A fine tequila can be life-changing. I’ve seen the right bottle convince tequila haters. And I even know someone who swears that he never gets hungover if all he drinks is good quality tequila.
But what makes a great tequila? Many things, as with any spirit. But one secret that’s older than tequila itself may surprise you. Some of the best tequilas in the world are made by crushing the piña, or heart, of the cooked blue agave plant using a giant, two-ton stone wheel called a tahona. It doesn’t just look badass—it makes a badass tequila.
“Even before the word tequila was registered, most of the mezcals were made by the tahona method,” says Antonio Rodriguez, the director of production at Patrón. The process involves crushing the steamed or roasted piñas to collect the agave juice, which is then fermented in large wooden or stainless steel vats, and finally distilled.