Published on October 14th, 2013 | by Siz1
Gran Patron Piedra Tequila Launch Event
A couple of weeks ago I received an email invitation asking if I wanted to attend a Patron tequila event. I responded back immediately in the affirmative. I had no clue what was going on, but I figured that it would be awesome. One of the reasons that I wanted to go so badly was the fact that this event was actually in the new Nashville Omni hotel which had just opened its doors that week. I had been watching this thing be built and I was really excited to go in and do a little tour. So I accepted the invitation and I decided to bring the wife along. It was her birthday after all so I couldn’t leave her high and dry that night, that wouldn’t be very husbandly of me. Plus, she loves this sort of stuff, and loves networking for me so I don’t have to do as much talking. It really works out well for both of us.
So on the night of the event I didn’t really know what to expect. I was going there straight after work and was in pretty informal attire.Basically sneakers and a fleece jacket. When we walked in I swear everyone was wearing a suit and tie. There was a giant Patron logo shining up on the wall from some sort of projector. Then on the opposite side there was a Patron branded photo booth that printed out your photos instantly. There were also a couple dozen cocktail tables scattered throughout the room. Taking a quick scan of the room we spotted an open table near the photo booth that could use as our basecamp. It didn’t longer than 10 seconds for some waiters to swing over with some Hors d’oeuvre. After getting a little food, it was time to swing over to the drink stations to see what was being offered. I knew at some point we were going to be sampling tequila but I wasn’t sure when, nor where.
There were 5 drink stations scattered throughout the room. Each station has it’s own cocktail recipe using Patron tequila. We were given 1 drink token at the front desk so we knew we had to choose wisely. We walked around to each station to read the menu to see what sounded the best. I ended up choosing something called, the Setting Sun. I can’t remember exactly what the wife got, but I wasn’t impressed with it. I asked my bartender what I was supposed to do with my wooden drink token and she said “I don’t know, I’m not accepting those”. So I guess, we’re not limited to one drink? So me and the wife both looked at each other and were like, alrighty, and pocketed them again.
We continued walking around a bit taking in everything that the event had to offer. Then finally we stopped someone and asked them what exactly the plan was. They informed us that in a few minutes we would migrate over to another room to learn about Patron’s distilling process. I was super excited about this because I love learning as much I can about distilling. Each spirit has a similar process, but the ingredients change. To me it’s always interesting to see how they make their own distillation practice unique for their own product. That’s the real difference. Sometimes you have to cut through all the marketing BS to find out, but that’s part of the fun.
So after everyone gets transitioned over to the next room for the learning session we’re still trying to find a seat. The wife picks out a front row seat… Now I’m the kind of guy that likes to sit in the back and take everything in. I think I have a weird phobia of people looking at the back of my head as well. I’m not sure.
Growing & Selection
Once we got settled in I was looking at 4 separate screens with 4 different stations set up. Each one had a different piece of equipment from the distillation process. The 1st station was all about the farming / terroir of the land from where they harvest their agave. There was a ton of awesome information in there. My favorite part was talking about the Coa, which is a sharp cultivation tool used when trimming the leaves off of the agave plant. It has a long wooden handle like a shovel, but the head is rounded and solid steel. So you can imagine how heavy and sharp this thing is.
Some interesting facts about the Patron growing process that I picked up are:
- Takes 6-7 years for the agave plant to mature to sugar levels they need for their product
- Patron uses agaves with the highest sugar content anywhere from 25-32%
- A skilled laborer can harvest 4 tons of agave in 8 hours, leaving only the piñas behind.
Similar to the roasting of malt in some Scotch whisky production there is a baking process as part of the Patron distilling technique. They describe their technique as being different from other manufacturers. For their process they take the piñas and quarter, trim and cook them in a small brick oven. This baking process lasts for 79 hours. Where as compared to other manufacturers they use a giant autoclave that is essentially a high speed steamer used to cook the piñas faster and more automated.
Once the piñas have been baked it’s now time to crush them to extract that precious sugar that will be used in the fermentation / distilling process. It’s pretty interesting that they use two methods to crush the agave. This isn’t an industry wide practice from what I’ve gathered. They use a more modern day rolling mill which is washed in purified well water. This creates the base juices for their distillation. The other technique they use is more ancient.
