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Tequila & Agave Festival

Tonight we converged on the Italian Cultural Centre for the first ever Tequila & Agave Festival (to my knowledge), for their grand tasting.

This is an event where ticket holders had the ability to sample from an array of tequilas and agave spirits. Done so in one of the most joyous and festive tasting settings that I have ever experienced. There was a live band playing Spanish music, and their beat really setting the tone and the excitement for the crowd. The space before the stage quickly turned into a dance floor.

Tequila and agave spirits have made a significant impact on the world and, in particular, Canada. The market for these spirits are huge and growing, and event runners are proud to be pioneers in introducing both tequila and mezcal to Canada, through gastronomy and hospitality so many years ago. And now they are expanding their efforts to promote other types of agave spirits in more interactive ways, such as this event (which is the first ever). Their goal is to continue promoting all Mexican agave spirits, made in Mexico and sharing their unique flavors and rich cultural heritage with a wider audience.

We came in with a strategy, deciding to bee-line straight to the food stations to build a base for drinking. Not only were their local Mexican restaurant set up and doling out small plates, but there were also appetizer size morsels being passed around by servers for the first hour of the event. There was a cheesy arancini ball, a peppery chicken cutlet topped with tomato sauce, tomato bruschetta, a smoked salmon and cream cheese bite, and a pepperoni pizza square; that we tried.

The local king and queen of dumplings: Dicky’s Dumps were steaming and topping their classic pork dumping with beef jus, raw onions, and green onions for a birria dumpling.

Tacofino was offering up cups of their zesty street sweet corn topped with cotija cheese.

Las Margaritas had plates of chips with their medium spiced salsa dip.

And La Mezcaleria had two hard shell tortas for tasting. Either a citrusy fish ceviche or a tangy plant-based mushroom and salsa number.

We would try one of each of all of the above then divert our attention to the drinks. Not just tequila, but the event also had a beer garden and a Legacy Liquor Store pop-up, to be able to pick up a bottle of anything you fancied during the tasting.

Each person received a small glass to take samples with and to take home as a souvenir. Not branded, but it interestingly enough had a cross etched at its bottom. Each booth was branded, and each brought their line of three tequila, tequilana (tequila made outside of Mexico), and/or mezcal for tasting. You bounced around trying what you liked. Each pour a tiny taster, but they added up, especially if you were sampling from the entire line. Thankfully there were pour out buckets and water stations to help keep pace.

In truth there were more stands than I could try and the ability to hit them fast and consecutively made tasting them all impossible. So here is all that we got to and tried. Highlights summarized with notes taken from the event’s digital program guide. And excuse the quality of the dark photos. At such an event I try not to take away from any other’s experience with a harsh flash or additional lighting.

I am already familiar with Tres Generaciones as one of the founders of the spirit. Their tequila is still being produced at the same distillery where Don Cenobio began everything back in 1873- La Perseverancia. Here they fresh-press their agave, extracting the juice before it is cooked, resulting in reduced bitterness and a crisp, agave-forward flavor. Their Añejo, Plata, Reposado, and Cristalino are distilled three times, rather than the typical two.

NODO is a Tequilana made with 100% Agave. Their Single State Blanco only uses mature agave coming from the region of Zacatecas. They are most notable for their flavoured tequilana. The NODO Coconut had the creamy mouthfeel of coconut milk, and the NODO Coffee was sharp with a fragrant espresso. Both were enjoyable for sipping as is.

Derrumbes is all about mezcal with agave sourced from the various mezcal producing regions in Mexico. Each bottle of Derrumbes represents a single state and each was chosen to highlight its traditions, the Terroir and the organoleptic style of the region where it was made. Each mezcal at its core came with the tellatale smokey notes, but each vastly different from its brethren thanks to where the agave is sourced, coupled with different production techniques.

Tequila Adictivo, we discovered as a sipping tequila and not for mixing. Its four expressions are crafted to be intentionally sweeter, made from 100% weber blue agave. Adictivo is distilled traditionally in stainless steel stills. It is put through a second distillation to insure purity. They discard both the heads and tails of the agave plant, directing the remaining product’s profile toward a more aromatic and pleasant finish.

