The second day of my journey through the land of tequila took me to the red fields of Los Altos in Jalisco. Arandas is about a two-hour drive from Guadalajara and is home to some of the newest and most innovative brands of tequila.
Traveling to the area, the cultivated lands slowly progress from brown tones to the crimson hues of the fields that mark the final destination and the haze of higher altitude also becomes progressively apparent. Abandoned haciendas stand behind iron gates with overgrown trees and shrubs like lost vestiges in time next to rundown shacks with clothes blowing in the breeze on lines and even in trees that house many of the small farm families. Chickens run around the yards and rabbits inhabit the rooftops, safe from any predators that may be about. Every once in a while a well-kept house stands out from the mountainous landscape, most likely the homes of well-to-do businessmen or distillery owners. The idea of middle class does not exist in this environment.
It’s said that the tequila produced in the Los Altos region is sweeter than that produced around the town of Tequila because of the red soil, cooler temperatures and higher humidity. That point is evident when tasting two equal tequilas from the two different regions; I also found a fruity, spicy undertone in many of the tequilas of Los Altos.
The first distillery of the day was Cazadores, the makers of both Cazadores and Corzo tequilas. A stunning, open view of the countryside holds the beautiful, contemporary buildings of this distillery. Visitors are greeted with open arms into the glass paned center that houses the distillery’s bar and showroom. Through one of the transparent walls is a clear view of workers putting the finishing touches on each bottle before it is packed for shipping. The entire distillery is modern with a homey, calming feel that is pleasant to wander around in.
Under a large canopy stand two rows of stainless steel ovens, large enough for a grown man to stand inside upright with 4 feet of headroom, where tons of piñas are baked each day, their first stop on their way to becoming their destined spirit, tequila. From the ovens, conveyer belts transport the cooked agave along their journey where their sweet juices are extracted.
One of the most fascinating insights here is the tradition of playing classical music for the yeast that grows in the fermenting tanks. Wall-mounted speakers output soothing melodies throughout the building and while it is a pleasant surprise, it is rather unsettling at the volume chosen when walking along the open grate levels near open holding tanks. This is not the place to loose your train of thought or become lost in a symphony of sounds. It does, however, make sense that happy yeast is good yeast and the end product is a reflection of the care and effort the tequileros put forth.
A tunnel that travels underneath the new highway leads to the distillation buildings across the road. On the underground journey pipes lead the way like a superhighway for all of the ingredients that play a crucial role in the distilling process. Loud pops and bangs of gases follow, hauntingly remind me of the narrow enclosure I’m in and although I’ve been ensured it’s only natural, it is very unsettling.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary trip for the purpose of reviewing the industry. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.