Clase Azul Reposado Tequila

As you can see, Clase Azul tequilas come in some of the most distinctive bottles out there, made in the mountainous Mexican town of Santa Maria Canchesda, population 1,750. There, the 180 or so employees, 80% of whom are women who grew up in poverty and with little, if any, formal schooling, decorate each bottle by hand.  The entire production process takes about two weeks. And the cap isn’t chrome-plated plastic.  Oh no.  It is metal, that drinkers will often strike to produce a little ring after the pour.  “You may have heard people talk about ‘ringing the bell’ on their Clase Azul bottle, which was actually discovered quite by accident” mentions Brand Experience Specialist Saskia Iha. “In order to use a more sustainable material, we redesigned the cap which happened to make a ringing sound when tapped just the right way. We now consider this sound the ‘unleashing’ of the magic inside the bottle.”  Okay.

In addition to wages, the company compensates the artisans with two meals a day, transportation, daycare, and school tuition. The work they’ve provided has revitalized the local economy.

In recent years, Clase Azul boutiques have opened to sell  pottery as well as lamps, mirrors, and other products made from its ceramic decanters, all to “share the historical, cultural, and luxurious aspects of Mexico with the world.”  In addition, Clase Azul launched Fundación con Causa Azul, a non-profit organization that protects and promotes Mexican folk art. The foundation collaborates with artisan communities throughout Mexico and works to preserve traditional craft techniques like pottery and basalt stone carving.

Arturo Lomeli, who grew up in Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco, got into the liquor-making business in 1997 when he was 24. He and a friend named Hugo Luna Vazquez created a pomegranate punch they branded La Pinta. The next year they came out with a tequila called El Teporocho. Both promptly failed.

At loose ends, Lomeli went back to school in 1999 to study marketing. While there, he decided that the issue hadn’t been with the quality of his tequila, but rather with how it had been packaged and marketed. Vazquez disagreed, so Lomeli bought him out of the company and continued on his own.

An employee paints one of the Clase Azul bottles in the factory in Santa Maria Canchesda.

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Camarena Tequila

Camerena TequilaWinter is behind us for yet another year, and even under quarantine, thoughts turn to relaxed evenings on the deck or patio, steaks or shrimp sizzling on the Weber, and something cool and refreshing in the glass. A crisp Chardonnay or ice-cold beer are nice, of course, but it’s hard to beat a well-made Margarita (no sweet-and-sour mix!) when the weather gets pleasant. And, of course, Cinco de Mayo is just a couple of days away as I write this.

A good Margarita is only as good as the tequila it’s made from, and the best tequila is 100-percent blue agave. Blue agave is a smooth-leafed succulent plant (a cactus-type plant with no needles). The unique blue cast of the plant’s leaves gave it its English name. Agave is native to the central Mexican state of Jalisco; it was there in 1761 that the Spanish-immigrant Camarena family co-founded the town of Arandas (approximately 280 miles east of Puerto Vallarta). In 1860 the Camarenas began cultivating blue agave for tequila, becoming one of Mexico’s top growers. Today, the family grows more than three million agave plants, some at an altitude of 7,700 feet, in the Los Altos Highlands, the world’s highest agave fields. Here, the mineral-rich volcanic soil, low rainfall, and temperate climate support plants of greater flavor maturity.

In 1938, the Camarenas began making their own tequila. The process starts when the seven- to ten-year old plants are hand-harvested by the field workers, the jimadores. The jimadores use sharp spades called coas to remove the spiky leaves from the agave. What remains is a trimmed central piña, often weighing more than 100 pounds.

The piñas are then slow-roasted for two days in ovens made of volcanic sandstone, to convert the agave’s fructose to fermentable sugar. Next, the cooked agaves are passed through a shredding mill to separate the juice from the pulp. A special wine yeast is added to the juice, or wort, to create a mildly alcoholic liquid called mosto. The mosto is then distilled using traditional, small pot stills.  Apparently, Camarena goes a step further.  According to their Web site, “we use a proprietary method which blends traditional ovens and modern techniques. This allows us to consistently produce one of the smoothest and best-tasting tequilas around.”  Indeed, both of Camarena’s tequilas are exceptionally smooth and appealing, and they are excellent values.  (There is also an Anejo, which I didn’t have a chance to try.)

E.&J. Gallo (yes, that Gallo) inked an exclusive deal to distribute Camarena in the U.S. in 2010, which is why the brand appeared nearly everywhere seemingly instantly.

To help get your summer started, here’s my personal Killer Margarita recipe: combine 4 oz. tequila, 2 oz. triple sec, and 3 oz. Rose’s lime juice with 1 cup crushed ice. Stir or shake until ice is nearly melted. Pour into salted-rim (I like to use a mix of 3-parts kosher salt to 1-part tajin seasoning) glasses half filled with ice cubes. Garnish with a fresh lime slice.

Camarena 100% Agave Silver

Camarena 100% Blue Agave Silver Tequila rests for several months after distillation to integrate flavors before it is bottled at 40% alcohol. This unaged tequila is completely clear, and exhibits hints of sweet vanilla and black pepper. Substitute it for vodka in a Bloody Maria.

Camarena 100% Agave Reposado

Camarena 100% Blue Agave Reposado Tequila is aged for two months in American oak barrels. The wood aging imparts a golden color, and brings out additional roundness to the flavor, as well as the natural agave sweetness. Substitute it for bourbon in a Mexican Manhattan.

https://www.tequilacamarena.com/