The Baston del Rey Process

We humbly believe that Baston del Rey is the best tequila you’ll ever have. No one else cooks their piñas the way that we do, which is why our tequilas have such a special flavor. Our process is entirely focused on purity, care, tradition, and the kind of passion that comes from having three generations of tequila in your bloodline.

Read on to learn how we make our tequila — the right way.

Step One: the Agave

The agave fields of Jalisco, Mexico are a national treasure, and blue spikes of this enormous succulent cover the terrain of Jalisco, Nayarit, Colima, and Aguascalientes. At Baston del Rey, we wait until the natural sweetness inside the Agave piña is perfect, and we inspect and hand-select the harvest that goes into our tequilas. This process takes about seven to eight years. Most tequila makers harvest their agave after only five years in order to save money, but their piñas lack the natural sweetness of more mature plants and they need to add flavorings, refined sugar, or chemicals to make their tequilas more drinkable. Although it costs more, we prefer to wait until the blue agave is perfect.

Step Two: the Pit

Our ingredients set us apart from the average or low-grade tequilas, but our cooking process is what separates us from the rest. At our flagship distillery, we make tequila the way our predecessors have for hundreds of years. We dig enormous pits in the earth, line them with lava rock, and hand-select certain types of wood to impart flavor to the piñas as they cook. After lighting a fire at the bottom of the pit and waiting until it is just right, we add another layer of lava rocks and start roasting the piñas. Then we add banana leaves on top of the piñas and cover everything with a special mixture of earth and grasses. The piñas cook like this for three days, allowing their carbohydrates and starches to become fermentable sugars. Most distillers will cook their piñas in an enormous stainless steel vat to steam them over high heat. But just as when you overcook fresh vegetables at home by steaming them, the piñas lose some of their flavor and natural sweetness. Those distillers then have to use flavoring, chemicals, and sugar to make up for the loss of flavor. At Baston del Rey, we let the agave sugars slowly caramelize to intensify their flavor and bring out their natural sweetness.

Step Three: the Tahona

After the piñas have cooked, we remove them from the roasting pit and load them into a tahona — a large stone wheel that spins on an axis at the center of a stone trough. At our flagship distillery, we still use a mule to draw the Tahona or move it by hand, like our predecessors over the past 100 years. The wheel grinds these soft piñas into a pulp (also called a “wort”) and, though they enter the pit with the texture of wood, they come out like a wet sponge, dripping with nectar. Once we’ve drawn out the juices, we recycle the fibers of the piñas. These fibers are tough and can serve in building roads and embankments, reducing the cost and use of man-made materials that contribute to global warming.

Step Four: Fermentation

We collect the agave juices and allow them to naturally ferment for six to eight days in a carefully monitored environment. The natural agave sugars are self-fermenting, so no yeast or other ingredients are necessary to start the fermentation process or speed it up.

Step Five: Distillation

When the fermentation process is at just the right point, we carefully distill the agave juices. Baston del Rey uses stills made of stainless steel to remove the methanol and other unwanted elements of the alcohol. After the first distillation, there are still some impurities and other unwanted ingredients that can affect taste and healthfulness. Therefore, we distill all of our products twice to bring you the purest and most satisfying tequila.

Some products from the distillation process are dangerous for human consumption (called the “head” and the “tail”). Although some companies have asked us to sell these products, we destroy them to make sure that no one consumes them. Fun fact: We use the less dangerous part of the tail to start the fires in the pits, making the process a kind of cradle-to-cradle production! This avoids imparting a “non-agave” flavor to the wood when we start the fires.

After we distill the tequila a second time, it’s ready to go into the barrels.

Step Six: Barreling

This is a crucial part of the process because different kinds of barrels impart different flavors to the tequila, allowing us to create different types. As the temperature rises throughout the day, it draws tequila into the wood, where it absorbs some of the flavors of the barrel. When temperatures drop again at night, the tequila leaves the wood and mixes with the rest of the barrel’s contents. Thus, the more time spent in the barrel, the more the tequila takes on its flavor characteristics.

We don’t put our Silver tequila into a barrel, and you can tell from the taste that it comes straight from the still. The Reposado ages for six to 12 months in barrels made with Canadian Oak, a hard wood that “breathes” very little and imparts less flavor while making the tequila more smooth. As a result, our Reposado is easy to drink while retaining a very agave-forward taste. The Silver and Reposado tequilas are great on their own, but are perfect for mixed drinks and cocktails. They will make the best margaritas you’ve ever tasted.

Our Añejo ages for 18 to 24 months in American Oak barrels, which are also used for bourbon or whiskey. It is incredibly smooth, with notes of vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch that come from the barrel.

Finally, our Extra Añejo goes into a French Oak barrel for three to three-and-a-half years. French Oak is the most breathable of the three woods and imparts the deepest color and most complex flavor, like a cognac. Baston del Rey Añejo and Extra Añejo are incredibly smooth and full of flavors that linger on the palate. Don’t waste them in margaritas — sip and savor them on their own.