Interview With Maestra Tequilera Ana Maria Romero Mena

by Evangelina Galyean

Respected Tequila authority and Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero Mena is one of the first Official Catadores of Tequila and is widely regarded as one of the most trusted, respected and awarded tequila authorities in Mexico. In 2007, Ana Maria published The Aromas of Tequila: The Art of Tasting, which identifies the various sensory notes found in tequila and explains how each scent develops over time. She identified over 600 individual scents that she mapped onto an aroma wheel, which was adopted by the industry. Ana Maria is on the advisory board of institutions such as the Tequila Regulatory Council and the National Chamber of the Tequila Industry. As a Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria oversees the entire tequila process from start to finish, and throughout her work, she is strongly committed to minimize environmental impact and promote biodiversity.

Thank you for allowing Dram Street to share your experience-please, Ana, introduce yourself for those who may be unfamiliar with your work – share with us how your story with the spirit industry began.

I began my career working in wine and spirits which allowed me the opportunity to get intimately acquainted with the notions of terroir and assemblage, and to apply them later on to tequila. Early on, I started to explore and introduce a sensorial approach to the liquid, with dedicated research into tequila’s aromas and tasting notes. As part of my research, I visited a large number of tequila houses in order to document the subtle variations between styles and identified over 600 individual scents. These were then mapped into an aroma wheel, which has been since adopted by the industry.

Why did you choose to concentrate your studies on becoming a Maestra Tequilera? What sparked your interest in that aspect of the industry? 

My interest was sparked by the versatility of the agave plant, its aromatic aspects and the fact that there was great potential to elevate the tequila image, to introduce sustainable practices, and to grow the premium category.

What common misconceptions do you feel are still holding back the tequila industry?

One of the misconceptions that we often encounter is the consumption method, when in order to truly appreciate the liquid, it should be sipped, used in cocktails or allow it to pair with food. Whilst we have seen a growth internationally in the understanding of the spirit, with Mijenta we have the opportunity to spread this message around the world.

When imagining a new spirit like Mijenta, walk us through your creative process. Do you have core standards you maintain for each product you help create or are you open to the change a new product can invite?

What inspired me to make Mijenta? Mijenta is our people, our land, our inspiration. It is as much driven by the past as it is by innovation, so to answer your question I have core standards but am open to change which can be invited and inspired by many things;  a new encounter, a blend of agave plants, the red clay soil or a great meal to name a few…

In crafting Mijenta I considered how to increase the flavors, how to give other people the image of terroirs, when you see all the different elements coming together – the weather, the soil, the agave –then you can smell the different variety of aromas. And we wanted to give this other expression, this other sensation in our tequila.

You were quoted in an interview from 2013 as saying, “knowledge is the key that opens all the doors to opportunities.” What doors have been opened due to the creation of Mijenta, and what doors do you hope will open as you advance and share your knowledge in the future?

Community and Sustainability run central to Mijenta’s philosophy. One way we give back to the local community is through the Mijenta Community Foundation, which is another way of opening doors for the local population in order to grow the economy.

In terms of sharing my knowledge in the future, Mijenta gives us the opportunity to elevate the tequila category by educating people on the artisanal methods as well as the innovations.

Finally, how can the novice Tequila taster go about opening up their nose and palate to the variety of aromas and flavors within a bottle of Mijenta? Do you recommend a glass, a certain angle to sniff, any tips? 

The flavor profile of Mijenta is a story that unfolds from within. It celebrates the agave and enhances its aromatic, sensual aromas, with a powerful body that features, honey, vanilla, caramel and floral notes, along with flashes of tropical fruits such as peach, melon, pineapple and light touches of soursop. The olfactory promise is confirmed by the palate with a complex, silky and generous finale.

In order to truly appreciate this, I suggest for people to enjoy Mijenta sipping, in cocktails, or paired with food. One of the glasses that enhances the Mjenta experience is the Riedel glass.

Im sure your book The Aromas of Tequila: The Art of Tasting, would be helpful for all of us- can you tell us where copies of the book can be found? 

At this moment this book is sold out, but I am putting the finishing touches on a second book, called Tasting Notes, which will be published in the near future.

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