11 Things You Didn’t Know About Our Tahona Stone
If you have had the opportunity to go to the Altos Tequila distillery in Arandas and have experienced one of the tours given by our Master Distiller, Jesús Hernández, surely you know that the doughnut-shaped tahona stone is a heavy wheel made of volcanic stone that traditionally was pulled around a shallow pit by a team of donkeys or mules, and continues to this day to grind the roasted agave hearts and separate sweet juice from tough pulp.
1. You may not have known that the tahona process is not actually the most ancient technique for milling cooked agave piñas. The oldest method is what you still see used to produce very traditional mezcals, which is crushing with mallets or axes.
2. Did you know that “tahona” is actually the word for wheel in Nahuatl, the language of indigenous Aztecs?
3. Our tahona stone is made up of tezontle—a red igneous rock that comes from the existing mass in fusion in the interior of the earth; it is found in volcano slopes.
4. Our tahona stone was installed in 1997 when the distillery was built. It turns 22 this year!
5. Our tahona stone was carved in the Mexican state of Querétaro and commissioned to a local artisan who made it by hand with a hammer and chisel. Can you believe it?
6. The original weight of our tahona stone was two tons and was carved from a single volcanic piece. Incredible.
7. The stone has only deteriorated by 10 percent to date. At this rate, it will last much longer than all of us!
8. When the artisan told them that it would take him four months to carve the stone, they got very worried. What if a crack or other problem would leave them unable to make tequila? So they decided to commission a second stone as a back-up. It has been decorating our beautiful garden for the past 20 years. It is a real tahona and can be used at any time if necessary.
9. Since 1997 our tahona stone has been horse/donkey/mule friendly. It was the first mechanized tahona, meaning it was adapted with electric motors and wheels. From the start, Jesús and Alberto decided not to use horses, mules or donkeys to move it. The job would be too grueling for the poor animals.
10. Each tahona has its own geometry, dimensions, and weight. Our tahona stone was made specifically for the distillery and in accordance with the tons of agave that it would be processing every day.
11. The first Tequila that was made with our tahona stone was Tezón, which is now discontinued. It was a tequila made 100% from the tahona process and was named as such in honor of the volcanic rock, tezontle. Today, Tezón complements the Altos Tequila formula.