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The Agave Sessions At The Distillery

Ever thought that there was more to tequila than just that time old tradition of shots on a night out? Well lucky for you, the clever booze-meisters over at The Distillery have launched a tasty new tequila masterclass, aptly named The Agave Sessions to further your knowledge into the world of this notorious spirit.

For those of you that don’t know, The Distillery is a fantastic little spot on Portobello Road, just past THE shop from the movie Notting Hill. A four-storey venue with a working distillery, three bedrooms and two bars that has been dubbed ‘The Gin Hotel’ since they opened, not mainly because it’s home to The Ginstitute, one of London’s top gin-centric masterclasses that attracts juniper nuts from across the world.

But for their newest venture, they’ve decided to take off their botanical hats and have teamed up with Herradura - aka one of Mexico’s oldest and most renowned tequila producers to create this brand new tequila masterclass, The Agave Sessions…

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You’ll start by climbing the stairs to The Boardroom and enter to find the set-up of a very sexy meeting indeed. Tastings mats covered with tequilas and mezcals aplenty, rustic bowls filled to the brim with the most amazing guacamole that sit alongside notepads and a projector screen ready to take you on an exciting journey.

Before the lesson begins, you’re handed a delightful Tommy’s Margarita to start, a slightly sweeter variation of the classic made using agave nectar, and one of our favourites mixed drinks. As you take your first sip, you’ll learn that this particular variation of the Margarita is so named because of the bar it was created in, Tommy’s in San Francisco which has proclaimed themselves the best tequila bar in the world – after a few more sips, it’s hard to find grounds to argue.

Onto the other cocktail variations, we start by learning the chequered past of the original Margarita, a recipe which still causes some disagreement to its origin today. Some claim it was created for Rita Hayworth by a bartender in the 1940’s, or that it was actually created by a Texas socialite and others that it evolved from the classic Daisy… Nexxt - the Paloma, another great tequila cocktail made using grapefruit soda and the Batanga, which is what the locals in Mexico drink and includes cola.

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Now you’ve got the cocktails nailed, it’s time to focus on the plant that makes it, the agave or blue-weber agave to be specific (for tequila anyway, but we’ll touch on that again later). Believed to be similar to the cactus family, when in fact its closer to the lily, there are over two hundred types of agave and only the blue can be used to make tequila.

At this point a refreshing Paloma is placed down in front of us and some terrific tacos for us to munch on while hearing about the hardy nature of the agave plant, which needs little assistance to grow – the answer to our house plant prayers perhaps? Once these tough cookies are harvested and trimmed you’re left with the heart or piña, which looks like a pineapple. These are then cooked and this is where we get into the geeky stuff, but not without a refreshing Pacífico beer and some more nibbles to see us through the learning.

The clever stuff in short, dives into what makes tequila, tequila - from the specific agave to the regions it can be grown – how all tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas, that mezcals can be made from more than thirty agaves and you’ll also even learn about some of the old school Fred Flintstone-style methods still used to make some of them… think a pit, some rocks and sometimes a chicken thrown in for good measure!

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Ever wondered what makes the tequila you remember from student club nights extra ‘memorable’? Unlike some of the better distilleries, like Herradura who only use 100% blue agave, the cheap stuff also known as Mixto tequila, is only made with 51% and also includes a lot of added sugar - eek. Steer clear!. 

Finally it’s onto the tasting! Your tasting mat in front of you has eight glasses for you to sniff, sip and savour, ranging from the clear blancos to some pretty meaty mezcals (remember that chicken). After everyone has tasted the range, you’ll discuss tasting notes and colour differences, with some surprising revelations.

To cap off the class there's a tequila Old Fashioned and some exquisite meatballs with rice and talk turns to thoughts on the experience and everyone’s favourite things tasted. All in all a terribly tequila-heavy masterclass that you’ll leave better educated and three cocktails, a beer, some delicious Mexican food and some generous tasters heavier…. Oh and we haven’t even got to the best bit.

In the goody bag you take away you’ll find a bottle of Herradura Blanco and your very own miniature barrel, made exclusively at Herradura’s cooperage in Mexico for you to take away and age at home. This is definitely one for those that want to get serious about tequila. So... us then!?