Meet a Director of Tequila Operations (and sign us up!)
Get to know David Yan Gonzalez! Born in Guadalajara, MX, David has over 26 years of experience in the spirits and tequila business. He is a Certified Tequila Taster by Academia Mexicana del Tequila and Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila, and has a Maestro Catador Certification by Francisco Hajnal. He also received the Master Taster Award by Master Francisco Villalobos and reached the Expert Taster Level 4 from Ana Maria Romero Mena, a widely recognized maestra tequilera.
Today he's the Director of Tequila Operations for 25-time award-winning 818 Tequila. We were dying to know what exactly this epic job title entails and asked him all about distillation, tasting notes, cocktail inspiration, and beyond.
HRN: Director of Tequila Operations is a great job title - what does your day to day actually look like?
David Yan Gonzalez: Never a boring day for sure! Usually we perform batch sampling/tasting early in the week, and once they are correct we provide the verbal and written OK to proceed to the next step, which can be bottling or aging. Every batch included in every Lot Number goes through an identical process for consistency. We work VERY closely with the distillery team, and also with Kendall and our leadership team to maintain the 818 tequila style. We are producing from a brand new facility, so we are very hands on with every batch to get 818 to the right aroma and flavor structure.
On the other hand, I also have a role in supporting sales, both our internal and distributor teams, since I have been a global tequila ambassador for almost 2 decades, and developed many relationships inside the industry that help 818 connect with old and new accounts. Most of this support is in the form of events like blind tastings and educational workshops.
HRN: So, how is 818 Tequila made? Can you give us an overview of what's involved?
David Yan Gonzalez:
We produce 818 out of a state of the art new facility, located in Amatitan, Jalisco (NOM 1607), and also were the first brand to be produced there. This distillery combines a traditional process with the latest technology, so there is abundant data on each step of the process that we can analyze and use for making a very precise, repeatable sequence that gives us tremendous consistency.
- We begin with fully matured blue agaves grown in the Amatitan Valley (our supplier, who also happens to own the distillery, is the third largest owner of blue agave in Mexico, with over 23 million plants)
- Slow cooking in traditional ovens for over 30 hrs, plus cooling time. Ovens provide a rich aromatic and sweetness level with mineral accents that other cooking methods can’t.
- Mosto (liquid cooked agave juice) is extracted using 3 tahona wheels, that brings more terroir and fiber elements to the profile
- Fermentation is performed in hybrid tanks (stainless steel and wood), for 48 hours. Fermentation is open air and fiber assisted.
- Distillation is performed in 2 stages: Destrozamiento happened in 5,000 lt copper alembic pot stills, and second distillation in a hybrid rectifier (combination of pot and tower still), to 48% ABV (most distilleries do 60 or even 70% ABV!), but we bottle at 40% AVB (80 proof)
- Aging is performed in both French and American oak barrels from TOP suppliers
The MOST notable thing about this distillery however, is the unmatched approach to sustainability: fossil fuel usage is significantly reduced, as energy comes from solar panels and a biomass burner that uses all liquid and solid waste. We also use our water waste and leftover agave fibers to make sustainable bricks! We teamed up with an organization called S.A.C.R.E.D. that connects community projects and receives our bricks to build structures in their communities.
HRN: How do you connect with local farmers for sourcing? Any story or memory to share from specific agave farms or farmers you have met?
David Yan Gonzalez: Grupo SOLAVE not only owns and operates the distillery but also manages the agave fields and our own jimador crews. The fields are located in the immediate proximity of the distillery, and they are organized as Agaveros del Valle de Magdalena. Walking with our jimador crews on the fields is always a joy, as they share the great moments that they have experienced there in nature. Most of the Grupo Solave agave fields are certified organic, so the entry and operation protocols are very detailed, they keep logs on every single activity performed there: from planting and pruning, to harvesting and fertilization.
HRN: What tasting notes can we find in 818 Tequila?
David Yan Gonzalez: Kendall wants a style that is as unique as it is enjoyable. The 818 profile is easy to recognize because it has a notably soft effect on the nose (soft but not subtle) and a really smooth presence on the mouth and throat (no burn or sting on the way down or back). Soft yet savory, with highlights on the vanilla elements coming from the French barrels.
- 818 Blanco: spends a short 3 week stay inside low toast French barrels, so you will find cooked agave, vanilla and mineral accents, quite herbaceous and hints of citrus elements
- 818 Reposado may be the best loved of all our expressions: this is a very precise blend of French and American oak barrels where our tequila has been rested for 3-4 months, the result is a more complex combination of cooked agave sweetness with vanilla and mild sweet spices, but also a touch of caramel/creme brûlée and dried fruits. Floral accents can be found at the top of the glass, as well as soft earthy notes
- Our 818 Añejo is a 14 month blend of French and American barrels, but this time giving a bit more weight to the caramel and toasted nuts character from the bourbon barrels: baseline agave flavor and aroma, with caramel and vanilla hues, and a wonderfully balanced mix of almonds, toffee and cacao bean, and hints of red dried fruits (cranberry, cherry) and subtle spiced accents like cinnamon and clove
HRN: What's your favorite way to drink 818 Tequila?
David Yan Gonzalez: It depends on mood and occasion, and also how thirsty I am. For me cocktails are the ultimate form of tequila enjoyment. My “go to” is unquestionably a Repo-Tonic, but 818 Negronis and Tommy’s Margaritas are superb. When I'm in the mood for a boozy cocktail, NOTHING tastes better than a 818 Añejo Manhattan, especially if you use a good Vermouth such as Carpano Antica, or Punt-e Mes.