In Guadalajara's Tonala district, Fortaleza's beautiful, hand-blown bottles with agave top are created. Hipolito Gutierrez, a third generation glass-blower, holds the Guinness World record for largest hand-blown bottle and runs this Tonala shop. Watching Fortaleza's bottles being made is a mesmerizing dance of deft and delicate maneuvers. One misstep would lead to a serious burn as artisans flit between fire and searing hot molds with ease. I attempted to blow a glass myself, finding the greatest amount of breath I could muster was far from sufficient to fill even half a bottle with space. The skill required to blow continuously and fully is akin to the control Satchmo himself needed to play his trumpet.
For those wanting to explore the riches of Tequila themselves, I met Clayton Szczech of Experience Tequila (www.experiencetequila.com) while in Mexico. Clayton regularly leads tours in the area, filling a rare niche for knowledgeable, passionate expertise on the region without rigid schedules and touristy stops one normally associates with a tour group. He purposely keeps it small, tailoring it towards the needs of each individual group. Clayton has good relationships with the distilleries (certainly with Fortaleza), maintaining a relaxed stance, as if traveling with friends, which, in fact, you just may become.
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