Pepe Hermosillo has a saying: “Do things the right way or not all.” As Casa Noble’s Founder and Maestro Tequilero, that saying is honored through every step of the tequila-making process. “There are a few different ways distillers are cooking their agave nowadays – many looking to cut corners to save money and create higher yields,” says Hermosillo.
Hermosillo is dedicated to evolving Casa Noble as a reputable, high-end spirit that goes beyond industry standards to celebrate the unique flavor of blue agave. He also doesn’t really care how long this process takes. He’s shown ridiculous levels of patience in making his small-batch tequila and he isn’t going to speed up the process any time soon. That’s just not how he rolls.
Recently, he answered a few questions for us about his history in distilling, the unique processes he uses to make his tequila and why he does pretty much everything completely different from the rest of the tequila industry.
Tell us about your family history in distilling.
Historically speaking, my family’s relationship to tequila dates back to 1786 as my grandmother, Cecilia Prieto Menocal, is the direct descendent of the only Mexican empress, Ana Maria de Huarte and the second Marquis of Altamira, Pedro Sanchez de Tagle. Pedro was the owner of Hacienda Los Cuisillos in Ameca Valley, which is regarded as the origin of the vino mezcal industry in the Tequila region.
Tell me about steam cooking. Why is it important?
For us, taste reigns supreme. Every step of the way we are taking patience and care to select the process that delivers the most complex, special aromas and flavors possible. Using steam to cook our agave piñas for 38 hours versus an autoclave, for example, that will cut the process down to just a few hours, allows aromas and flavors to develop more naturally with no chemicals. I like to compare this to cooking beans…would you rather eat your Grandmother’s beans that have been cooking on her stove all day in a clay pot her family has had for generations? Or would you rather have beans that have been quickly made in a pressure cooker?
What’s the sotry with the agave squeezing machines?
There are variety of methods of pulling the agave juices from the pulp of the piñas after cooking. Many methods use techniques that crush the fibers to extract as much juice as possible. While very efficient, the crushing action also releases methanol and can cause some bitter, unpleasant flavors. We use a custom-designed screw mill that squeezes the fibers rather than crushing. The difference may sound minor, and though our technique can be less efficient, we believe it provides superior taste in the end. There really aren’t any other tequilas available in the market today that use this screw mill.
What else is unique?
While most tequila brands only distill twice, every tequila we craft is triple-distilled for utmost purity. We crave a higher-quality, superior taste that always goes a step beyond the industry standard to produce one-of-a-kind tequila. For our distillation we use pot stills with copper coils. The copper is important because it can naturally remove bad aromas such as sulfur during the process.
Why the extra step?
All tequila, by law, must be double distilled. We go one step further with the additional distillation because we really feel this gives us one final opportunity to cut the ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ of the tequila (meaning the unpleasant, bitter or acidic aromas and flavors that occur at the beginning and end of each distillation), leaving what remains to be only the absolute best part of the liquid. Though the third distillation does mean we are losing some additional yield, we feel it’s worth it to achieve the best quality in the end.
I also heard you use French Oak instead of bourbon barrels?
Rather than used bourbon barrels which most tequilas are aged in, Casa Noble is rested in new, lightly toasted French oak barrels imported from Cognac, France. The used bourbon barrels have a very hard char on the inside which we feel really covers up the delicate aromas and flavors of agave. Although these special barrels can cost up to $1,200 (six times the going rate for a standard used bourbon barrel) the tight grained French oak gives our liquid a more distinct and complex character that truly sets Casa Noble apart from other tequilas on the market.
You have a $1,200 bottle right?
Alta Belleza is the first edition of our luxury line of tequilas, Colección del Fundador. Retailing at $1,200 per bottle and with just 563 bottles available in the world, this rare tequila begins with our award-winning Single Barrel Extra Añejo, rested six additional months in Tonnellerie Taransaud French Oak wine barrels that were previously used to age the exclusive Robert Mondavi To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon from the world-renowned To Kalon Vineyard. It features complex aromas of green apple and spice complemented by notes of cinnamon, toasted almond and sweet cooked agave.