Not too long ago I had the opportunity to visit the Patron Distillery in Mexico with Patron spirits coo John McDonnell, director of communications Greg Cohen, and a smattering of other industry people, including a British journalist, Boston-based radio announcer, a consultant for Patron and the owner of the largest bulk rum supplier (more below). It was a great experience and I learned a lot about not only Patron, but the industry in general. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't initially nervous at the prospect of visiting central Mexico. I know, I know - Guadalajara is safe. But I live in Texas, San Antonio to be exact, where there is no shortage of news reports on the increasingly dangerous situation surrounding our borders. As it turned out, Guadalajara was safe and we even had a car of bodyguards following us around. So all was well.
We stayed at a hotel in Guadalajara and made the hour and a half drive by bus to Patron's Distillery - better known as the Hacienda - located to the east of Guadalajara in the highlands. The property is off the beaten path for most tourists who travel west to the lowlands, where the town of Tequila and a number of distilleries including Jose Cuervo are located. Patron bought the property in February 2002. In 2003 it began building the Hacienda, which was completed after 11 months. The distillery has more land to expand, which could easily allow Patron to double production.
They do not own their own agave fields. Instead, they strike long-term contracts with 8 agave growers in the area. That way they can choose the highest quality and right maturity. They have also never experienced a shortage in agave because their contracts span 7 years.
The tour was led by master distiller Francisco Alcaraz, who has been with the company since its inception. He studied chemical engineering at the University of Guadalajara, and then worked for the tequila regulatory board. After that we worked for a number of distilleries. Francisco was eventually approached by the two founders of Patron - Martin Crowley and John Paul Dejoria - in the late 1980s. He jumped on board with their plan and the rest is history.
Francisco developed the recipe for Patron and Pyrat Rum, and fine tuned the recipe for Ultimat Vodka. In fact, he started tinkering with the recipe for Ultimat, the only vodka that has a blend of wheat, rye and potato, while sitting at a bar with John. He told me that sometimes he comes up with the idea for Patron's line extensions, and sometimes the company approaches his. He feels experimenting is his purpose. It definitely seems to be Francisco's passion.
As I mentioned above, Patron sources some of its rum for Pyrat from a bulk supplier in Guyana, a small country in South America. In fact most suppliers source their rum from Demerara Distillers Limited. The company is run by Yesu Persaud, who was also on the tour and a pleasure to meet. Patron's bottle making facility in Guadalajara produces the bottles for Pyrat, and then sends them to Guyana to be bottled. Ultimat is made and bottled in Poland, while Patron is made and bottled at their distillery in Mexico.
Above is a picture of Mr. Persaud, Francisco and myself.