Los Osuna 100% Blue Agave
Joining our friends Jeff and Breezy on S/V “Starfire”, we drove to the Los Osuna factory for our day’s rental car outing. Sequestered in the quiet countryside near the dusty, seemingly deserted town of La Noria, this lovely rancho is surrounded by field after field of blue agave plants. Los Osuna, a 130 year-old family business, is a Mazatlan sightseer institution with our hotel heavily advertising tours. Despite its high-profile, this small, quaint hacienda did not feel tourist-trappy. Only a few cars dotted the parking lot, so we nearly had the place to ourselves. After our personal tour (make sure to tip your host), the open-air tasting pavilion was a serene spot for sampling.
Tequila vs. 100% Blue Agave
Tequila is ONLY made in Mexico and it is BIG business as evidenced by entire walls devoted solely to tequila sales in every grocery store. Our guide tells us over 1000 tequila brands are produced in Mexico. And they are highly competitive. The relatively recent “Tequila Wars” involved some violent and dirty tactics, punctuated by hi-jackings of truckloads of the precious agave piñas. These days, distilleries may legally only call it “tequila” if it is created in specific states (similar to champagne)… namely parts of Guadalajara, Nayarit and Jalisco, just outside Puerto Vallarta where the Tequila Trail is found.
Sinaloa is NOT one of those states. So Los Osuna’s mescal legally must be noted as “100% blue agave” or “100% agave azul”. It is made by fermenting and distilling the inner core (piña) of the blue agave plant after it has reached maturity, a whopping 7-10 years. The most interesting fact is they supposedly blast classical music during fermentation to agitate the yeast particles naturally, rather than using additives. So… when you are sipping those spirits, know your beverage is well-bred.
Blanco, Resposado y Añejo
We sampled two types of 100% blue agave: the mid-level version “resposado”, aged in oak barrels up to 12 months and the “añejo” meaning “aged”, specifically 3 years. We didn’t bother with the non-aged “Blanco”, assuming a harsher flavor. A vanilla flavored liquor was our third taste and by far the best. At a whopping 40% alcohol content, this was smooth stuff, award-winning actually… not your average collegiate frat party rot gut.
Our second tasting excursion was to the Onilikan factory, situated amongst the tourist-trap hubub of the Golden Zone in Mazatlan. Open for 5 years, Onilikan is a relative newcomer to the scene, but they present a unique idea. While they do produce 100% blue agave, their specialty is 100% MANGO.
Yup, that’s right…the only distillery in the world to make mango “tequila” (they are very careful to not even mention that word, it’s a mango spirit or “aguardiente”). Not just mango “flavored”, this entire spirit is brewed using only the sugars from mango pulp. And wow, it is good! They are experimenting with other flavored liquors too: coffee, juniper berry, key lime, even hibiscus. Our favorite was their new Mexican Triple Sec with hints of orange… so good we came dangerously close to buying a $60 bottle!
This purchase would be a no-brainer IF we were still working. But now it’s a bit too steep for our cruising budget on something so fluffy and non-essential. Wait…alcohol = non-essential? I know, isn’t that a contradiction? Bottom line is I’m trying to get RID of things on the boat, not accumulate…
Although tequila is not my cup of tea, I can now appreciate the transformation that comes with age and extended time swishing around in an oak barrel. It really does make a difference. I could say the same about cruising life. As we get older, coupled with the experiences that arise from floating around in a fiberglass and teak barrel, our edges have smoothed out. We’ve become less harsh, less bitter, more cultured. How about refined and sophisticated? Please. I mean we live in a boat for gosh sakes. Sometimes I make Brian share one plate for sandwiches or snacks just so I don’t have to wash a second dish, using up precious water. Would anyone you know call THAT refined?