There’s nothing like 3 tequila shots at 11 am to wake a person up! But it’s even better when it’s fresh artisan tequila and accompanied with a personalized tour of an agave farm and the tequila distillery. Being interested in local beer and spirits when we travel, we really wanted to check out a tequila distillery during our recent visit to the Yucatan region of Mexico. We looked online in advance but had no luck finding a tequila distillery in the area. So imagine our excitement when we pulled off the highway in our rental car from Cancun to enter the colonial town of Valladolid and out of the corner of our eye, we saw a large billboard that said “Tequila Distillery.” We immediately turned the car around and headed in that direction, and arrived at the beautiful Mayapan Tequila Distillery.
Mayapan Tequila Distillery Tour: How to Make Agave Tequila
Anyone who has gone on a trip to Mexico knows that tequila is an important part of the local culture. The Mayapan Tequila Distillery uses traditional methods dating back more than 400 years. Immediately when you pull into the parking lot you can see the beautiful agave fields, this is the plant from which tequila is made.
We were looking forward to learning all about how to make tequila because only vaguely knew the process and materials involved. Veronica was our guide, a soft-spoken native Mayan dressed in a traditional terno (3 piece dress embroidered with flowers). Her English was minimal, but that in combination with my limited Spanish enabled us to communicate during the tour. Actually we were the only two people on her tour, which made for a nice personalized experience.
Our first stop was to look out at the agave fields. Agave is a very distinct plant that is also used for decorative landscaping in some areas. The agave plant can withstand very high temperatures as well as drought. So it requires low maintenance. Veronica told us that the agave plants grow from around 7-8 years, or until the pina (the core of the plant) is roughly 47 kilos in weight. At that time, they are ready to harvest. After they harvest them, the pinas are cut up into 4 smaller pieces and then roasted over fire in a giant oven for 4 days.
Once the pina is finished roasting, they transfer them to an old fashioned grinding platform where a mule pulls a giant wheel-stone around in circles grinding down the fiber. To us, this was the iconic image of the trip. Once the material is grinded down, they move the fiber into a large barrel and add water. They let this sit and ferment for another 4 days.
Once the fermentation has completed, they drain the liquid out and use the left over fiber as compost back in the field. The liquid is then put through two separate distillations, before finally being put into the final barrel to age for another 3 years.
Complimentary Tequila Tasting
After finishing the tour, they brought us over to a bar area where we could sample a variety of tequilas that they make at the Mayapan distillery. From dark tequila to light tequila, smoky flavors to crisp flavors, there was quite a variety to sample. However, all of them tasted very good. For some added fun, the workers gave us a couple sombreros to wear and were kind enough to take some fun photos.
Bring Some Mexico Tequila Home With You
After the tour and tasting, you can browse the shop for all kinds of local products, including their bottles of Mayapan Tequila. Be sure to double check the guidelines for bringing liquor with you back to your country, and keep it sealed if you want to bring it home. We actually purchased a couple bottles and packed them nicely into our luggage so they wouldn’t break. Luckily they made it home safely!
Hours of Operation: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Directions: Off highway 180 D (toll road) between Cancun and Chichen Itza, take the Valladolid exit at highway 295. Go south toward the town of Valladolid, then at the first major intersection (a junction with highway 180) turn right onto 180. The Distillery should be on your right (across from the Valladolid Zoo).