Patrón is a name synonymous with flavour, reputation and class. Most know the premium and ultra-premium tequilas associated with the legendary producer and now it’s time to unveil the newest addition to the Patrón family: Gran Smoky. As the newest addition to the Gran Patrón line of products, Smoky is unlike anything we’ve come to expect from Patrón so far. Recently, DINE had the opportunity not only to sample this amazing new spirit but to also chat with Mariana Sanchez Benitez, Leader of Brand Education for the company.
Can you tell me a little bit about your role and what it means to you?
As an International Brand Education Brand Manager, I lead the trade education of the Patrón brand in Europe and also oversee the content of ambassadors in the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. Prior to this, my background as a biotechnology engineer involved me in Patrón’s tequila production and gifted me the unique privilege of learning under master distiller, Tequila experts and even working at a certain point with Francisco Alcaraz. The intimate knowledge I acquired in this role, I now have the pleasure of sharing with a large audience, along with Patrón’s story of heritage, culture, and sustainability. On a personal level, to quite literally introduce new countries and cultures around the world to Mexican traditions, is wonderful. It’s a country I am proud to be from and have lived almost all of my life in.
Do you think Patrón has a responsibility to uphold its cultural traditions in a modern landscape?
Absolutely. From the start, Patrón has worked to preserve traditional methods in tequila production and uphold traditions within the craft of tequila making. For example, hand-trimming and cutting agave before baking it, or using the traditional Tahona wheel as part of our production process, which is a two-ton volcanic rock used to crush the piñas (agave without the leaves) of the agave plant to extract its juices.
Furthermore, Mexico is and forever will be the home of Patrón Tequila. Our support of the community in which we operate is very important to us. It is why we remain committed to our production technique which employs over 1,600 people at the Hacienda Patrón distillery in Atotonilco el Alto, Jalisco. While the opportunity to automate various areas of production exists, we are steadfast in producing our tequila to the same exacting standards we have applied since day one, which, for example, includes applying each bottle label by hand.
This country, as well as its traditions are extremely important to us, and as the world’s #1 super-premium tequila we take our responsibility to share the craft of tequila seriously. By way of our numerous product and packaging collaborations with Mexican storytellers and artisans, we are able to blend both cultural traditions of tequila making and storytelling with compelling modern artists to reach drinkers around the world. Each year we partner with a new artist to launch a Mexican Heritage tin. For the 2019 tin, which is now available across several Canadian provinces for the holidays, we engaged Mexican artist Smithe. He created a bold design that features two distinctly Mexican embroidery styles, Tenango-Hidalgo and Mariachi paired with elements that represent Patrón’s handcrafted process. Inside the beautiful tin is a 750ml bottle of our Patrón Silver, along with a booklet sharing more information on the artist’s story. Since 2016, each annual tin release is supported by events and online communication sharing the story with as many consumers as possible.
I would like to know a bit about the technical aspect of the production of Smoky. How are the smoky flavours developed, through oak aging? If so, what kind of oak is used and what size are the barrels or barriques? How long is the distillation and aging process? Are there any significant techniques used that differ from the other tequilas Patrón produces?
Gran Patrón Smoky pushes the boundaries of tequila with the introduction of smoking. This exquisite silver spirit is crafted by roasting agave which has matured for approximately seven years in the highlands of Jalisco. Unlike any of our other products, the agave is roasted with mesquite for about seven days in small underground stone pits at the Patrón Hacienda. The result of this ancient, labour-intensive method is an artisanal ultra-premium tequila with a perfectly balanced, very complex smoky flavour. The smoky flavours will mainly come from the cooking process as this tequila is not aged and makes no contact with oak barrels which are used in a variety of our other tequilas. Smoky is the only product that Patrón produces using this smoking technique. Otherwise, the use of the two-ton Tahoma mill rock, fermentation in small (5,000 – 10,000 litre) capacity pine tanks, and distillation in our unique hand made (500 – 2,500 litre) copper pot stills is consistent across all Patrón tequila variants. (It should be noted that our core line uses a propriety blend of tahona mill and roller mill process, while the Gran line uses exclusively tahona mill method).
How is Gran Smoky and Patrón as a whole bringing Mexican culture to current trends?
Patrón remains heavily connected to Mexican heritage and culture through our commitment to original recipes, ancient production processes, and time-tested methodologies, starting with how we source our ingredients to the finished bottle. Patrón has always been dedicated to sourcing traditional ingredients, like 100% premium blue weber agave. We have a long-lasting, supportive relationship with 8 families with whom Patrón has sourced premium agave from for years. Beyond our ingredients, Patrón still follows the same original recipes and small-scale production, involving only 60 meticulous, highly skilled hands. Mexican culture is embedded in our entire production process: from the ingredients we source and techniques we deploy to craft superior tequilas. In fact, Mexican History and Tequila’s history are connected, The agave used to be used in Mexican culture since the Aztecs. Through Gran Smoky, Patrón has revitalized ancient, labour-intensive methods in creating this truly artisanal, ultra-premium tequila.
Stephen Nelson is a hospitality professional with over 10 years of experience. He is an expert in wine and bar - he has obtained his WSET 2 Award, introductory to the Court of Sommeliers, and is Cicerone certified educator. As a musician and foodie, Stephen is an all around creative person and has experienced food and culture from destinations all over the world.