It’s called a Tahona stone. This stone is a giant volcanic boulder weighing in at 2 tons, and it is shaped into a wheel. Then it’s attached to an arm that rotates around a center pivot point. Back in the day the used a donkey to carry this big stone in a circle. Now it’s all machine driven. This process is very intriguing to me. The stone is so heavy that it actually crushes the fibers from the piña and then it’s relaxed so the juices and sugars can go back into the fibers. Think of it like a massage, the masseuse pushes all those toxins out of your muscle fibers. Then you piss them off and let the toxins back in, yeah, it’s similar to that I think…
So after having two different crushing techniques they of course have to have two different fermentation techniques right? The juice that they obtain from the rolling mill crushing is combined with water and yeast into large wooden fermentation tanks. Where as the other option, to take all the pulp and juice from the tahona method and put it into the tank as well. This technique yields a more herbaceous aroma to it where as the rolling mill technique gives off more of a citrus / sweet aroma to it.
The entire fermentation process takes three days. Which isn’t uncommon especially in the world of bourbon. Basically you’re just allowing the yeast to activate with the sugars and create alcohol in these tanks.
Again, Patron has stuck to their mantra of being a craft tequila that is produced in mass. They love the process that they have and when demand goes up they essentially duplicate their equipment for the process. What started out as 1 distillery has now turned in to 12 I believe. They have precisely 99 proprietary handmade copper pot stills. They love the flavor and aroma that these copper pot stills give off. That’s why they haven’t transitioned to larger stills.
The distillation process isn’t different from other alcohol creation, just the different equipment that is used. They do keep both mostos (The Tahona & Rolling Mill products) separate during the distillation process. I thought that it was pretty crazy that they took all the pulp as put it in the copper still as well. I can’t imagine that’s easy to clean afterwards. The port hole to get in there is quite small and would incredibly difficult to clean for the next batch.
Finally these products are ready for barreling and aging. Well some are at least. All of Patron’s products are blended. There are no ‘single barrels’ in tequila. Well at least not in Patron’s line. Each product has a unique blend and flavor to it. The mainline Silver is bottled without any age to it and it retains that crystal clarity and refreshing flavor. The Reposado & Añejos are aged in oak barrels for no more than 2 months and at least 12 months respectively. These two products are blended with various barrels to produce a consistent flavor across the board between the two lines. Patron uses a combination of new French & Hungarian oak barrels alongside used American oak whiskey barrels.
Now that the learning process is over. It’s time for the sampling to begin!
I wasn’t exactly sure what all we’ll be sampling at this point, but I know I’m excited about it. Turns out, that we’re sampling product from the Gran Patron line. So I’m pretty stoked. First up is the Gran Patron Platinum!
This Gran Patron Platinum looks identical to the Patron Silver, but this is triple distilled and rested in oak tanks (not barrels) for a limited amount of time. The presenter was joking and said this is so smooth, that you just continue drinking it and the next thing you know you’re not in good shape. I’ll have to agree with him, it’s incredibly smooth. It has some nice citrus notes and some lingering black pepper on the end. Definitely refreshing though. This bottle sales roughly for $200-250.
Next up, we have the Gran Patron, Bordeos. When they described this tequila it sounded like it was going to be similar to a bourbon. They age it in a combination of American & French Oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months. Then it’s finished in Bordeaux barrels. So yeah, talk about some oak flavors happening. As soon as I tasted it I immediately thought of bourbon. It has that oaky vanilla flavor that is so common with bourbons. I really enjoyed this tequila more than the others, probably because it’s right in my wheel house. However, this bottle will set you back about $500-600 depending on where you get it.
The last tequila that we get to sample is the Piedra. This event is essentially the launch for this Piedra line. The word Piedra translates to “stone” in spanish. The reason for that is that this product is created solely using the ancient Tahona method that I mentioned above. There is no blending with with rolling mill tequila for this product. It is then aged in new oak barrels both French & American for more than 3 years. According to the Master Distiller Francisco Alcaraz “We created Gran Patrón Piedra to offer tequila aficionados a tasting experience unlike any other.” I truly enjoyed this tequila, it was incredibly smooth and it gave off a more herbaceous flavor to it compared to the Burdeos. It wasn’t as bourbon-like. It had more of tequila feel to it which is important considering that is what the final product is. This bottle is retailing around $350-400.
So yeah, that was our night. It was an incredible event to be a part of and I’m incredibly humbled and thankful that we were invited to attend. I got to learn a lot about tequila and an incredible company. I really enjoyed sampling these bottles because I’m not sure if I would ever be able to swing that much for a single bottle of tequila, but I can always dream. Hopefully you all enjoyed this and if you have any questions I’ll try and answer them below.