If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas this year, you can grab me a bottle of the newly released, Patrón Smoky. Okay, it’s about $278 a bottle at the LCBO but you can’t put a price on the perfect gift. Photo: Elaine Fancy

Maria Sanchez Benitez photo: Carole Nelson Brown

As an avid tequila sipper, I was thrilled to attend a tasting event at Milagro Cantina on Queen West to introduce Patrón’s newest premium tequila, Smoky. Besides learning all about Patrón and their commitment to sustainability and honouring their Mexican heritage,  we were also led in a tasting by Patrón’s International Brand Education Manager, Maria Sanchez Benitez.

I am ashamed to admit that this was my first visit to Milagro, a restaurant that has spent 13 years serving authentic Mexican food to Toronto. Milagro opened at the height of our Tex Mex obsession and bucked that trend, instead insisting on serving real Mexican dishes so it made perfect sense to host this event there. Patrón has also insisted on going their own way and producing high quality tequila, using traditional methods while giving back to the community that hosts their distillery.

Maria Sanchez Benitez’s back ground in bio engineering led her to work with Patrón’s master distiller, taking visitors around the Hacienda on tours etc. Today, she lives in London and, as their International Brad Education Manager, she trains brand ambassadors who will go on to represent the company in countries around the world.

She spent a bit of time explaining the history of Patrón and their refusal to give up their small batch, artisanal methods despite their growth as a company. Instead of adopting mass production techniques, they just keep building more small distilleries. They also feel that it is important to carry that philosophy over into their hiring practices. They employ over 400 people in the bottling room alone. Yes, machines would enable them to crank out more product but machines can’t detect imperfections the way that these employees can and, in fact, every bottle will have had 60 hands on it at some point. That’s a lot of eyeballs. They even continue to work with the same eight families who have grown their Weber Blue Agave since 1989 because those families have been growing for generations.

Look at how raptly I am listening to the charming Mariana as she gives us a crash course in all things Patrón Photo: Elaine Fancy

They endeavour to limit the environmental impact of their production by doing things like allowing small distilleries to bring their own fibre waste to dump in their 12 acre compost area and, in return, these small distilleries receive an equal amount of the resulting fertilizer. They have a state of the art reverse osmosis water treatment system and they have donated about 16,000 trees in their community of Atotonilco el Alto, Jalisco and recently transplanted 3000 lime trees instead of cutting them down during an expansion project. The company also supports a variety of philanthropic organizations and charities, at home and across the world. In short, Patrón puts their money where their agave is.

We had four tequilas to taste: 1 important note: all Patron tequilas are 100% tequila, which means that 100% of the sugars are derived from Weber Blue Agave. Lesser quality tequilas are known as Mixtos that do not contain that same 100% Weber Blue Agave Photo: Elaine Fancy

Silver – this clear, white spirit forms the base of most of their other products.

Reposada – a light amber and light oak aroma comes from at least 2 months of aging

 Añejo– Oak aged for over 12 months, it’s darker in colour, it’s a little bit smoky and smooth

Smoky– this brand new spirit is made from pines that are roasted with mesquite for about 7 days in small, underground stone pits at the Hacienda Patron in Jalisco, crushed with a tahona wheel, fermented and then distilled. It’s smoky and peppery with a bit of citrus – I thought it was almost Mezcal like

Photo: Elaine Fancy

After our tasting, we were treated to delicious food from the Milagro kitchen while tasting fabulous cocktails, highlighting the different styles of Patrón tequila. I had a Jalisco Sour since the $$$ Smoky is probably not going to happen for me anytime soon but if I could have handled a second drink, I was drooling over the Negroni. Roast duck in a delicious, black mole, pork salbutes and  huitlachoche quesadillas kept us from getting too tipsy and have put Milagro on my “must try asap” list.

Photo: Elaine Fancy