The other significant player is the renowned tequilero Melly Cárdenas, who fashions La Gritona at her small distillery in Valle de Guadalupe in the highlands of Jalisco. One of Mexico’s few female master distillers, the fiercely independent Cárdenas—who has 20 years of quality tequila production under her belt—shares Coronado’s love of the exceptional and unconventional, and leads a team staffed by only local women.
In a market dominated by major companies like Herradura, Patrón and Fortaleza, the duo set out to create a rocking, pared-down Reposado that would stand out by staying true to the region’s heritage. For a Reposado, La Gritona is light on colour and sweetness—Coronado and Cárdenas want none of the flavours that mask many commercial Reposados like vanilla, chocolate and dulce de leche. Instead this is packed with delicious, honest and savoury, roasted agave flavor, reminiscent of the old-style ‘rested’ tequila, before the mass market took hold: “It’s tequila like our grandparents drank,” says Cárdenas.
Working with 9- to 10-year-old, mature Blue Weber agave grown in the iron-rich red soil of the Jalisco highlands, every step of production after harvest takes place under Cárdenas’ own roof and with an attention to detail that the big boys, or those outsourcing distillation, cannot hope to replicate. The agave is steam-cooked in a single, thick-walled earthen oven for 24 hours and then allowed to rest for another 24 hours before crushing. The collected liquid is naturally fermented (no additives are used to push things along) in open steel vats at a rate dictated by the ambient air temperature and the wild yeasts, usually lasting between six to nine days. The double distillation takes place in small steel stills. Those bespoke bottles by the way are made from recycled Mexican glass, hand-blown just an hour’s drive from the distillery. Coronado uses any recycled clear glass he can find (mostly old Coke bottles) then chips in a few Dos Equis bottles for the green tint!
The distilled blanco is then rested in reused American whiskey barrels for eight months before bottling. These low-impact second- or third-fill barrels are given only the lightest char which allows for the refreshing, sappy notes of the agave to shine through, resulting in a tequila that sips and mixes perfectly in equal measure—it’s crisp, clean and elegant and kills it in a Tommy’s Margarita.
Regarding pricing, there’s no marketing budget and there are no brand ambassadors (which can add up to 40% to a tequila’s cost), so you only pay for the finest quality agave spirit. In truth, we would have shipped it if it was considerably more expensive but it turns out that sometimes you can have your tequila, and sip it too.