The state of Jalisco is the birthplace and home of Mexico’s most famous liquor: tequila. So when roaming around Jalisco’s impressive capital of Guadalajara, we had to get out amongst the agave fields and haciendas. That’s when we discovered something called the Tequila Herradura Express!
The Tequila Herradura Express is a luxury train that brings visitors from Guadalajara to one of the most renowned haciendas in Mexico: Casa Herradura! This particular tequila train is brand new too. So when we were invited as guests to review the Tequila Herradura Express, we didn’t hesitate to jump aboard. It’s a tequila train! Well, just twist our arms why don’t you?
The Herradura Express turned out to be one of the most fun experiences we’ve had in Mexico. If you enjoy your tequila chased with a little history instead of a lime & salt, the Tequila Herradura Express is a must-do in Guadalajara. The train ride through the agave fields was awesome, but it was all the magic going on at Casa Herradura that really impressed. This tequila express is so much more than a boozy train ride. It ultimately left us with such a greater knowledge and appreciation for the liquor.
The ancient distillery was fascinating. The premium tequila tastings were superb. The 4-course lunch was indulgent. And the festivities throughout put big smiles on faces. But that boozy cocktail-filled train ride admittedly tied the whole experience together to make it all so much fun!
Riding the Rails Through Mexico’s Agave Fields to Casa Herradura
We embarked on the tequila train on a hot day in May for what was only its 6th ever journey from Guadalajara. As we boarded, it was evident that the first class train cars were brand-spankin’ new. The leather seats, the wide windows, and polished bar top all gave off luxury vibes. It was a refreshing treat for us after having spent the first half of our year backpacking across Latin America.
It didn’t take long after getting situated that we were greeted first by an English-speaking guide and then by an attendant. The guide loaded us up with information about the day while the attendant filled us full of fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee, and a mid-morning sandwich snack.
The next thing we knew, we were moving! We rolled out of the station right on time for our 10:00 departure and it was such a pleasant ride out of Guadalajara! The train’s route shifted through some rough neighborhoods and into trendy suburbs. But in both areas, we continued to receive wide smiles and waves as we rolled through town.
As we left Guadalajara, our coffees & OJ were soon replaced with cocktails. We don’t normally drink tequila at 10:30 in the morning but when on a tequila train, why not? It was a refreshing grapefruit juice & tequila cocktail that had a slight spice to it. What a delicious way to start the day!
A few cocktails into this train ride and the sprawling cityscape had disappeared. Instead, we were now being treated to views of Jalisco’s famed agave fields with looming mountains as the backdrop. The blue agave is the main ingredient fermented to produce tequila and the Tequila Herradura Express rolls through seemingly endless rows of this spikey plant.
Meanwhile, a chilled ambiance continued inside the Tequila Herradura Express with a mixture of Spanish pop and soft modern rock. And the cocktails kept being delivered right to our comfy seats. Next up was a creamy coconut and strawberry concoction that got us realizing how versatile tequila can be!
After nearly two hours of such an enjoyable ride, we were almost disappointed to be disembarking from the train. But the fun had only just begun. We had arrived to the tequila-producing town of Amatitán, where we were briefly transferred onto buses for a few minutes ride to Casa Herradura.
Casa Herradura: An Ancient Hacienda Where Old Meets New
The massive hacienda is a mixture of old and new. First, we toured the modern tequila producing factories sprawling across the well-manicured grounds. But we had learned that among the conveyor belts and automation, much of Herradura’s tequila production is still done by hand today. A jimador, an agave farmer, taught us how he expertly shaved-off the prickly outer layers of the plant, which revealed an agave piña.
This “pineapple” (it really looks like a giant pineapple) then gets roasted in brick ovens. We tasted the fruits of his labor and had a nice chew on sweetly roasted agave slices.
It tasted only slightly reminiscent of tequila, but way more sugary. Not bad at all!
Our education of the tequila-making process continued as we moved on to the distilling process. The shiny stills formed a complex system that looked as if it could have been part of Willy Wonka’s factory.
But this factory was arguably producing something better than chocolate and we were preparing to taste that first hand.
We were then led into the original distillery from the 1870’s that is now held as somewhat of a sacred site. This old tequila factory is the only one from its time that is still left standing today. The ancient distillery has some deep history that you can see first hand. This very factory continually produced tequila up until 1963 and the distillery is well preserved today, just as it was when it filled its last bottle.
