Papi Chulo & The Tequila Distiller

Rebecca Varidel
27th Jun 2016

The climate differences between the highlands and the lowlands apply importantly in Mexico. Who knew? Agave is the word.

We met with international visitor Maestro Tequilero Jesús Hernandez from Olmeca Altos in Mexico and local spirits guru Ben Davidson from Pernod Ricard, at Manly wharf restaurant Papi Chulo to find out more.

But don't go looking for Olmeca Altos at your local bottl'o. At this stage in Australia, the artisan agave tequila is only available on premise. That means you need to go to a discerning bar or restaurant to get to try this traditional premium brand. Olmeca Altos is the Merivale tequila of choice, and interestingly tequila is its second highest selling spirit (vodka being the first). And as in the song touting the highlands first, you can safely bet that the cooler highlands climate is where the premium sweeter blue agave for Olmeca Altos is grown, and distilled.

Olmeca Altos is a hand-crafted tequila made with authentic, traditional methods at the heart of Los Altos, Mexico.

While refreshing Olmeca Altos cocktails greeted us on arrival, we also got to taste the good stuff neat. Take your time. As with good wine, take the time to look and smell a fine spirit before you taste it. And go back to it to nose again between sipping. The blue agave is slowly roasted for three days, then traditionally crushed in an old stone roller, before double distillation in a copper still. Ageing in the Olmeca Altos Reposado tequila for 6 to 8 months adds the complexity of barrel with additional notes of vanilla and wood.

Rumour has it, that the luxury craft of the tequila distillery is staying in the family. Fernandez' son, also named Jesús, provides tours of the Mexican distillery now, but is training as the Olmeca Altos successor.

In a matching menu designed crafted by the Papi Chulo team, and lead on the day by Head Chef Nick Imgraben, we feasted fully on simply treated produce with a Mexican BBQ theme starting with the Papi Chulo signature pea guacamole. Imgraben told me the wood was aged ironbark, which was put to good use in the dish of the day. The wood fire open little shelled morsels of Spring Bay mussels which were soft and succulent, their own sea flavour at the fore, with just the slightest tinge of smoke from the fire. Next to them were the most marvellous thin crisp fries with a garlic aioli. While others dipped (and double dipped) I let the mussels speak for themselves, without even a hint of lemon, and kept the smoky emulsion for chip dipping instead. Right up there in the flavour stakes was the tender sweet BBQ corn on the cob and the chicken.

And what would a long lunch be without Strawberry cheesecake crunch and Espresso martinis for dessert before a quick trip back on the harbour back to Circular Quay.