This past weekend I was lucky enough to confirm that Tequila Tapatio will be hitting store shelves here in the US as early as January of 2012. It has been rumored that this iconic Camarena brand has been looking for an importer for close to a year and it now appears that they have one. In a weekend interview on KGO radio in San Francisco and without mentioning the brand itself, Marko Karakasevic from Charbay mentioned that Charbay would be importing a tequila brand that has been commercially produced in Mexico for over 70 years. Following up with Charbay through their Facebook page, I was able to confirm that Tapatio is indeed the brand and that Charbay will be the importer for the US market. The company will begin by only importing the blanco and their goal is to have it on shelves in California, Texas, Colorado and New York in early 2012.
Tequila Tapatio has been commercially produced by the Camarena family at La Alteña, the distillery built by Don Felipe Camarena in 1937. La Alteña also produces El Tesoro, a tequila that is widely available here in the States. In fact, these two brands have been figuratively joined at the piña throughout most of El Tesoro’s existence, the only real difference in the two bottlings being the time that each was rested or aged. Today, the difference is more significant in that Tapatio is made using a mechanical mill to extract the juice from the cooked agaves whereas the El Tesoro brand continues to use the tahona. While this may seem like a small difference, it actually is significant in that the fermentation and distillation processes also change. With the tahona process, the El Tesoro brand adds the cooked and now crushed agave fibers in the fermenting tanks as well as in the stills during the first distillation. This extended contact of the fibers with the juice tends to give the resulting tequila a stronger agave character. With Tapatio now using mills, only the juice goes into the fermentation and distillation processes and the resulting tequila has what has been described as a “greener”, smoother, and more vegetal flavor.
It should come as no surprise that the group getting ready to import Tapatio already has a relationship with the Camarena family. After taking a tour of La Alteña, the Karakasevic’s had questions about the distillation process of tequila, a spirit that had never been produced by any of its 13 generations of master distillers. This ultimately led to a friendship between the two families and a project that resulted in Charbay’s own tequila, the first tequila to be personally hand-distilled by an American in Mexico and an amazing blanco tequila in its own right. It now looks like the mutual respect and friendship that was built throughout that original project has opened the door to this exciting new opportunity for the Camarena’s and Karakasevic’s to share Tapatio with those of us north of the border. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one looking forward to being able to buy it locally!
For more information on Charbay, please visit their website at http://www.charbay.com
Watch and listen to Felipe Camarena explain the differences between El Tesoro and Tequila Tapatio to the Tequila Whisperer: http://www.tequilawhisperer.com/?p=1249
UPDATE – JUNE 27, 2012: The first shipment of Tapatio cleared customs in the Port of Oakland two weeks ago and is now available in California. Distribution to additional states is planned. The blanco comes in a 1-liter bottle and should retail in the $30-40 range, depending on the retailer. If you can find it, do yourself a favor and get a bottle – you won’t regret it!
UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2013: In addition to the blanco, Charbay has also brought in the Tapatio reposado and añejo, which showed up here in Texas just before Christmas. And look for something new in the late spring/early summer – a Tapatio 110 proof blanco!