Javier López can usually be found hanging out at La Penita Restaurant on the main square in Arandas. Drop in for a cup of the best coffee in town, and see if hes there. If not, cross the square diagonally and youll find the brand new tasting room featuring his tequila, El Charro. El Charro tequila began production in 1996.
The distillery is six miles from town, down a bumpy and dusty road. Modern, new, and linked up to the computer age, El Charro tequila is produced by Arturo Fuentes. Arturo has 21 years of experience in the liquor business working for Martell Cognac, Ron Potasí, and Cuervo. Talented, experienced, and opinionated, Arturo represents the new, technical tequilero.
For example, El Charro uses a special machine to split the piñas and remove the
flavorless central core. The piñas are cooked in 20-ton hornos lined with stainless steel. The piñas steam for 20 hours, and then the aguamiel is pumped to the fermenters. The remaining piñas are cooked another 12 hours before they are milled and mixed with water. Of course, this second cooking is heresy to the traditional tequileros, but Arturo is so confident and knowledgeable that everyone is paying attention.
I continue to see parallels between the tequila industry and the California wine industry. In the 1970s, winemakers trained at the University of California, Davis, moved into the wine business with a vengeance. They brought all kinds of technical know-how, but very little experience. Traditional winemakers were dismayed at the inexperience of the newcomers and were slow to embrace new methodology. It took 10 to 15 years before
this new technology was tempered by traditional methods leading to higher quality wine.
The tequila business is experiencing that same conflict between tradition and technology. Mexicano culture and machismo do not lend themselves to shared information, but somehow Javier López and his tequilero Arturo Fuentes remain well liked by all of the old tequila families of Arandas. Perhaps they will forge that link between technology and tradition.
El Charro Reposado: Pale yellow color, with full intensity and pungent on attack. Complex agave with moderate to macho intensity. Earthy agave aromas dominate, with definite notes of white pepper and citrus. There is a bit of sweetness, but the mouth feel is thin. The first flavor to hit is caramel, closely followed by agave, pepper, and oak. The aftertaste is medium sweet and hot from alcohol. Smoke and oak dominate a short finish.