Last Updated on January 18, 2021
Mazatlan is renowned for its Pacifico brewery, but did you know about Los Osuna tequila craft distillery only 22 miles from downtown? Although its geographical location in Sinaloa prevents it from legally being labelled as tequila, that has not prevented Los Osuna from being awarded double gold at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition. We’ll tell you how to get there by local bus for a fraction of the cost of an arranged tour and what to expect once there.
Expensive tours are easily arranged in Mazatlan, typically costing around $50 USD (1,000 MXN) per person – tips not included. Grant it this includes pick-up and drop-off at your hotel and a trip to the town of La Noria. However our article is about getting to and from Los Osuna distillery independently for $7.50 USD (150 MXN) – tips not included.
The drive to Los Osuna distillery takes about 40 minutes from Mazatlan. Regardless of how you get there, distillery tours come with two complimentary tequila tastings included in the admission price. Visit the Los Osuna website for more information.
Visiting the Distillery Independently and Securing an English Speaking Guide
Typically an English speaking guide is on-hand at Los Osuna, however it is best to reserve a guide at least 24 hours in advance. We highly recommend Ivan or Patricio, but we know you will be happy with any of the guides there. We honestly cannot speak highly enough of the staff at Los Osuna. They are incredibly welcoming, informative and kind. If you are lucky you may get to hear Patricio sing! For reservations see below:
Phone: (669) 983-1858
Visiting Los Osuna Distillery Independently: How Much Does it Cost?
- 9.50 MXN – Local bus from your destination to the bus station.
- 40 MXN – Bus fare to the town of La Noria, dropping-off at the Los Osuna Distillery entrance.
- 50 MXN – Entrance fee to Los Osuna Distillery with two free tastings included.
- 40 MXN – Bus fare back to Mazatlan from Los Osuna Distillery.
- 9.50 MXN – Local bus from the bus station back to your destination.
How to Get To Los Osuna Distillery From Mazatlan
Driving From Mazatlan: From Mazatlan take Highway 15 north toward Culiacan. Arrive at the El Habal crossroads about 4 mi. (about 6.5 km) beyond Mazatlan; turn right toward La Noria from here. Continue about 12 mi. (20 km) to the well-signed entrance for Los Osuna Distillery, located on the right of the highway. Continue on the dirt access road about 1 mile to the small distillery.
By Bus from Mazatlan: Daily buses to La Noria leave Mazatlan, stopping at the entrance to Los Osuna Distillery – ask the driver to drop you off here! These buses depart from a small terminal behind Mazatlan’s central bus station; this secondary terminal, accessed on Calle Alvarado, serves small villages and towns around Mazatlan. The schedule in the lobby isn’t current – ask around for current departure/arrival times!
Buses (1 hour) leave at 7 am and 11 am and 3 pm and 6 pm. The Los Osuna Distillery is just before the village of La Noria. From the highway it’s a 15-minute walk through the agave fields to the Los Osuna distillery.
Getting back to Mazatlan: The final bus back to Mazatlan leaves La Noria at 3 pm, arriving at Los Osuna’s entrance very shortly after that. Don’t miss this last bus back to Mazatlan; be at the side of the highway by 3 pm!
Is It Los Osuna Tequila, or Blue Agave?
Let’s start by clearing up some semantics. Simply put, the term tequila receives worldwide recognition and protection under the Tequila Designation of Origin, similar to Frances Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). Therefore tequila must be from a specific geographical region. This area includes the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities within some surrounding states. Sinaloa is not one of these states. However the folk at Los Osuna have marketed their 100% blue agave with a clever qualifying slogan – Tequila in the process, but not from the region.
Although geographically Los Osuna may not officially qualify as tequila, it is made with 100% Weber Blue Agave and is labeled as such. Some spirits are formally recognised as tequila, as long as they contain at least 51% blue agave spirit and hail from the required designation of origin. However the other 49% of these products are typically cut with a type of rum and are known as mixto. Naturally these are your standard tequilas used for margaritas and slamming shots. Los Osuna on the other hand adds no by-products to its 100% blue agave product, resulting in a premium spirit acknowledged by tequila aficionados.
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The History of Los Osuna Distillery
Founded in 1876, this family-run vinata adheres to its historical legacy, albeit with some mechanical modernisations. Indeed a particular event in the history of Los Osuna Vinata is inextricably linked to the governmental decree of 1949 confining the production of tequila to the state of Jalisco. In essence this defining historical decree proved to be a harbinger to the 1974 Tequila Designation of Origin.
Delve further into the scandalous event which changed the geographical map of tequila production on the Los Osuna website. If you’re already visiting Mazatlan, stop by the Hotel Belmar – the site of the notorious incident!
The Production Process of Los Osuna Tequila
Perhaps the most notable thing upon arriving at Los Osuna Vinata (agave producing estate) is just how small and compact the facility is. It’s hard to believe every last step in the process of production happens here, but it does. Indeed Los Osuna 100% Blue Agave is a small-batch artesanal craft distilled spirit, in the truest sense. The distillery produces only 45,000 bottles per year.
Below are the following steps involved in the production process:
Jimadores at Los Osuna Distillery harvest the blue agaves once they reach eight to ten years-old. Each plant is harvested using a coa de jima – a sharp edged tool similar to a hoe. All outer leaves are removed, leaving only the heart of the plant – the piña. Jimadores are Mexican farmers whose expertise lies in agave horticulture.
