The Old Tahona Is New Again

by Kristen Benoit - August 5, 2016

Tahonas are one of the oldest ways of crafting tequila, and now you can find out why more and more tequila producers are using them again. 

Two of the newest tequilas on our menu, Pasote and Suerte, are crafted using the tahona – one of the oldest and most labor-intensive ways of making tequila. After agave plants are harvested from the field and slow-cooked in an oven, the next step in tequila production is to crush the roasted agave. Crushing releases sugars from the agave fibers so they can be fermented and distilled. This is where the tahona comes in.

For hundreds of years, tequila producers have been finding massive volcanic rocks near their distilleries and chiseling them into two-ton wheels. They put this wheel – the tahona – into a circular stone pit, pitchfork in the roasted agave, and use mules (or a tractor in more recent years) to pull the tahona around and round in a circle until the agave is crushed.

It wasn’t until 1950 that tequila producers figured out a more efficient way of getting this job done. They started modifying mechanical shredders from the nearby sugarcane mills to complete in minutes what it would take all day for a tahona to accomplish.

Because of their efficiency, mechanical shredders – which use steel blades and conveyor belts – have become a fixture in most modern tequila distilleries. But a handful of producers continued to use the tahona as part of their artisanal, small-batch production. In recent years, more and more producers are embracing tradition and opting to use the tahona process for its rugged authenticity and its influence on the final flavor of their tequila.

The tahona is a huge part of making a tequila taste special because of the way it gently presses the agave (versus the pulverizing of the shredder). At Bone Garden Cantina, we offer several tequilas that use a traditional tahona, like the fabulous Fortaleza and legendary Siete Leguas. And now we have two more. Pasote is an incredible tequila that comes from Felipe Camarena, whose family has been in the tequila business for generations. He combined tradition with innovation by inventing a new type of tahona out of a repurposed steamroller (see the photo below). We also have Suerte, a newer to the market tequila using traditional production methods with a more modern approach to the marketing and packaging.

Come on into the bar soon, and taste the tahona difference for yourself! Cheers!