A Hotel in Jalisco Has a Tequila Distillery in Its Backyard

Let's toast to a great vacation.

Imagine this. You're on vacation and wake up in a charming hotel in a quaint town in Mexico. You walk over to open your balcony and let some light in. When you swing those doors open, the first thing you notice is not the vibrant green garden below but the sweet aroma of cooking piñas that wafts in and fills the room. But these aren't just any old pineapples from the grocery store; these are the pineapple-looking portions of agave plants that, once cooked and prepped, become your favorite Mexican spirit, tequila, and the entire process is just steps away.

If this is an ideal first-thing-in-the-morning scenario for you, then a trip to the town of Tequila and a stay at El Tequileño's Casa Salles Hotel is something you should add to your travel bucket list.

Tequila is a town in the western state of Jalisco that, as the name suggests, embodies and embraces the classic spirit. Distilleries of both established and smaller artisanal brands punctuate the town map, drawing fans of tequila from all over the world to get the good stuff straight from the source. But La Guarreña, the distillery producing El Tequileño, is the only one boasting a boutique hotel in its backyard, offering smart accommodations to return to after a long day of tastings.

Originally a space for the founders of El Tequileño, Casa Salles is a modern hotel with some Mexican flair boasting 25 bedrooms, a gorgeous outdoor pool, the only fine dining restaurant in Tequila, and, of course, a bar. The hotel's biggest selling point, though, is its proximity to the action, with just a gate dividing the relaxing oasis from the distillery grounds. Guests are welcome to tour the distillery and see precisely what goes into making the brand's portfolio of tequilas. Every step, from cooking the piñas to milling them (a process I could watch all day) and then observing the bubbling juices in giant vats at every stage of fermentation, is on display for enthusiasts. If you're lucky enough you may even get to taste some tequila at various stages — though be warned, ordinario, the tequila from a first distillation that results in approximately 27% alcohol is not for the faint of heart.

Of course, after watching how the tequila is made, a tasting is in order, and luckily, there's a lovely tasting room just across the street for guests to try the fruit of the distillery's labor. On offer are the brand's Blanco, Reposado, Platinum, Reposado Gran Reserva, Añejo Gran Reserva, Cristalino and a Reposado Rare. The staff is highly knowledgeable and passionate about tequila production and lead fun, informational tastings that'll help you appreciate the beverage more and give you some great talking points to make all your friends ooh and ahh the next time you're at a dinner party.

If you want even more fun facts about tequila that get to the root of your favorite beverage — quite literally — El Tequileño also partners with Tequila Atanasio to take guests to a nearby agave field for a jornalero experience to educate guests on the process of cultivating and caring for agave plants before they mature and make it to the distillery. To really get into the mindset of Jornaleros, the workers who look after agave plants in the fields before the more ubiquitous jimador jumps in to harvest, guests can try their hand at tending to agave plants and replanting baby agaves known as hijuelos. Notably, the experience also includes a typical jornalero meal of tacos with tortillas and salsa made right then and there, as well as plenty of photo ops in the agave fields. For uber-fans of the Tequileño brand, Casa Salles can organize a day trip to El Tequileño's agave fields in the Highlands of Jalisco, but considering travel time can take between six to eight hours, it might cut into your tequila tasting time.

Speaking of tasting, you'll certainly want to factor in some time to enjoy the on-property restaurant, Mango Cocina de Origen, where you'll find a variety of Mexican classics with modern and international twists. Highlights include the duck carnitas, crab-filled croquettes, and the octopus. There are even parts of the menu that incorporate El Tequileño. A creme Anglaise for bread pudding is made with the house Blanco, while the duck ham is smoked with Añejo barrel wood chips, and the canelés you'll find in your room after turndown have a touch of Reposado. The restaurant also uses a garden next to the distillery to grow ingredients like cilantro, lavender, cucumber, watermelon, cherry tomatoes, and more — all of which are used in the food and drink on the property. Even this small garden gets the tequila treatment as it thrives thanks to compost created by El Tequileño using byproducts from the tequila-making process.

It goes without saying, but we'll add it here anyway — the drinks are not to be missed. Once you've seen how tequila is made and learned to appreciate its different expressions, you must round out your experience with a couple of cocktails. The menu at Casa Salles is constantly changing but it always leans into beloved Mexican flavors and hyper-local, as in from their garden, ingredients. The Ramito de Violeta (bouquet of violets), for example, gets its stunning violet hue from a lavender syrup made in-house using the bounty from the garden. Order whatever suits the mood, but be sure to cap off your drinks with a carajillo, which is one of my personal favorites, a perfect after-dinner drink, and an ideal way to say salud to Tequila.

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