Tequila Cascahuin
Tequila Cascahuin
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John P
Guadalajara, Mexico338 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2017 • Friends
Many years ago we used to take all our visitors from abroad to José Cuervo in Tequila so they could learn first hand all about the process of making Mexico’s most famous alcoholic drink. In the 1980’s, Tequila was truly a sleepy town and touring Cuervo meant wandering about the distillery with a delightful old retired employee who regaled us with tales of bygone times as we and our guests gingerly hopped over puddles and ducked under ladders, the workers eying us with as much curiosity as we felt watching them.

Those days are long gone. Cuervo’s tour is now prettily packaged for the masses of tourists who, every day, are bussed into the town of Tequila by the hundreds.

There are, however, alternatives. The Ruta del Tequila is dotted with hundreds of enterprises and the trick is to find those with just the right characteristics and size. A perfect example is the Cascahuín distillery in El Arenal, one of the most important tequila-producing towns, but quiet and unassuming and conveniently close to Guadalajara, at a distance of only 26 kilometers from the Periférico. The word Cascahuín, by the way, means “Hill of Light,” referring to an agave-covered cerro not far from the distillery.

Owned by a family with 113 years of experience in tequila-making, Cascahuín employs traditional techniques which some of the bigger producers are abandoning. On arrival at their site, I was met by the distillery’s Brand Manager, Tetsu Shady, from Japan. I was, of course, amazed to find a Japanese working (and living) in El Arenal and asked him what had brought him to this Mexican pueblito.

“I’m a mixologist by profession,” said our smiling host, “and I worked at this specialty for fourteen years in Tokyo. During this time I became interested in tequila and visited Jalisco in 2009. Then I came back again in 2014 to learn even more about it.

Here Shady (which is an anglicization of his surname) became friends with “Chava” Rosales, grandson of Cascahuín founder Don Salvador Rosales Briseño. After carrying out studies at the distillery, Shady was invited to join the staff and now takes care of advertising and promotion and also adding “a bit of a Japanese touch” to procedures at Cascahuín.

When asked what it was like to settle down in El Arenal, Shady replied, “Mexico is totally different from Japan. My biggest problem,” he added jokingly, “has been trying to find fresh fish in El Arenal.”

Tetsu Shady and Chava Rosales then took a friend and me on a tour of the distillery.

Inevitably, I discover something new every time I watch the tequila production process. This time I learned that there are male and female agaves and when the piña is chopped in half, a central core (cogollo) must be removed from the macho piñas because it produces methanol and a bitter taste. The piñas now go into the brick ovens where they are cooked for eight hours per day over three days and then left to “rest” for a day. I hadn’t realized that it’s in the brick ovens where most of the sweet juices drain out of the piñas and are collected. Afterwards, the cooked agaves are chopped, squeezed and rinsed with well water to remove every last drop of their sugary juice.

This traditional process is being followed at Cascahuín, but many other distilleries now take shortcuts that allow them to produce high volume, sacrificing quality, of course. While some use autoclaves (giant pressure cookers), others don’t even bother to cook the agave anymore. They simply mix chopped-up raw agave fibers with sugar and water and ferment the result, a process I would liken to stirring powdered milk into water and calling the result real milk.

Although they no longer use it, Cascahuín preserves an ancient pit oven in which agaves were cooked by covering them with dirt and building a huge woodfire on top of the heap. Next to it is a stone-paved circle where juices were extracted from the cooked fibers by pounding. Researchers have found remote communities in Colima who, even today, use these primitive systems for making mezcal. So, count yourself lucky because at Cascahuín you can see tequila being made the good old way until it drips out of a faucet, crystal clear and 70 percent alcohol. This is reduced to 38 percent once it’s in the bottle, ready to drink. “An exception is our Plata (silver) version of Tequila Cascahuín,” mentioned Chava Rosales, “which is 48 percent alcohol.” They also have reposado and añejo versions, both of which, by the way, are aged in barrels which previously contained Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

If you want to visit Tequila Cascahuín, the easiest way to do it is on a Tequila Tour by Mickey Marentes (Tequilatourbymm.com). Marentes’ tours are very personalized and the groups never have more than 12 participants. If you call them several days in advance, you could ask them to arrange for Tetsu Shady to mix up one of his special cocktails for your group, using natural ingredients like mangoes, strawberries or coconuts, depending on which fruits are in season at the time. Tours can be arranged Monday to Saturday. By the way, if you tour Cascahuín, you are showing support for one of the very few tequilerías concerned about the endangered bats which pollinate the tequila agave.

How to get there.
Take Avenida Vallarta west to the Periférico. Continue west on highway 15 for 28 kilometers, which brings you into the town of El Arenal. Along the way, do not get onto toll road (cuota) 15 or highway 70 to Ameca. Upon entering El Arenal, look for Las Cazuelas restaurant on your left. Make a left turn here onto Calle Avelino Ruiz. Drive 316 meters. As soon as you cross the railroad track, turn left onto Calle Ferrocarril where you will find the entrance to “Tequila Cascahuín” which is thus named in Google Maps. Driving time from the Periférico: about 30 minutes.
Written July 2, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

D O
Santa Rosa Beach, FL24 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2018 • Couples
We were brought here on a private tour. We were able to view the entire operation from watching the pinas being chopped and put in the ovens to tasting the cooked agave (which is like candy) to seeing each and every step of the process, we even were able to taste the newest batch right from the still. This isn't a large facility. Despite its size, they produce 4 expressions under the label Cascahuin, and 4 expressions (which you can get at the duty free shops, but not the distillery) under the Revolution label. All of their tequila is produced using the traditional method and using copper stills. This is a must stop for any tequila aficionados that visit Tequila. We will be back again.

Thank you
Written April 28, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

David J
Dallas, TX14 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2018
Great visit with Chava and Tetsu tasting all the expressions and then some. A brand we cannot get in US, so happy to fill our suitcase with treasures from Tequila Cascahuin! Wonderful people, great history and superb tequila!
Written February 25, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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