Centro Latin Kitchen chef Ian Clark was on a bus from Sayulita, Mexico, over the holidays when he got a phone call from work. "Someone in the company asked me if I wanted to go back down to Mexico," he recalls. "I said, 'Sure, why not?'"
A few weeks later, he found himself on a plane to Guadalajara with Lola chef Duane Walker. Their mission, besides touring tequila distilleries, was to retrieve a barrel of Herradura tequila made specifically for the Big Red F restaurant group called Big Red F'n Tequila.
"The barrel was something we had in the works for a while," Clark explains. "We had purchased it a couple of years ago, but it fell to the wayside. Herradura called up the person that ordered it and said, 'By the way, you have this barrel.' So we went down to get it."
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The tequila, says the chef, is a "double-barrel reposado. It's very unique; there's no other tequila like it. Reposado has to be aged three months to twelve months; after that, it becomes añejo. They aged this tequila for eleven months in one barrel, then transferred it to a second barrel and aged it for one more month." The resulting spirit, he says, has spicy green-pepper notes like a young reposado or silver tequila, but also plenty of the butterscotch and caramel that comes from barrel aging.
The chefs hauled their booze home, but not before getting the full tour of the Herradura facility. "They brought us to the old distillery they found on the property," Clark says, estimating that it was built in the 1600s. "It was like stepping onto the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. There were wood-fired kilns and a fermentation tank dug out of the ground that was lined with stone."
Now that the tequila is safely in the States, it will be split between Centro, Lola, Zolo and West End Tavern. And while Clark says you can certainly have a cocktail made with it, he admits that it's a tequila better suited to sipping. "It's not a tequila that I would want mixed, but I really like sipping it."