Meet the Master Distiller behind Mexico’s celebrated, five-year-aged tequila, Tears of Llorona
For master distiller Germán González, tequila is his family’s lifeblood. His father, Guillermo González Diaz Lombardo, was an industry legend: He created Chincao, Mexico’s first premium tequila imported in America, which set a new standard for a thoughtfully made craft product. In the 1970s, Guillermo grew blue agave and operated his distillery in Tamaulipas, an area not legally licensed to label its agave spirit as “tequila.” Knowing that he needed to call the spirit “tequila” to better market it, he spent years working with the government to extend the designation territory to his agave’s region.
Germán grew up learning about tequila from his father. In the 2000s, he began managing Chinaco and the farm, working at the farm, in the distilling laboratory, and on the business side. But he had a special project in the works: a premium, five-year-aged tequila that is regarded as one of the finest examples on the market. He named it Tears of Llorona after a ghost story his father told him as a child, and debuted it to consumers in 2014. Today, Germán lives in San Antonio but still maintains his crucial role in the production of Tears of Llorona.
Meet Tears of Llorona Maker: Germán González
How did you get into spirit making? What was it like learning from your father?
My father built his distillery in 1974 in a state that wasn’t designated to make tequila in Mexico. In order to be marketable in the United States, he had to fight the industry for it to be considered tequila. I come from a fighter. [Back then] most tequila in the United States was a mix of other tequilas. My father opened the market for quality tequila.
He made me fall in love with tequila and the business. He taught me how to age it. Most producers use bourbon barrels. He taught me it was much better to use scotch whiskey barrels because they’re not as strong and won’t overwhelm the tequila flavor profile.
How did the special family reserve tequila come about?
I come from a small family of nine, so I decided I wanted to start my own line. A friend of mine opened the doors of his distillery to me, and I wanted to create something different—something along the line of the best high-end scotches of the worlds. I wanted to experiment with brandy barrels and sherry barrels [along with scotch barrels]—brandy for the brightness, sherry for the fruitiness. I chose agave from Tonatico region because there are lots of citrus trees.
The first time I shared Tears of Llorona with my friends, it was three years old. I knew I needed to age it a little longer to get all the flavors I was looking for. It also gave us time to develop the bottle and name. Patience is important. For something like the Tears that ages for five years, patience is the one word you have to remember.
In 2014, we released 180 cases. That was the first time we knew the product was going to hit the market.
How much Tears of Llorona is released each year?
The number changes, maybe 200 cases or some years 300 cases. If you see the Tears bottles, they have an icon, and each one represents a different batch. It’s the same category of flavor. All I can do is get them to the same point. You can manage the agave, but the barrels never tell you what they’re going to give you. One batch might [taste like] 40 percent scotch, 40 percent brandy, and 20 percent sherry. The temperature changes affect the barrels.
What’s the ghost story behind the product?
La Llorona, or “the weeping woman,” is a ghost story told to children Mexico and Latin America. There are different tellings of the stories, but it’s often about a woman whose unfaithful husband drove her to madness and she drowned her children. It’s said that her spirit haunts Mexico’s landscape, weeping in search of her lost children or on the hunt for unfaithful men to punish.
What is the right way to drink Tears of Llorona?
I love it best in a little tequila glass. Don’t serve it in a snifter, which puts the alcohol to your nose first. Not the longer shot glasses, either, which are thick and warm the tequila too quickly. I always say, “Drink it with your best, best friends.”
- by Erin Byers Murray
- by Maggie Ward