‘La Gritona’ is Spanish for ‘The Screamer’. It’s an appropriate name seeing that one of the people behind this outstanding tequila is LA-based punk guitarist Andy Coronado. The other significant player is the renowned tequilero Melly Barajas Cárdenas, one of the few female master distillers crafting her own Tequila at her own distillery, Vinos y Licores Azteca nestled in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico.
Working in a man's world, dominated by big international players, Ms. Barajas Cárdenas knew she had to establish something different. With 20 years of quality tequila production under her belt, she shares Coronado’s love of the exceptional and unconventional, and leads a team staffed by only local women. She set out to make a product that would stand out by staying true to the region’s heritage and create a tequila like her grandparents drank it.
The striking bottle and its swing-top bottle is an attention grabber but it’s the contents inside that really wins tequila lovers over.
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. Working with nini- to ten-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 process starts with mature highland agave that slow roast in traditional clay and brick ovens. After crushing, the agave is naturally fermented and double distilled on copper pots. It's then aged for 8 months in second and third use American whisky barrels (Jack Daniels and Balcones) before being bottled without any additives whatsoever. It's a simple recipe that many modern tequila producers fail to create, and the result is delicious tequila that tastes of agave.
Instead of industrial machines, the distillery uses masonry ovens that are made from the soil where the blue agave is planted. This extends the cooking process from eight hours to 24 (with another 24 hours of resting). Normally, the next step, fermentation, is pushed along with additives and lasts one to two days, but Ms. Barajas Cárdenas allows the fermentation to occur naturally in open steel vats at a rate dictated by the ambient air temperature and the wild yeasts, usually lasting between six to nine days.
One notable feature that captures attention is that all of the packaging components are made in Mexico. The bespoke bottles are made from recycled Mexican glass,, that are 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 beer bottles for the green tint!
La Gritona is a subtle and distinctive 100% blue agave tequila and has gained notoriety as a Bartender’s Secret and a preferred after-shift drink. Some call it a “session tequila”. Very Vegetal, without the sweetness, oakiness, or vanilla that is often associated with a highland reposado. There is few with a rounder finish in the tequila world.