mezcals, but the flavor is simultaneously reminiscent of the best tequilas and then, not at all.”
The best descriptor that one can come up with is that sotol made in Chihuahua, Mexico smells and tastes like desert rain falling in that region. It is arguably the truest illustration of the term terroir.
But what does Texas Sotol represent? That’s what we came to Genius Liquids’ headquarters to find out.
Mike Groener describes Genius Liquids’ humble beginnings and explains the process and challenges in producing Genius Gins and their new Texas Sotol.
The use of champagne yeast was at the suggestion of tequila Siembra Azul’s maker, David Suro, whom Mike met through John Garrett, a friend and spirits supervisor at distributor Victory Wine Group based in Dallas.
Here, Mike discusses more about the inspiration to use champagne yeast in his spirits.
Conscientious Objector to Vodka
Genius Liquids distills three types of gin (standard strength, navy strength, oaked), and Texas sotol, but no vodka. Distilling something “odorless and tasteless doesn’t represent any piece of art” according to Groener.
To learn more about Chihuahua’s native spirit, Groener did his homework. Through his relationship with Garrett, he has met Judah Kuper, co-founder of Mezcal Vago and spent time at Judah’s family mezcal palenque.
Groener admits that Genius Liquids is a bit egotistical when it comes to deciding what to distill, and prefers a challenge instead of the easy way out.
Sotol By Any Other Name
This lovely spirit of Mexico is not without its controversy.
Sotol from Chihuahua, Mexico is distilled using the dasylirion wheeleri plant, more commonly known as desert spoon or sereque in Spanish.
Genius Gin’s Desert Spirit Texas Sotol, however, uses North American sotol orDasylirion texanumgrown, wild harvested, cooked, fermented, and distilled in Texas. This variety has evolved into a more compacted and hardier plant, designed to survive the harsh Texas summers.
All dasylirions were at one time considered distant relatives of the agave (agavaceae), but it is actually more akin to asparagus.
Mike furthers the debate and recounts the labeling issues concerning the word sotol, and why Genius Liquids prefers to brand it through their Desert Spirit line.
Texas Hill Country in A Bottle
Mike Groener pours a sample of Texas Sotol into my three types of glassware. Unlike tequila, and to some degree, mezcal, sotol still does not have an official tasting glass. Lisa Pietsch, Tequila Aficionado Media’s COO, describes it as “Texas Hill Country in a bottle.”
Beam Me Up, Scotty!
Like Master Distiller, German González elaborating on how he came to create his opus, Tears of Llorona, Mike expounds on how, through their process, Genius Liquids has composed a transportive spirit in a “non-Auto-Tune way.”
Tails of The Funk
Much like Montelobo’s Dr. Ivan Saldaña’s love affair with mezcal’s funkiness, Mike demonstrates how he carefully uses the colas (tails) after distillation to enhance Genius Liquids’ Desert Spirit Sotol.
The Magic Ingredient
Careful not to get too technical with his method of distillation, but with the same umph of Carlos Camarena’s (Tequila Tapatío) passion, Groener breaks down the love involved in producing a Genius Liquids spirit.
The first batch of Desert Spirit Texas Sotol was so well received that it sold out within two weeks of being launched. The plan is to move Genius Liquids to larger digs due to the oppressive heat that prevents them from fermenting properly.
Groener spells out what the future holds for Genius Liquids and its expansion.
Off camera, Mike divulged that he’d like to wrestle with the challenge of producing a traditionally made Texas mezcal agave spirit, and has already sourced maguey for that project. There are also plans for a blended agricole rum.
In whatever direction Groener takes Genius Liquids, one can be sure that it will continue to seek, define and express the true meaning of Texas terroir–one small batch at a time.
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 this clip, Germán González, distiller of T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorana, reveals the difficulty in getting consumers to sip 100% agave tequila and shares a technique that a particular bartender uses to educate drinkers who ask for T1 in a cocktail.
A thoughtful bartender or mixologist will always serve the customer in the best way possible.
If you’ve never sipped T1 Tequila Uno, before having it in your favorite cocktail, ask for a bit of a sample on the side.
You’ll be glad you did!
Read the full story of Germán González and T1 Tequila Uno here.
In these next two clips, while enjoying sips of Germán González’s masterpiece, Tears of Llorona, we discuss the ins and outs of the tequila business.
The Only Rule That Counts
Germán Gonzalez, distiller of T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorana, reveals the only real rule, according to the normas (the rules and regulations that govern the tequila making process), that counts when selecting agave.
The Brix Bottom Line
Here, Germán explains how an agave’s brix (sugar content) may affect agave pricing.
Read the full story of Germán González and T1 Tequila Uno here.