The surge of interest in high-quality tequila is being led by dynamic female makers.


Written by David Zivan


You already know that tequila is the thing to drink this summer- both with sunsets and with celebrations. It’s among the fastest-growing categories in the spirits world not simply because it has been under-appreciated; the agave-based beverage has remarkable depth and range, and mixologists all over the world are only beginning to explore its nuances.

What you may not know is that the revolution is being spearheaded by female entrepreneurs-expert makers and marketers unafraid of innovation and constantly in pursuit of deliciousness.

Jenny Camarena is chief operations officer at Destilería La Alteña, one of Mexico’s top distilleries. The operation makes the widely available, and very fine I may add, El Tesoro tequilas, continuing a long tradition begun by Camarena’s grandfather, Felipe. He began distilling in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico about 85 years ago – so far back as to earn the brand the nickname “the Treasure of Jalisco.” Theirs remains a traditional approach, with flashes of modern innovation.

With her brother, Carlos, Camarena offers the classic blanco, reposado, and añejo range, supplemented by an Extra Añejo as well as the luxurious Paradiso ($180), a deep-gold, rich bottling that sees five years in French oak ex-Cognac barrels. Savor it with a single rock.

Camarena started her professional life as an architect, and she brings those multifaceted skills to her work-most recently in the latest innovation, El Tesoro Mundial: Knob Creek Rye Edition. This añejo is aged for 12 months in barrels that previously held Knob Creek whiskey, making for a dark sipper touched with light sweetness and spice notes. It’s the second in the Mundial series, having been preceded by a partnership with Laphroaig Scotch. “My brother Carlos and I are the students of our father and grandfather before us, who were both … traditionalists, yet pioneers of their time who were always experimenting,” Camarena says. “This fascinating tequila [is] a delicious treat that we are incredibly proud to share.”

Graciella Gonzales, master distiller at Destileria Gonzales Lux, presides over a facility in Arandas some 7,500 feet above sea level in the rocky lowlands of Jalisco. Not unlike the effect of treasured terroir on wine, the sandy soil of their estate is said to produce unusually juicy agave plants. Grace represents the fourth generation on the land-a legacy stretching back 150 years.

“The passion that I have for the industry, I inherited,” she said recently. “We just say that we have that in our blood, because it’s crazy how much we enjoy working in this industry.” The result is a line of tequilas that offer exceptional value – the añejo can be had for around $40. Other expressions include an Extra Añejo anniversary edition, aged for 39 months in ex-bourbon casks selected by Grace’s master distiller father, as well as port, sherry, rum, and even French Chardonnay casked bottles. But the real treasure may be the Cristalino, pricier and well worth it. Sparkling clear and aged a minimum of 12 months, the filtered blanco offers clear agave notes, with hints of herb and vanilla. On the finish, there’s a touch of citrus, making it a perfect choice for a tiny splash of soda and a lemon peel. “I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Gonzales says – and these tequilas show that she made the right choice.

Bertha Gonzalez Nieves is the CEO and co-founder of Tequila Casa Dragones, not to mention her home country’s first female Maestra Tequilera, or tequila master. Casa Dragones is a line of beautiful products in beautiful packaging, stuff that lives up to its namesake inspiration – the Dragones of San Miguel de Allende, an elite cavalry that defended the interests of the Queen of Spain and eventually led Mexico’s Independence Movement of 1810.

Nieves is a powerful and independent force herself. After working at the giant Jose Cuervo brand for a decade, she went out on her own in 2009. Today her line of small-batch, ultra-premium tequilas continues to receive widespread acclaim. In 2022, she debuted a Reposado Mizunara, utilizing the precious and difficult-to-source Japanese oak most often reserved for that country’s finest malt whiskies. It’s surprising to learn that even this juice is offered as part of the basic tasting experience available in the Casa Dragones Tasting Room, or the “World’s Smallest Tequila Bar,” at the beautiful headquarters in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. “Innovation is what we like to do best – to explore the possibilities within the tequila category,” Nieves says. “With the Reposado Mizunara … I think that tequila lovers out there and spirit aficionados in general will be very excited to experience something completely different.”


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