Tequila: Mexican history, distilled

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The blue agave fields in Tequila that produce the eponymous beverage.
The blue agave fields in Tequila that produce the eponymous beverage.

Tucked in the hills of Jalisco, just outside of Guadalajara, is the town that gave its name to what is arguably Mexico's most famous beverage: Tequila.

Zipping along the highway outside of the state capital, the terrain gives way to rolling red and rugged hills blanketed with thousands of blue agave plants that stretch for miles as you approach the tiny colonial pueblo of Tequila, one of Mexico's Magical Towns, so designated by the country's Secretariat of Tourism for their cultural and historical relevance. A visit to this place is a wonderful way to gain a deeper understanding of Mexico's rich, and potent, culture.

This region of Mexico, including Jalisco, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacan and Tamaulipas, is responsible for producing all of the tequila in the world, around 60 million gallons per year. But no doubt the heart and soul of the region is Tequila.

The best way to experience this town is to discover Mundo Cuervo, the empire built by the Jose Cuervo tequila company. One of the most beloved experiences in Tequila, the Jose Cuervo Express, enables travelers to get in touch with the landscape while riding the rails.

The train departs from Guadalajara station and includes a professional tasting guided by a master of tequila, followed by a tour of the Jose Cuervo La Rojena distillery upon arrival in Tequila. Guests are then given about two hours of free time to explore Tequila, from its 18th century church to its cobblestone streets and picturesque central square. Following a traditional performance, guests board a private bus and are taken back to the Guadalajara train station.

But if guests prefer to see the sights on their own time, it is possible to DIY Tequila. La Rojena Distillery, where Jose Cuervo is produced from plant to bottle, offers hourlong guided tours of the process, including a tour of the Reserva de la Familia cellar with tastings from the barrel. Or take it a step further and hop on a private tour to visit the fields, where visitors get an up-close-and-personal look at the tequila-making process in the fields, as well as a tour of the factory.

And for those who feel a day in Tequila is not enough, consider a stay at Solar de las Animas, a Relais & Chateaux hotel right in the heart of downtown. The luxury boutique hotel, also part of Mundo Cuervo, is decorated in traditional Mexican hacienda style with a modern flair, complete with interior courtyards and a sexy rooftop scene that includes a pool and bar.

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