Founded in 2008 by Carlos Camarena and Tomas Estes, Tequila Ocho is widely regarded as one of the best tequilas in the world. Founded on the basis that terroir can — and does — exist in spirits, each bottle of Tequila Ocho produced is made to showcase the beauty of the agave plant and the lands from which it grows.
In a world where three new tequilas seem to crop up every minute — some of which are pumped full of additives — Tequila Ocho remains committed to producing each batch of its liquid using traditional, age-old methods. Now that you know the basics, here are eight more things you should know about the award-winning tequila brand.
Tequila Ocho was created by a third-generation tequilero and Mexico’s tequila ambassador to Europe.
Carlos Camarena and Tomas Estes, Tequila Ocho’s co-founders, both have an extensive history with the spirit. As a fifth-generation agave farmer (or jimador) and a third-generation tequilero, tequila production is a family affair for Carlos Camarena. In fact, his great-grandfather Don Felipe is widely credited as being the first person to bring blue agave from Jalisco’s lowlands to the highlands, where Tequila Ocho is still produced today. In addition to being the master distiller for Tequila Ocho, Camarena is also the brain behind the beloved brands Tapatío, El Tescoro, and Villalobos.
Prior to starting Tequila Ocho, Tomas Estes worked as an English teacher in Southern California before moving to Amsterdam in 1976 to open Café Pacifico. The restaurant was a smashing success, and Estes went on to open a total of 18 restaurants across Europe and Australia, each of which functioned as a means of immersing each guest in Mexican culture. In 2003, Estes was named Mexico’s official tequila ambassador to Europe by the National Chamber of the Tequila Industry, a branch of the Mexican government. Five years later, Estes and Camarena partnered up to launch Tequila Ocho. Sadly, Estes passed away in 2021 at the age of 75.
Tequila Ocho is the world’s first single-estate tequila.
When Carlos Camarena approached Tomas Estes to collaborate on a new tequila brand, the two recognized a common goal to produce a spirit that reflects the true essence of agave and the land on which it was grown. Despite the fact that terroir is typically a term more associated with winemaking than distilling, the co-founders knew that spirits — especially those made from agave — can also demonstrate their unique terroir. Thus, each batch of Tequila Ocho is produced from agave all sourced from one specific vineyard, giving each a distinct aroma and taste reflecting the specific estate. In total, the agaves used for Tequila Ocho are sourced from one of 11 ranchos, all of which are owned by the Camarena family. Each bottle of Ocho is complete with a label denoting the vintage year and the field name from which the agave was sourced, in addition to information on the specific field regarding its elevation.
At Tequila Ocho, it’s all about the rule of eights, not threes.
There are numerous reasons behind why the tequila label chose the name Tequila Ocho. In fact, there are eight of them: The recipe Carlos Camarena settled on for Tequila Ocho was the eighth one he presented to Tomas before the brand launched in 2008. The number eight is also a central measure of time for a few Ocho processes — the agaves used to distill the tequila are left to ripen for eight years, it takes eight days for the harvested agaves to reach the distillery and transform into blanco tequila, and each batch of Tequila Ocho Reposado is aged for eight weeks and eight days. It’s also a weight measurement — producing one liter of Ocho requires eight kilograms of agave — and pays homage to the Camarena family. Carlos Camarena has eight sisters and brothers, and his family had been producing tequila for eight decades at the time of Tequila Ocho’s founding.
The brand is committed to producing tequila the old-fashioned way.
With more than 1,300 tequilas on the market today, Tequila Ocho remains one of the only distilleries still producing the spirit the artisanal way. Where many modern distilleries steam cook their agave in stainless steel, tequileros at Ocho slow-roast each agave piña for 48 hours in traditional brick ovens before allowing them to cool for a full 24 hours before milling and crushing. Once milling and crushing is complete, the mash is then left to wild ferment for 100 hours in open-air vats with natural airborne yeast found in Jalisco — no commercial yeast is used at any point. Each batch of Tequila Ocho is double pot-distilled at low temperatures only, which allows for the flavors of the agave to be extracted without cooking the plant any further. The first distillation takes place in a 5,000-liter stainless pot still with copper enhancements while the second takes place in a 1,000-liter, 100 percent copper pot still that’s modeled after Carlos’s grandfather’s original copper pot still. The end result is a delicate and floral tequila with notes of stone fruit and black pepper that’s perfect for sipping.
Tequila Ocho’s jimadores exclusively harvest over-ripe agave plants.
Despite the fact that it takes agave plants approximately seven years to reach full maturity, Tequila Ocho deliberately chooses 8-year-old agave to produce its tequilas. As noted by the brand, the idea for using overripe agaves was inspired by the fact that grapes left on the vine past their maturation date produce slightly sweeter wines. After all, grapes are to wine as blue Weber agave is to tequila. By allowing the agave plants to mature for an extra year, more residual sugars are able to build up in the piña, which results in a sweeter, more robust agave-forward tequila. Not only does holding off on harvesting benefit the taste of the spirit, but it benefits the planet as well. With tequila’s surge in popularity, agave has become scarce, largely due to a number of brands harvesting unripe plants in a rush to meet demand. By only harvesting agave plants that have surpassed full maturity — and by harvesting certain sections of each estate at a time — the brand is doing its part to reverse the shortage.
Tequila Ocho’s core lineup includes four distinct expressions.
The distillery produces four unique expressions of tequila, all of which are made with the same single-estate approach: plata, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. If you’re looking to experience the true essence of agave, the plata is Ocho’s most true expression of Mexico’s native plant, and offers grassy and vegetal notes. Their reposado is aged for the minimum amount of time required, spending just eight weeks and eight days in ex-American whiskey barrels. Tequila Ocho Añejo spends the minimum one year maturing, while Extra Añejo ages for three whole years. Each aged expression of Tequila Ocho rests in ex-American whiskey barrels that have been used to age several vintages of tequila. The result is a tequila that is not overly influenced by vanillin or heavy oak flavors, yet still maintains the barrel-aging benefits of subtle sweetness and a softer mouthfeel. To date, Tequila Ocho has released over 35 single-estate vintages of its tequila across all four expressions.
At Tequila Ocho, running the distillery is a family affair.
With tequila production having been in his family for centuries, Camarena is staying true to tradition by hiring his children to work alongside him at Tequila Ocho. His two daughters work with him daily, managing several aspects of production as well as sales and visitor experiences. Additionally, the tequila tradition lives on with Este’s son Jesse serving as Ocho’s global brand ambassador.
The distillery recently found a new home.
In March 2023, Tequila Ocho announced it would be relocating its operations from Destilería la Alteña — where it had been produced since the brand’s founding in 2008 — to a new distillery called Tequilera Los Alambiques. Located just outside the center of Arandas, the new distillery sits on a plot of land spanning six acres that once belonged to Carlos’s grandfather. The new location will help increase production volume with three brand-new stone ovens for roasting agave and a 100,000-square-foot distillery equipped with three 500-liter stainless pot stills and four 1,000-liter copper stills.
Also on the property are two indoor and outdoor food and drink establishments: La Cantina de Don Tomás and Ocho Agaves Restaurant. The former pays homage to the brand’s late co-founder and his lifelong love for tequila by serving classic tequila cocktails and recipes developed by the Tequila Ocho team. The latter serves as more of a fine-dining restaurant, serving farm-to-table Mexican food accompanied by tequila and other agave spirits. To really push things over the top, the Tequilera also features a cellar that can house 1,600 barrels with two tasting rooms for those who have booked tours to enjoy.