The Tequila Making Process

06. Distillation


Distillation: Concentrating the Alcohol in the Fermented Liquid

In the distillation process, heat is applied to the still containing the fermented mosto; alcohol evaporates and condenses to a higher proof. There are two main processes to distill tequila and the size and shape of the still tends to influence the end product.

Batch Distillation in a Pot Still

Generally, all tequilas made in this way go through a double distillation. The primary distillation converts the fermented mosto (with an alcohol content of 5 – 7%) into what is called the ordinario (with an alcohol content of about 40%). Some distillers chose to include the bagaso from their fermentation in the still for the primary fermentation. The secondary distillation converts the ordinario (with an alcohol content of about 40%) into tequila (with an alcohol content of about 110%).

Continuous Distillation in a Column Still

Distilling can be achieved much more quickly in industrial column (or Coffey) stills. These tend to be several stories high and have the ability to distill continuously, meaning they don’t have to stop in between each batch to clean the still. This style of still came into popularity in the 19th century when distillers wanted to create a higher quality product in greater volume and in a shorter amount of time.

Growth from Replication without Automation

In 2002, demand for 100% agave tequila was growing and we knew Patrón had an opportunity to meet that need. It would have been easier and cheaper to increase the size of our ovens and stills, or move to different, automated distillation techniques. We determined that the only way to ensure the quality of the product moving forward would be to reproduce the methods that had worked for us all along. Today, we have 10 replicas of the original production chain to handle demand.

credit: Chloe Harrison-Ach

at patrón:two distinct distillations.

We use small copper pot stills (designed by Francisco Alcaraz) because they’re integral to developing Patrón’s signature flavors. We distill the tahona and roller mill tequilas separately and differently, resulting in two distinct liquids that, when combined, become Patrón Silver. 

On the tahona side, our stills are tiny by industry standards: 700L (primary) and 500L (secondary). The mosto and bagaso are both included in the primary distillation: this hallmark of the Patrón method produces herbaceous, earthy, baked agave flavors. 

On the roller mill side, our stills are slightly larger, but still small for the industry, around 2,500L (primary) and 1,500L (secondary). The more squat shape and long neck help bring out fruitier, sweeter characteristics.