‘Tequila doesn’t have to be 100% agave’
Don Luis Antonio Yerenes Ruvalcaba, former Maestro Tequilero at Jose Cuervo, shares the learnings of his 45-year dedication to Tequila development in our exclusive interview.
Having worked his way from laboratory to director, there are few people who know more about the premium quality sugars that go into blending each expression than Don Yerenes.
While the popularity of 100% agave Tequilas has been growing in recent years, Don Yerenes says: “Just because it’s 100% agave doesn’t mean it’s a good agave.”
Now enjoying his retirement, Don Yerenes is backing Jose Cuervo’s search for a new Don of Tequila through a unique bartending competition, for which entries are due to close on 13 May.
The winning bartender will travel to Tequila, Mexico, where they will harvest their own crop of agave, blend the spirit, and keep the batch labeled with their name.
Click through to the following page to read our full interview with Don Yerenes.
How and why did you get into the industry?
I started at Jose Cuervo about 45 years ago after my studies. My first job here was in the laboratory and since then my career has grown so much. I’ve gone from working in the laboratory and ended up as a director. I know all the parts of the process inside and out.
When you started, was there a reason you got into the industry? Did you have a love or interest in Tequila beforehand?
I applied with a few different companies at the time, one of which was the biggest drinks company in the world. I had to choose between them and Jose Cuervo so, of course, I chose Jose Cuervo.
Was there anybody that inspired you to work at Jose Cuervo?
Being from Mexico I was delighted being able to work at Jose Cuervo as I am extremely proud of my heritage.
What makes you most proud to work at Jose Cuervo?
Firstly, it’s the oldest Tequila company. It’s had great development since it was (legally) founded just over 210 years ago. What really makes me proud to work at Jose Cuervo is that I am a part of it. I saw the growth and development of Jose Cuervo in pretty much every single market it is available in. When you think that Jose Cuervo has been legal for around 210 years and I have been there 45 years, a quarter of Jose Cuervo’s life has been my work. I’m a part of Jose Cuervo’s life and Jose Cuervo is a part of mine.
What do you see for the future of Cuervo, what gets you excited?
What gets me excited about the future is Jose Cuervo’s rich history because Jose Cuervo has always been a warrior, Jose Cuervo has never been down. Jose Cuervo has overpassed great depressions, revolutions, independence, wars and has always kept itself in high prestige as a company. We have that as a foundation, as a root, so nobody can come here and twist our leaves. That’s what makes us Jose Cuervo. Nobody can take us down.
What’s your favourite drink?
All of them! For me, it’s hard to pick a favourite Tequila drink because I’ve developed and been involved in the creation of all the Tequilas here.
Which Tequila were you first involved in the development of?
Of the ones on the market today? All of them.
Could you tell me a bit more development of Jose Cuervo Gold and Silver?
One of the things about the development of Jose Cuervo Gold and Silver was that it was a pioneer that really opened up the market, not only us but for everybody. When it came out, it was completely focused on quality, which was something kind of new.
The Tequila was always consistent. It didn’t have a bad aroma that can happen after bad fermentation or [which can occur in] open tanks – that can lead to inconsistent quality. It was always a fine Tequila, it was always clean.
It was proposed to the market as a complete drink that could be used for a shot and, because of its sweet flavour, great for mixing any type of cocktail. We proposed that it could be directly used in a Margarita and that pretty much opened the US market up to the Tequila category.
How is Jose Cuervo Gold and Silver better than its competitors?
Jose Cuervo Gold and Silver really have three key words. It is a fine, clean Tequila with a beautiful after-taste. It has a great quality behind it which is backed up by the success and history of the brand.
Everybody tries to attack the brand because it’s not 100% agave but not being 100% agave doesn’t mean it’s not a Tequila. It has its history and it is an authentic Tequila.
I always remember having lots of Jose Cuervo Gold drinks and knowing that if I drink it I can be “happy today and fine tomorrow”. No problems! The standard is not going to change.
Jose Cuervo Gold is the most marketed Tequila in Mexico and even though the competition from 100% agave is ferocious, Jose Cuervo is still pretty much the best one out there. It’s a complete, strong and “safe” Tequila.
What else would you say to people who question not using 100% agave?
If you analyse it, you’ll see that that the mix will have many sugars but if you look at the formula we’re using sugars of the best quality, to produce the best alcohols. There is no cheap sugar put in there, there is no bad sugar, so we’re using only premium ingredients.
Something else to consider is that we are the only company that takes care of its own agave. We are the only ones who can say that every agave that comes into our distillery are ones we have watched over, not just gone out and purchased.
Our quality is as standard. Everybody else brings it from wherever they can which means the quality of their raw material can vary massively – we don’t have that. Just because it’s 100% agave doesn’t mean it’s a good agave.
Finally… Do you have a favourite drink, cocktail or serve?
I like the Jose Cuervo Silver with grapefruit soda. It’s a very Mexican drink – the so called Paloma.