Our Master Distiller
The bandido spirit is embodied in Karina Rojo, our mastermind and master distiller responsible for creating El Bandido Yankee’s distinctively smooth taste. We’re grateful for her expertise in guiding our tequila making process at El Viejito Distillery in Atotonilco El Alto, Jalisco. Like most worthwhile things in life, making great tasting tequila doesn’t come easy. Instead, it’s the result of years of research and expertise. Karina has spent nearly 20 years pursuing the art and craft of distilling tequila.
BLAZING HER OWN TEQUILA TRAIL
Karina’s interest in the making of tequila began in college, when she was an engineering student studying at the University of Guadalajara. She wanted to learn more about the spirit, an important product to the region’s economy, and launched two research projects exploring the authenticity of the tequila. After completing her undergraduate degree in engineering, she went on to pursue a master’s degree in technical processes.
Tequila has a long, rich history in Mexico. Considered North America’s first distilled drink, it was called pulque in its earliest form. Later it was renamed for the small town of Tequila, located in the valley of Jalisco. The art of tequila making is one of great cultural significance to Mexico.
Authenticity in process is important to Karina, which is why she’s been with El Viejito for most of her career, nearly 15 years.
“Honesty,” said Karina. “You don’t see that everywhere and that’s why I’ve been at El Viejito so long.”
The distillery is carrying on centuries-old practices for handcrafting tequila. Founded in 1937 by Don Indalecio Nuñez Muro, El Viejito is committed to preserving its time-honored traditions and far exceeds all environmental standards by maintaining a voluntary certification. Dedicated to elevating and celebrating women in the industry, more than 50% of its employees are women.
A DEDICATION TO PROCESS
From field to bottle, Karina oversees the many steps in the making of El Bandido Yankee’s delicious tequila.
She finds the fermentation part the most challenging, noting that this step requires a great deal of careful studying and testing to get just right.
During fermentation, the juices of the cooked agave come together with water and yeast to convert the agave sugars to alcohol. Getting the temperature and timing aligned are critical during this phase. Fermentation can take several days.
CREATING THE SMOOTH IN OUR ‘CRIMINALLY SMOOTH’ TEQUILA
After fermentation, the raw alcohol is twice distilled in copper pots. According to Karina, the first distillation takes about 5 hours and the second distillation is about 17 hours. Through vaporization and condensation, distillation is essentially the process of purifying the liquid. After the first distillation, the liquid is referred to as ordinario. After the second distillation, the liquid can then be considered a tequila.
To reach our epic levels of smoothness, Karina’s team next begins a process of fully oxygenating the tequila. Bubbles are carefully directed through the tequila to break up bigger alcohol molecules. The oxygenation removes the alcohol burn you can experience with less refined tequilas. The result is a distinctive, velvety smooth texture.
After oxygenation, our Tequila Blanco expression is ready for bottling. For our Tequila Reposado, Karina’s team ages the tequila in barrels to create an intriguing blend of agave and wood aromas. The tequila rests in American Oak bourbon barrels that were stripped and recharred to ensure all those notes come shining through in the finished product.
RAISE A GLASS TO KARINA’S ARTISTRY
Karina says she enjoys working in the tequila industry and meeting the demands of today’s more discerning tequila drinkers. She describes El Bandido Yankee tequila as having an extremely soft profile. The Tequila Blanco is her personal favorite because she prefers the agave flavor in its most natural state.
Blancos are the purest expression of tequila. Because there are no flavor enhancements from aging the tequila in wood barrels, Tequila Blancos truly showcase the artistry of the master distiller.
Next time you’re stealing a sip of El Bandido, we invite you to raise a glass to Karina and her tequila talents!