El Jimador advertises the years it takes to make a bottle. They pride themselves as master harvesters making the effort to discern when is the right time to harvest the Weber blue agave that goes into their tequila. They don’t rush this process resulting on a finished product that is optimal at its core.

The tequila sodas and beers offered a nice break from all the hard shots. An easy way to slow your pace, without the need to stop tasting. Ocaso Tequila Sodas are made with 100% Premium Tequila Blanco, balanced with natural lime and organic agave nectar, finished with a hint of sea salt. Their mix pack included flavours like lime, mango, coconut, and a spicy watermelon.

At the Ghost booth they were only sampling their Ghost Blanco. This is produced in small batches, marrying old world techniques with modern ingenuity. They use high-quality 100% agave tequila and a pinch of Ghost pepper heat to create a perfectly balanced, spicy spirit. Here, we also picked up some of their fun swag in sunglasses and a snap back cap.

We were drawn in by the packaging of KAH Tequila, produced by Fabrica de Tequilas Finos, located in the town of Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico at the foot of Tequila hill. The area is officially a heritage of humanity site, as declared by UNESCO. Most of the people working at Finos have worked there since its establishment in 2000 and that includes KAH. Each bottle and colour denotes the area it which it was crafted.

Dulce Vida has earned accolades as the most decorated and recognized craft tequila, lending to its claim as The Most Awarded Tequila. They had a notable Pineapple Jalapeño tequila that made for easy shooting.

La Gritona only has a Reposado Tequila. Their distillery is own and operated by women in Valle De Guadalupe, Jalisco. La Gritona is only distilled with agave that has matured, always within an age of 8-10 years, and all of their piñas must originate in the iron-rich red soil of the local Jalisco highlands. These agave plants are cultivated at the height of their sugar production, near the end of the life cycle. They are put into ovens within 24 hours of trimming. La Gritona prides themselves on always being additive-free.

Grand Mayan Tequila is aged in new American white oak for over 3 years, which results in a rich spirit with a dark mahogany colour. Nutty aromas and hints of agave are followed by an initial sweetness and complemented by rich flavours of roasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate and salty caramel. It finishes with a dry linger of oak, agave and peppery spice. Every bottle is a unique, hand-painted collectable.

Tequila Corralejo is a familiar looking one. Popular amongst tourists at the Mexican duty free, looking for souvenirs to take home. Their tequila is exclusively made with 100% Blue Weber agave, hand-harvested from their fields in the state of Guanajuato. Because the majority of agave they use is estate-grown, they are able to ensure its quality from the very beginning. They start by selecting only stable and healthy shoots, that are already 2-3 years old. Then planting them in a specialty soil blend that prevents imperfections common to the field. Their agave takes 6-8 years to grow before becoming fully ripe for the harvest. At this point, the leaves are remove to leave just the piña, which is taken to the Hacienda to make into tequila.

Tres Agaves is a brand of organic 100% de Agave Tequila and Margarita mixes. This is a family-owned distillery that only uses 100% Blue Agave.

We would cut our night short here, we don’t like sipping or wasting, so took each taster as a shot; getting a few fatter pours from friends in the industry. After a certain point the palate stops tasting the sweetness of the spirit and the nose quivers at the scent. So we found it best to end our tequila journey here. Sadly leaving behind 39 booths behind.

In conclusion this was a great way to meet and greet so many artisan tequila brands and somewhat debunk the spirit as the one you only have at parties for a good time. This was a event with a great execution (minus the cash only coat check). And given the response from the crowd, I am sure we will see it returning next year. For more on this first ever event and the tequilas I failed to taste and cover, visit the link below.



1 thought on “Tequila & Agave Festival”

  1. Sounds like an exciting celebration of flavors and culture. Thanks for sharing this event. We’re eager to learn more about tequila, enjoy tastings, and immerse ourselves in the festive atmosphere!

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