Harvesting of the Blue Weber Agave typically occurs at least one month after the last rainfall. Usually at Los Osuna Vinata harvest season runs from February to May, however it is entirely dependent on when the jimadores deem conditions to be just right.
The weight of each piña varies, with some exceeding 70 kg. Ideally piñas of 35 kg and up are desired, which is not surprising considering 12 kg are required to produce one litre of product. Once harvested the piñas are taken to the distillery where they are halved and destemmed.
At this point, steam heat cooks the piñas in 140 year-old in-ground brick ovens for a full 48 hours. This breaks down the starches into the necessary sugars which play a vital role later in the process.
Here at Los Osuna a combination of modern technology and traditional mechanisms are blended seamlessly in order to produce their award-winning 100% blue agave product.
The Vinata retains much of its original equipment, including its Tahona – an original stone wheel pulled by donkeys for squeezing the liquid sugar from the steamed fibres. However these days it’s only an educational attraction, occasionally used in a living-museum format. In reality a modern press is used to extract the liquid sugar nowadays.
Once all of the juices are extracted they are then placed in wooden tanks with a special, locally developed yeast for five days. This entire slow, cool fermentation process is imperative as the yeast transforms the sugar into alcohol and determines the very basis of the product.
Such is the importance of this step it is set to a backdrop of classical music, implementing the Mozart Method, as devised by master tequila distiller Leopold Solis.
After fermentation the product goes through two rounds of distillation. The first occurs in stainless steel stills, whilst the second distillation is carried out in traditional wood and copper stills which impart their own flavour to the spirits. The second distillation results in a product of 60% alcohol, which is then reduced to 40% with the addition of distilled water. It is quite rare these days to find wooden stills used in commercial production. Indeed this adds to the uniqueness and exceptional craft involved in the production of Los Osuna Blue Agave.
Ageing and Bottling
Both the Reposado and Añejo are aged in oak barrels at the distillery. Additionally, the labelling and bottling of all products takes place at the Vinata, completing the entire process.
Los Osuna Blue Agave Products
Blanco – rested (but not aged in wood) for 90 days after distillation prior to bottling.
Reposado (maduro) – begins as blanco, then placed into white oak barrels and aged 11 months.
Añejo – starts out as blanco, then aged up to three years in the same barrels. Over time the alcohol absorbs distinct characteristic flavours imparted from the wood of the barrels. Aging produces a smooth, mellow drink allowing the texture, body and flavour to develop.
Los Osuna does not add any colourings, thickeners or flavourings to their Blanco, Reposado or Añejo products. The entire process and ensuing spirits are 100% natural, relying strictly on top quality raw products, family tradition and time.
For those of you who may prefer something a little sweeter, try one of Los Osuna’s Liqueurs:
- Agave Vanilla Liqueur – Reposado with vanilla flavouring and sugar. 19% ABV (38 proof)
- Cinnamon – Reposado with cinnamon flavouring and sugar. 19% ABV (38 proof)
- Lime – Blanco with lime flavouring and sugar. 19% ABV (38 proof)
- Coconut – Blanco with coconut flavouring and sugar. 19% ABV (38 proof)
Where to Buy Los Osuna
If you can get your hands on a bottle of Los Osuna you are lucky indeed! Naturally it is possible to buy at Los Osuna Vinata itself as well as select establishments within Sinaloa. Currently, availability is limited within the U.S. with WRS Imports in Minneapolis, Minnesota being the sole importer.
Considering the scarcity of this high-end spirit we find this artesanal product reasonably priced, especially when compared to the mass availability of its competition. It’s definitely cheaper to buy a bottle (or two) in Mexico. However if that’s not feasible, prices in the U.S. range from about $40 for the Blanco to $65 for the Añejo per 750 ml bottle.
How to Taste Los Osuna Tequila Properly
Not to generalise, but it appears in Mexico there is more respect for tequila as a drink. This gets sipped in Mexico rather than slammed, similar to whiskey or brandy in other parts of the world. Yes, there are still the spring breakers and those just out on the tear perpetuating tequila’s party reputation. However if you want to truly savour this iconic Mexican drink without the salt, slam and lime routine, give the following a try:
Firstly use the correct glassware – shot glasses do not qualify. Choose a fluted glass, the shape of the glass enhances the individual aromas released. For aficionados try Riedel Ouverture Tequila glasses, the official designated tequila tasting glass by the Tequila Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador del Tequila – CRT). Do not inhale deeply, Los Osuna Blanco, Reposado and Añejo are each 40% ABV (80 proof). Instead take small sniffs and note the bouquet.
Similar to wine tasting, give the glass a swirl, take another sniff and note the legs of the tequila. Inhale before taking your first sip and allow the tequila to wash over your tongue before swallowing. Once swallowed, complete the process by exhaling hard over your tongue and discovering how effectively this heightens your sense of taste.
Traditionally in Mexico sangrita or water cleanses the palate in between tastings. Sangrita is a non-alcoholic mixture of fruit juices and hot sauce or chilli powder. It is not sangria.
Don’t wait for July 24th – National Tequila Day to imbibe in one of Mexico’s finest drinks. Add a tour of Los Osuna distillery to your agenda next time you visit Mazatlan. Even as an independent backpacker it’s easy and affordable to visit this craft distillery.