Agaves for Distilled Spirits

Historically in Mexico Tequila was traditionally made from as many as 11 or more different Agaves, not just one as it is now.   The Blue Agave, Agave angustifolia ssp. Tequilana weber azul, is since 1993, the only legally permitted Agave to be used in the production of Tequila.  Restricting Tequila production to this one clone, albeit an excellent one, has created an extreme monoculture with much reduced genetic diversity and attendant problems like less adaptability to different soils, altitudes, minimum temperatures, total heat and total rainfall, making the plantings more stressed, less vigorous, and more susceptible to pests and diseases which are then difficult to stop or control. 

 


Diversity

Mescal and other regional distilled Agave spirits in Mexico, like Raicilla and Bacanora are made from other Agave species, sometimes more than one, often collected from the wild.  For me, the lesson is that a distinctive world class distilled Agave spirit can be made from a variety of Agave species, not just one.  This is very important because here in California where we can grow whatever Agave variety we want but cannot call our distilled product either Tequila or Mescal because those names are protected by international law,  we can still grow Agaves to produce a world-class spirit with an adaptive mix of species suitable to the individual property where the plants will grow.  We can analyze a site’s ecological parameters and select a combination of Agaves that are adapted for that site’s soils and climate regime.

Why a combination?  To create diversity.  To create balance.  To create levels of adaptability and resistance.  And yes!  We do have and will incorporate Agave tequilana, Blue Agave, into the mix where minimum temperatures and water availability permit.  In years of low rainfall irrigation will be necessary for that clone but in normal rainfall years a few summer irrigations will support plant development and a normal maturity cycle.


Our Agave Collection

We grow twelve specific agave species including the Blue Agave.  These Agaves have economical value as a crop and were selected because of their historical use in making fermented and distilled products or their culinary uses in indigenous cultures.  The Agaves we grow are low in sapogenins, a compound that is not desirable for consumption found in some Agave species.  Each Agave has a unique growth habit and adaptability to climate and exposure.  Our Agaves are grown with organic practices.

Agaves are an appropriate crop for areas of wildfire or where erosion or slope stabilization is an issue.  Agaves are low fuel, succulent plants and their root system and minimal water requirement make them a well known erosion control plant choice.  Our Agave varieties are adaptable to many soil types, including difficult soils which cause problems for many other crops.  Properly designed plantings of Agaves are effective against erosion and slope failure.  To learn about other uses and products derived from Agaves please see Crop Products