Looking for Robb Report UK? Click here to visit our UK site.

How This New Premium Tequila Went Old School to Make Its Blanco and Reposado

A mechanical donkey named Pepe is involved.

Santaleza Tequila Santaleza Tequila

It seems like a new tequila brand hits the market every month, and that’s really not much of an exaggeration. One of the latest to arrive is Santaleza, a new premium tequila that uses traditional production methods, as well as a quirky take on said methods in the form of a mechanical donkey named Pepe.

Santaleza is the collaborative effort of Chopin Imports, known for its eponymous vodka brand, and the Lopez-Villareal family. The tequila is produced at the Bonanza distillery, or Destiladora Bonanza (NOM 1604). No diffusers or additives are used during the process, according to the brand, something that is increasingly important to today’s hyperaware tequila drinker. “We are pleased to see the tequila trend getting back to its roots, and drinkers are not only receptive but embracing the traditional and original style of tequila as a go-to favorite for all occasions,” said Juan Pablo Lopez-Villareal, owner of the distillery, in a statement. Chuck Kane, Chopin Imports COO, touts this partnership as being key to the tequila’s success. “We are proud to partner with one of the oldest tequila families in Mexico, the Lopez-Villareal family, of San Matias fame,” he said. “The meaning of Santaleza, a place of sanctuary, was a vital consideration in partnering with such a storied family steeped in centuries of knowledge, and we could not be happier to be on this journey together.”

So about that mechanical donkey… After being harvested and cooked in a masonry oven for 72 hours, the agave pinas are crushed by a 135-year-old tahona, or large volcanic stone, that is pulled by a metal beast christened Pepe with a fake donkey head. Traditionally, a real animal would have been used to pull the stone, but nowadays tequila producers are modernizing their systems while still using these types of old-school methods—think the converted steamroller at the El Pandillo distillery. Next, the crushed agave is put into a Roble wood vat for fermentation, and finally distilled twice in copper alembic stills. The tequila is bottled at 80 proof.

pepe the agave crushing mechanical donkey
Santaleza Tequila

There are currently two Santaleza expressions available—an unaged blanco and a reposado that has been matured for at least four months in American oak. We have not had a chance to taste these tequilas, but the tasting notes are as follows—the blanco has some jasmine and lime on the nose, with peppercorn, citrus and some minerality on the palate; the reposado has oak and vanilla on the nose, followed by creamy agave and white pepper on the palate.

These two expressions are rolling out in 10 states to start, with the blanco priced at $59.99 and the reposado at $69.99. An anejo will be released this year as well, and according to the brand there are other agave distillates from around Mexico that don’t fall into the tequila category on the horizon as well. It sounds like Pepe’s work will not be over anytime soon.

Read More On:

More Spirits