Despite the fact that the U.S. is the number-one consumer of tequila in the world, spirits made from the agave plant aren’t often produced locally. Similar to designations like Champagne and Bordeaux, tequila can only be called tequila if it’s made in a specific region of Mexico; now, local distillers are finally making their own agave spirits both here and south of the border.
Mi Rancho Tequila
Michael J. Dean-Trago spent more than 10 years researching and developing Mi Rancho Tequila, which is distilled and bottled in Jalisco, Mexico, before launching in October 2016. Dean-Trago was born in Mexico but grew up in Kansas, and he wanted a product that straddled both sides of his heritage and was still a tequila. “The true artists are the chemists; they’re chemical engineers,” he says, pointing to his own chemist, Hector Davalos Abbad, who has worked in the tequila industry for 47 years. “The tequila we have has a taste that's very clean and pure, with strong agave flavors,” Dean-Trago says. He prefers the silver tequila – Mi Rancho also makes añejo (aged) and reposado (rested) – in a classic Paloma. “That’s the cocktail of tequila people in the industry,” he says. “The Paloma is truly a Mexican drink. It’s refreshing and not heavy or hard.”
Mi Rancho Tequila, miranchotequila.com
Mean Mule Distilling Co.
Almost 40 percent of cocktail sales in the U.S. are tequila- or agave-based, yet there are only a handful of agave distilleries in the country – most are based in Mexico. “It’s crazy to me that no one [here] has jumped on that market,” says Jeff Evans, head distiller at Mean Mule Distilling Co. in Kansas City. “We really have a love for most products that come out of Mexico – tequilas, mezcals – so we wanted to take a stab at doing it ourselves.” Mean Mule’s Silver Agave American Spirit is distilled from 100-percent blue agave; Evans removes the spirit’s heads and tails during distillation, which leaves a clean and smooth product. “We allow our yeast to esterify, so you get a lot of pineapple and citrus just from the spirit itself,” he says. “Because we’ve isolated a very clean product, what you get are some beautiful flavors.”
Mean Mule Distilling Co., meanmuledistilling.co
Spirts of St. Louis
At Spirits of St. Louis, the distilling arm of Square One Brewery & Distillery in St. Louis’ Lafayette Square, owner Steve Neukomm didn’t know how complicated making an agave spirit would be. It was one of the first products he put out 10 years ago, and there wasn’t much information out there for new distillers. His agave nectar distributor relayed questions and problems to a distiller in Mexico, who helped the team through the process. Eventually, Spirits of St. Louis had a crystal – clear – agave and a reposado, aged for at least six weeks; currently, only the reposado is in production and is available at the tasting room. “In ours, you can taste more of the agave nectar,” Neukomm says. “A lot of the agave products coming into the U.S. are blended. You’re going to find [ours] has a more full body and is a more full-flavored tequila.”
Spirits of St. Louis, 1727 Park Ave., St. Louis, Missouri, spiritsofstlouisdistillery.com