Boys, you have never tasted a tequila that's this good. Give it a go!
Guillermo Erickson Sauza, 5th generation tequila maker, recently visited South Africa from Jalisco, Tequila in Mexico, to tell the story behind Tequila Fortaleza and share the secrets of making perhaps the world’s smoothest handmade tequila according to centuries-old artisanal methods.
Fortaleza is a small-batch, hand crafted, 100% agave tequila that comes from the town of Tequila, Jalisco, in Mexico. The small, family-owned distillery, located on the slopes of an extinct volcano amongst maturing blue agave plants, is where 5th generation tequila maker, Guillermo Erickson Sauza, makes tequila using the same production methods employed by his forefathers.
Fortaleza Tequila is imported by Truman & Orange, the premium drinks company that has managed to stay ahead of the dynamic liquor industry curve, introducing Malfy Gin just as the gin revolution really took off in South Africa and following up with Aviation Gin (Ryan Reynolds’ American craft original); introducing us to Don Papa Rum well ahead of the run resurgence; and more recently bringing us the world’s best-selling Prosecco, Mionetto.
Truman & Orange founding owner, Rowan Leibbrandt, explains the decision to add Fortaleza to their impressive range of premium drinks for the discerning South African: “We’ve seen huge interest from South African drinkers in high-quality tequila. South Africa is a large tequila market, but to most South Africans tequila has meant low-quality mixtos that gave you a nasty headache at university. That is changing as South Africans are starting to demand 100% Agave Tequilas of the same high quality as the Cognacs and Single Malts that they’re enjoying. This demand is being further boosted by a wave of exciting, new, up-market restaurants exposing South Africans to Mexican cuisine.”
Owing not only to the quality and smoothness of the liquid, but also to the great story behind the brand and its unquestionable authenticity, Fortaleza Tequila has certainly been well-received by South Africans over the past 10 months since launching. Says Rowan, “We had no idea that there was such a demand for high-quality Tequila in South Africa! We are battling to keep up with the demand for Fortaleza Añejo which is the most expensive of the range, retailing at R1 300 a bottle.”
Don Guillermo, Master Blender at Fortaleza Distillery who recently visited South Africa, explains Fortaleza’s success: “Our goal is to make the best Tequila that we possibly can, and to this day, we have not changed a single thing. While others focus on modern day processes to speed up efficiency, we look back and use traditional, artisanal methods to produce the best tequila possible, and by doing so we honour our great-great grandfather, great grandfather, and grandfather.”
The desire to honour at any cost runs deep: the Tequila was originally called Los Abuelos, meaning ‘Grandfathers’; however, due to trademark restraints in some countries, the name may not be used for exports. With characteristically Mexican defiance, every bottle is engraved with the words Los Abuelos and then the Tequila Fortaleza label is hand-pasted over the engraving.
This bottled passion is perhaps one of the elements that makes Fortaleza Tequila the bartenders’ choice, with the main reason for its popularity being its smoothness and exceptional quality. With its signature citrus and vanilla flavours, long, rich finish and oily mouth-feel, Fortaleza is a silky-smooth tequila. Sip it neat or on the rocks, or trust a skilful bartender to treat you to a Fortaleza Margarita or Paloma.
Fortaleza Tequila is available in three variants:
Fortaleza Blanco is double distilled in copper pot stills which have been in use for over 100 years. The result is a smooth, crisp tequila that is full of flavour from the blue agave. Crystal clear Fortaleza Blanco has earthy aromas of baked agave, backed with notes of dried berries and citrus. It comes in a hand-blown, individually-numbered bottle of 750ml at 43% Vol. Alc. and retails at approximately R750 per bottle.
Fortaleza Reposado is aged for up to six months in American Whiskey barrels. It starts with aromas of raisins, figs, roasted nuts, caramelized agave, honey, delicate earth and soft cinnamon. With a creamy mouth-feel, flavours of dried fruit lead to agave, toasted wood, baking spice and minerals and it leaves you with a vibrant and lively finish, with lingering spice. This light golden colour liquid comes in a 750ml, hand-blown bottle at 40% Vol. Alc. and retails at approximately R1 000 per bottle.
Fortaleza Añejo is aged for 1.5 to 2 years and is a mid to rich gold in colour with a nose of caramel, cinnamon, honey and nutmeg. The signature mouth-feel of the Fortaleza tequilas is found here, as well as flavours ranging from soft agave honey to newly-turned soil with wood, sugars and spice throughout. The finish is of bracing minerals and hints of baked agave. Fortaleza Añejo comes in a 750ml hand-blown bottle at 40% Vol. Alc. and retails at approximately R1 300 per bottle.
How is Fortaleza made?
After seven or eight years of growing, the mature and ripe blue agave is harvested and then cooked by steam in a traditional, small, brick oven for around 30 hours. A large, round, 2-ton volcanic stone, called a Tahona, slowly squeezes all the juices from the agave. After adding water from the volcanic mountain of Tequila and separating the fibers the mosto is fermented in wooden open-air tanks. When fermentation is complete, the distinctive taste of Fortaleza tequila is achieved by distilling twice, in two very small copper pot stills that have been in place since the distillery was built more than 100 years ago. It is these stills that bring a certain amount of “magic” to the process.