Miles talks to attendees during the 2009 World International Tequila Conference and Distillery Tour in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Miles Karakasevic talks to attendees during the 2009 World International Tequila Conference and Distillery Tour in Guadalajara, Mexico.

When I was preparing to leave for the World International Tequila Conference and Distillery Tour, I wasn’t really sure if I was getting in over my head. This was a conference designed for hardcore tequila enthusiasts and experts, and although I felt like I knew a lot about tequila, I wasn’t sure where I would fall in the spectrum of tequila knowledge.

Upon arrival at the hotel I immediately started meeting my fellow attendees and I realized that the group was very diverse. Here’s a rundown of some of the kinds of people in attendance:

Tommy Jensen and Reece Henderson from Denver, Colorado were there to learn more about the tequila business so they could make, and market, their own tequila. They were tequila enthusiasts with a dream of producing their own label, and this was their first real step toward making that dream come true.

Mark Alberto Holt runs the SFT Tequila Bar in the beach town of Sayulita, Mexico. He wanted to meet and greet as many tequila industry people possible so he can educate his customers about the different tequilas, and offer as many back-stories as possible about each.

He too is interested in producing his own tequila, and was much further along than Tommy and Reece in turning it into a reality.

Miles Karakasevic is a 12th generation master distiller who runs Charbay Distillery in Napa Valley, California. He just recently completed the process of creating his own tequila, Charbay Blanco, and was able to speak from personal knowledge about the process itself. This man is a walking encyclopedia of distillation, willing and able to simultaneously talk about the process as both science and art.

Others in attendance were consultants, distillery representatives, industry veterans, and advanced enthusiasts.

Being thrown in the middle of this crowd taught me more about tequila than I ever expected. Topics being tossed around included the theories of specific distillation practices; environmental impact of tequila production on the region; the steps needed to export tequila out of Mexico; the trends in local agave production and how to survive even when the agave prices are low; and the differences between tequilas produced in the lowlands and the highlands. (Stay tuned for a slew of posts based on what I learned at the conference!)

Yet, my initial fear – that I wouldn’t be as advanced as the others – didn’t really matter in the end. Everyone in attendance loved and appreciated tequila, and everyone was respectful of each other’s tequila preferences.

It was common to hear debates about blanco vs. aged tequila, and how blanco is the only “real” tequila, but in the end everyone would always agree that tequila in any form was enjoyable, and it was all based on personal taste.

I felt a bond with everyone because I am a fan of “100% tequila de agave” – in whatever form it may take. We loved it all. In that sense, we were all the same.