With almost three centuries of life, the only agave distiller in the south of Sinaloa, in Mazatlán, Santa Clara Vinata, keeps operating with rustic and advanced technology
La Noria Sinaloa.- 3 kilometers from the La Noria syndicate, in Mazatlán, is the Vinata Santa Clara, a place where rustic and advanced technology is combined to obtain agave distillate, an activity that is unique in the Sinaloa state.
Alfonso Osuna Moreno, a local worker, comments that the property has been maintained for almost three centuries, at first as a producer of mezcal, a drink that identifies Mexico.
A Place with history
He mentions that since someone enters the vinata, it seems that time stops and it is in 1876, the year in which it was founded by Liberato Osuna, who in honor of his beautiful wife, named that place Santa Clara, whose Company name contrasts with the name of the distillate that is produced there, which bears the surname that predominates in that part of Mazatlán, that of the Osuna, “Vinata Los Osuna“
Since then, the owner started the place as a mezcal factory, which to date, four generations have been dedicated to the production of a drink that, because it is not of origin such as tequila, is only named agave distillate.
The old and the new
Osuna Moreno mentions that the old factory maintains both rustic and advanced technology since the production of the product requires purely artisan work, which is an attraction for the tourism that comes to the place, which is amazed at the procedures of the past and present to make the drink that identifies Mexico to the world.
And it is that since you enter the Los Osuna Vinata you can see the agaves, which have to spend between 7 and 12 years to mature and begin a process that begins from cutting to fermentation and a series of distillates to extract the liquid. , which has to be kept in barrels from two months to a year or more, to have the final product that is part of the Mexican culture.
Perhaps you have noticed a plaque at hotel Belmar’s entrance In Olas Altas bay, where you can read the story of Governor Rodolfo T. Loaiza’s assassination on February 21th 1944 during a carnival mask party at the Andaluz hall, Rodolfo Valdez AKA “El Gitano” was pointed as the assassin he was a member of “Los Dorados” a group of rural vigilantes that was fighting the agrarian reform.
What you may not know is that this murderer was the result of the tensions between the government and the tequila producers of Sinaloa, caused by the implementation of the Agrarian reform starting in the 1920s in Mexico, the goal of such was to expropriate land from landowners and give it away more “equally” forming the Ejidos (a piece of land farmed communally under a system supported by the state)
But wait a minute, Tequila producer in Sinaloa in the early 20th century? Isn’t Tequila from Jalisco? There is no easy answer to these questions; there are so many theories on the subject and not a lot of written records of it.
Let’s start from the fact that Tequila is technically a Mezcal and a Mezcal is basically an agave distilled and the word Tequila is a controlled denomination of origin that only applies to five states in Mexico (Guanajuato, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Nayarit, and Jalisco). In Sinaloa, though the story goes back to the early eighteen hundreds, a couple of families from La Noria began to grow two types of agave, Agave Cupreata and Agave Potatorum, at some point in the mid-eighteen hundreds there were 25,000 hectares dedicated to cultivating agave in southern Sinaloa.
In 1876 Don Liberato Osuna founded the Vinata Santa Clara, near La Noria, in what we now know as Vinata Los Osuna, the factory prospered for nearly 60 years but in 1935 the tensions and violence caused by the conflict between the supporters of the agrarian reform and the producers of Mezcal increased and on top of that the government rose the taxes on Mezcal, forcing the producers to build and operate clandestine Mezcal factories where they could produce cheap unlabelled tax-free Mezcal to supply the demand of the product in Sinaloa and Durango, obviously these litter bottles where super illegal and if you were caught with one of these you would be in great trouble.
Fortunately for us we can visit the vestiges of one of these clandestine distilleries nowadays they are located in the midst of the agave plantations at Vinata Los Osuna, getting to them it’s quite easy. If you like to go for a hike, visiting this historical site is a good option.
There is a trail at Los Osuna that goes through the Agave plantation and into the jungle and then leads to a branch of the Quelite River where the clandestine factory is, we call it: The Blue Agave Trail, it is by the river because they need it a lot of water for the production process, there you can clearly see two underground ovens used to roast the agave hearths also known in Spanish as “pencas”, you can also find a tahona (a large stone wheel pulled by a donkey that is used to crush the roasted hearts of agave), a fermentation pile and a distillation oven.
The trail is only 1.5 miles each way starting from Huanacoa (a tour company that runs a zip line on the property) where you can park your vehicle under a lush fig tree, a big Huanacaxtle, or a Ceiba tree. If you arrive early you can see a bunch of Coa birds flying around as well as Yellow-winged caciques, Orange-fronted parakeet (only in season) and Chachalacas, the earlier you get there, the more chances you’ll have of seeing them. The next section of the trail takes you through the agave fields until you get to the bottom of a small hill, from there you’ll get to the lushest part of the trail with Red paper trees, Cardon cactuses and White ebony trees providing shade and making the hike easier. Keep your eyes open since we have seen all kinds of wildlife on the trail, from whitetail deer to coatis, red-crested woodpeckers, white-throated magpie-jay, gray hawks, and many more native and migratory birds.
It will take you about 1 hour to complete the trail and get back to your car, remember to take your time to take pictures of the flora, fauna, and the old clandestine distillery, if you think about it, you will be visiting a piece of our history.
After your hike you could visit the modern distillery and see how the production process has evolved over the years, it is a small company so they take their time and really pour love into every bottle, feel free to ask any of Los Osuna staff members any question you may have, you will experience for yourself how warm, kind and hospitable everyone is. There are a lot of interesting stories especially because the factory has been there since 1876. The best time of the year to do this hike is between October And January since everything is super lush and the weather is just way nicer.
If you really want to hike The blue agave trail but you don’t have a vehicle, to get to Los Osuna, perhaps you could join us in one of our excursions we go there every week or you could ask for a private tour, just go to the main page of our website and you will see it as “hiking The Blue Agave Trail”