Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek

Mexico's Tequila Production Craft

  1. 1

    A jimador uses a coa to harvest the piña (heart) of blue agaves used to make tequila. There are not currently any industrial methods for agave harvesting, so jimadores and their traditional tools are vital to the tequila industry. Jimadores harvest hundreds of thousands of agaves each year, and they are also the first line of defense against potentially devastating insect infestations and fungal infections in the agave fields.
     
    Read the story

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek
  2. 2

    The dormant Tequila Volcano looms behind a field of young blue agaves on property belonging to the Orendains, one of the oldest and most prominent tequila-producing families.

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek
  3. 3

    In Guadalajara's old city, a bartender at Cantina La Fuente, one of the oldest drinking establishments in the tequila region, pours a shot of 100 percent agave tequila into a glass called a caballito ("little horse"). Traditionally, tequila is sipped neat, with salt and lime optional.

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek
  4. 4

    A mural in Tequila celebrates the prominent families associated with the tequila industry and Mayahuel, the goddess of the agave plant. As legend has it, Mayahuel was eaten by the stars, and the first agaves sprouted wherever her remains were distributed throughout the Aztec lands.

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek
  5. 5

    Guillermo Erickson Sauza is head of Tequila Fortaleza, one of the last distilleries to produce tequila using artisanal methods.

    Joe Ray
  6. 6

    Workers at the Tequila Fortaleza distillery rake agave fibers that have been crushed by a four-ton milling stone called a tahona.

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek
  7. 7

    José Guadalupe Robles Guzmán sells his harvested piñas, which can weigh upwards of 100 pounds, to Tequila Fortaleza. Blue agaves take between 8 and 10 years to reach maturity, making management of the crop more like forestry than farming.

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek
  8. 8

    As an Appellation of Origin product, like Colombian coffee or French cognac, all tequila must adhere to a set of strict regulations that govern farming, production, and export. Tequila samples are checked by scientists at the Tequila Regulatory Council's headquarters in Guadalajara to make sure every tequila producer's products meet the highest quality and safety standards.

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek
  9. 9

    Dr. José Ignacio del Real Laborde, technical director at Casa Sauza, inspects young blue agave plants, called hijuelos, at the company's nursery. Sauza's nursery raises the hijuelos until they are old enough for transplantation. There are roughly 500,000 plants in Sauza's nursery at any given time.

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek
  10. 10

    José Cuervo's main distillery, adorned with the brand's trademark crow, dominates the view of the town of Tequila, about 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara.

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek
  11. 11

    A farmworker rides past blue agave fields belonging to the Orendain family.

    Photograph by Elliott D. Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek