Exploring the Land of Tequila, Pt. 1: The Jose Cuervo Express Experience

Have you ever wondered how tequila is made or where it comes from? Let’s take a second to imagine ourselves in a blue agave field smack-dab in the middle of the magical birthplace of the one and only Mexican elixir of life — Tequila, Jalisco.

Tequila is a Pueblo Mágico located about 70 kilometers outside of the capital city of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco in the central western coast of México. A day trip to this charming, colorful town is a must on any trip to Jalisco and you have a few options for how to get there.

I’ve been to Tequila twice and both trips were so different from each other. I’ll break the two different experiences into two posts, and hopefully, you’ll be inspired to visit this marvelous land eventually (as in when this *gestures broadly* gets better).

Tequila is my favorite distilled spirit and I feel personally connected to it. No, it’s not because of all the shots of cheap tequila I guzzled down in college. No, no, no. Each sip of tequila transports you directly to those blue agave fields of Jalisco where thousands of jimadores, harvesters, put hundreds of years of tradition and skill into the making of this wondrous liquid native to México.

The first time I visited Tequila was back in September 2018 and that’s when I took the Jose Cuervo Express tour (Fuck, things were so different back then). The tour entails a train ride, a bus ride, a tour of the oldest tequila distillery in Latin America and copious amounts of tequila with different prices and experience tiers available. You can also customize whether you ride the train from Guadalajara to Tequila in the morning and make your return voyage in a bus in the afternoon or vice versa. We chose to ride the bus to Tequila in the morning and took an incredible sunset train ride back to Guadalajara.

Now, just picture this. It’s 8:30 a.m. and you have a buffet of pan dulce, fruit, coffee, juice, hot chocolate made with Chocolate Abuelita and even papas locas at your disposal. I’m literally salivating just remembering this. Then, it’s 9 a.m. and you’re in a comfy ass bus with … just wait … an OPEN BAR. Forget papas locas for breakfast, how about an unlimited amount of made-to-order tequila cocktails as you’re riding by the blue agave fields deep in the heart of México in a surprisingly cozy bus?! Hello? Sign me the fuck up, please.

A 1.5-hour bus ride later, you arrive at one of the fields for a detailed demonstration of how the jimadores harvest the piña from the blue agave plant. After that, you’re served a decent lunch of tacos with, you guessed it, more tequila. During this short break, you have the opportunity to take some photos in the fields and to just take in the green beauty surrounding you from all angles — of course I wasn’t going to miss out on that. In my mind, I was living my best, most-dramatic 90s-Mexican-telenovela-star life.

After that, the bus takes you to Jose Cuervo’s distillery La Rojeña in the town of Tequila for an interesting tour that gives you an up-close look at just how the revered and sometimes-blackout-inducer is made. You’ll learn about the huge ovens where they bake the piña; about the different types of the tequila and the casks they’re aged in; about why it’s only real tequila if the bottle says “Hecho in México” or “Product of México” and it’s made from 100% agave; and so much more. You’ll even get to try 60–70-proof tequila. And wow, that shit is STRONG.

Next, you’ll get some free time to explore the town of Tequila. Quite honestly, an hour and 45 minutes is simply not long enough to calmly sit down at a restaurant for a meal and a walk near the town square — especially if this is your first time in Tequila. That’s the downside of going on a timed-tour like the Jose Cuervo Express. The picturesque town is alive with the bustling chatter of visitors and its quaint, colorful buildings, and it definitely warrants some exploring.

The end of the tour really makes up for the short amount of time you get to spend freely roaming the actual town. Before boarding a train that says vintage glamour like nothing else, you get to delight in a performance of traditional folklórico dances accompanied by a mariachi band. I’m a sucker for this shit, and watching traditional Mexican dances always makes me emotional. Throw in a mariachi band and I’m done for. I mean, it truly just gives me so many chills to see the huge colorful skirts and ribbons in the girls’ hair flowing as they turn; to hear the intricate and absolutely planned sounds that their folklórico shoes make on the stage; and to have the mariachi’s live rendition of the Jarabe Tapatio bless my ears.

After the performance, you get to take a lovely train ride through the fields back to the city of Guadalajara — open bar included. A tequila tasting led by a tequila expert is also included in the train ride, along with a sample-style platter of delicious Mexican dishes. Love. Love. Love. Nothing compares to sitting with my sister and friend in a grandiose train wagon with tequila reposado in one hand and a tostada de frijoles in the other. Like, please just teletransport me there right now.

How much you take advantage of the open bar is truly up to you. It may sound like the probabilities of the tour turning into complete debauchery are too high, but I didn’t feel like it was too much. There’s enough walking around throughout the day to offset the drinking at somewhat abnormal hours of the morning. The experience is truly what you make it. You can also choose from three different price tiers that range from $2,250 to $2,950 Mexican pesos (about $105–$140 USD). Clearly, this tour is more on the expensive side and may not be accessible to everyone — especially right now. But I want to be transparent about my experience. Luckily, this isn’t the only way to visit Tequila!

Out of the Express, Premium Plus and Diamante experiences, I paid for the middle tier. I really wanted to experience the highest tier, but it sold out before I could make a reservation. I felt like the Premium Plus experience was worth the price — the bus was comfortable af (like you-could-take-a-nap type of comfortable); the amount of alcohol you can potentially consume can be equivalent or higher than what you paid; the experience WILL be unforgettable; and the views are like absolutely no other (literally, the blue agave plants can only be grown in México per Mexican laws!).

Here’s a video of my trip to Guadalajara!

In my next post, I’ll provide more-accessible alternatives to this higher-price visit to Tequila, Guadalajara, because I may want to be a fancy bitch all the time, but the way my money works … well, you know how that goes.

Man, reminiscing about my experience exploring the country where my ancestors come from really, really makes me miss traveling. May we all get to travel safely soon! For now, stay safe, mask the fuck up and don’t be an asshole.

-V

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