Everyone who has been to Arandas in the highlands of Jalisco knows that waking up early the following day will be a mission. Opposed to Tequila, Arandas is a bigger and much more vibrant city. While in Tequila the days go on, there is almost always something happening in Arandas, whether it is on the main plaza or in the many bars around town. Weekends are best spent getting up on the horse get some great food and then of to the night club for some serious banda action. Banda as far as I understood is the club version of mariachi music, at least that was the feeling I got. I walked in to the club not knowing what to expect, an hour later with a bottle of Viva Mexico Tequila in one hand and a Squirt in the other I was ready to hit the dance floor. Well, at least I thought so. On stage was a 15-20 man band giving it all they had, and the people on the dance floor the same. Everyone danced in couples, but nothing a little Tequila couldn’t fix. Before I knew it, me and my friend got handed instruments and we really thought we played along for a while. With no musical skills what so ever, I guess this was wishful thinking, but a lot of fun. At least the people around us seemed very entertained. I left the place like the true cowboy I am, on the back of a horse with my head held high, until I got woken up on the back of a truck just outside the hotel(?!). Guess I might not be that much of a cowboy after all.
My eyes opened roughly five minutes after I did the following morning, with heavy steps I made it to the breakfast table. After a big plate huevos rancheros, orange juice and some water I was just about ready to go, again. I was off to Atotonilco to visit Fernando Gonzales who is the managing director of 7 Leguas Tequila. I had read on beforehand that a taxi would be the best option, and especially ask the driver to take the “old way” where the scenery would be amazing. That never happened. Fernando insisted on sending a driver to pick us up, and right on time a huge truck rolled up, Senior Carlo?
The drive to get from Arandas to Atotonilco could not have been more comfortable, I felt like the king of Tequila country. There was agave everywhere I looked, huge hillsides covered with this majestic blue variety. And as we drove higher up in the mountains we could see the most beautiful little town in a valley far down on our left hand side, Atotonilco. 7 Leguas is located right in the beginning of the city as you come down the mountain. We got out of the car and got greeted by Bertha, a very friendly little Mexican lady who after a warm welcome led us in to the premisses and found Fernando for us. Fernando was not at all as I expected, well, I did not know what to expect, so maybe he was. Very friendly man with a big black mustache. He took us pretty much straight to the tasting room after he explained that the best way to get to know one another is to fuel up on a bit of Tequila. Fernando very proudly gave a long enough masterclass about the history of 7 Leguas. Tequila was drunk and we started walking around the distillery, unfortunately when I was there it was the time of year when the production stands still and everything gets a proper deep-clean, so the tour was fairly short, but we got to see all the new additions that was being built at the time, show room and bar etc.
It was 1952 when the late Don Ignacio Gonzalez Vargas, the original founder, started making his extraordinary Tequila 7 Leguas. Carrying on the tradition are his widow, the matriarch Sra. Amparo de Anda and their 7 children, who have continued producing Tequila 7 Leguas. 7 Leguas is made using a proprietary formula, a combination of the agave “juices” from the family’s two distilleries, El Centenario est. 1942, and La Vencedora est. 1956. Each distillery has its own process, roller mill (Molino) and the traditional Millstone (Tahona), which to this day is pulled during different shifts by one of 7 mules. The mixture of the two exceptional juices, together with the time-honored process for crushing, cooking and fermenting, produces a very smooth, sweet taste inherent in the quality of the agave cultivated by the family.
After a very eventful and informative morning we all got hungry and Fernando suggested a good restaurant down the road, but I had a appointment later that day so there was only one thing to do, cancel my appointment and enjoy the great company I was in. This later proved to be a excellent choice. Walking in to the restaurant we got greeted and introduced to everyone there. We were seated in the little garden attached to the restaurant and got to enjoy a long dinner full of never tried before Mexican food and great Tequila. I think it was at this point it hit me, I got a real taste of what mexican pride was, a simple visit to the distillery was not enough for Fernando, he really wanted us to enjoy the best his city had to offer, and it did not stop there. Since me and my two friends were bartenders he made sure we stopped by a friend of his who was building a bar at the time to share a cold one and throw some ideas around. Atotonilco (and the highlands) are very different to the rest I have seen of Mexico, it does not feel as dusty, it has a very fresh feel, a little bit more colorful I guess.
We walked back towards the distillery for what we thought was a last good-bye and then back to Arandas and the hotel, but Fernando had different plans. We jumped in the car and took off to his family’s range, 15 minute drive or so. We stopped by the road side and opened a gate leading onto a private road that led up to the range. Fernando started telling stories about the house, it was haunted, and that was why no one lived there any more, the house was used for shorter visits, and in a way as a very fancy stable for the 30 something horses. If I remember correctly there were five of the horses that competed on a high level and I got to meet them all. On the way back we visited the bottling plant and head office, needless to say, we really got the whole package. Sitting in the car on the way back to the hotel I was more that satisfied. It is truly amazing that Fernando takes the whole day off to hang out with a bunch of gringos. I was almost in chock. I got shown hospitality to a whole new level, something i have never experienced before. Fernando is a man with an answer to all of my questions, much of which I unfortunately may not speak, and I will therefore shut my mouth. Fernando, thank you so much for everything and I hope to see you soon!
Viva la ranchero vida!