You could see the old agave ovens and how a network of crevasses in the ground was used to transfer batches of liquid from one stage to the next. Even more impressive were the getaway tunnels that were constructed during the Cristero War, as a means to escape the hacienda.
Side note: it was not permitted to take pictures in this most interesting part of Casa Herradura, so you’ll just have to make it down to the old hacienda to check it out firsthand.
Tequila Tasting at Casa Herradura!
We were eventually escorted to a tasting room that was situated within the old brick distillery. We frequently visit breweries, wineries, and distilleries during our travels, and find that they tend to pull out their regular ol’ flagship products for the tastings. But that was most definitely not the case at Casa Herradura. They broke out the good stuff for this tequila train tour!
First to hit our lips was a unique tequila from their “house collection” in which they only sell here at the hacienda. The Directo de Alambique tequila is bottled directly from the still, so this un-aged silver tequila packs a punch of 55% alcohol, rather than the typical 40%. We found it to be too strong to sip, but it could likely work well to mix for a powerful drink.
The bite of the Directo was soon smoothed over by our second tasting, which is the most unique, complex, and interesting tequila we’ve ever heard of. The Herradura Ultra is a mixture of their anejo (barrel aged 25 months) and extra anejo (aged 49 months) tequilas. But they then add raw sweet agave nectar to the blend and somehow strip away the golden color typically associated with aged tequilas. So it ultimately turns out clear, yet carries the flavors of a sweet, dark tequila with a symphony of vanilla, oak, and caramel. OMG – such a delicious sipper!
The final tequila to tickle our taste buds was Herradura’s most premium. Seleccion Suprema Extra Anejo is consistently rated as being one of the best tequilas in the world. It’s aged in oak barrels for 49 months to produce what is perhaps the tastiest tequila to ever hit our lips.
For perspective, a bottle of Seleccion Suprema costs well upwards of $300 back in the US. Yet here we were sitting amidst the atmospheric brick walls of this ancient distillery sipping away on this golden nectar. It didn’t quite meet our expectations. It exceeded them! Wow.
Got $10K? Buy A Barrel at Casa Herradura!
This tasting was the prelude for lunch, making for perhaps the finest aperitif we’ve ever indulged in. But first we made a quick detour into their barrel room. If you have an extra $10,000 USD laying around, you can buy an entire barrel of Herradura Double Barrel Reposado. They’ll even allow you to pick out and personalize your barrel, store it, age it for you for an extra month, bottle it, and ship it to you.
While the $10K price tag seems completely exorbitant, it actually makes sense for bar, restaurant, and liquor store owners. The barrel yields 240 bottles, so that comes to $41.66 per bottle and a hell of a fun way to buy your tequila!
A Decadent Lunch at Casa Herradura
By this time our bellies were full of tequila but empty of food, so we were excited to get seated for lunch. This took place outside of the working factory which provided a cool setting to chow down on what turned out to be quite the indulgent 4-course meal.
There were two options for each course, yet the dishes seemed to randomly arrive to the table, every other person. This worked out great for couples who like to share, as you then get to try eight of these yummy dishes. But if you really prefer one option over another, the servers would always accommodate.
We tasted it all and while we thoroughly enjoyed each course, here’s our picks: tuna tartar, seafood poblano, filet mignon w/ mole, and finish with the chocolate mint mousse.
As each course of the decadent lunch progressed, we were treated to yet another one of Jalisco’s cultural treasures. Jalisco is not only the birthplace of tequila, but also mariachi music! In fact, mariachi music is listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage site in Mexico. And while it may be intangible, we certainly felt the fun vibes as the large mariachi ensemble jammed on stage to serenade us during lunch.
Meanwhile, the tequila continued to flow freely during the leisurely lunch. Another shot of Seleccion Suprema? Hmm, let me think… okay! As the deserts were whisked out to our table, we were simultaneously treated to cultural dances that accompanied the mariachis.
Eventually, we exited through the gift shop. We almost never buy souvenirs because it’s just one more thing we have to lug around the world with us.
But this one time, we actually gave in. We couldn’t resist snagging a bottle Herradura Ultra and if that isn’t a testament to the tequila, then I don’t know what is. (Good prices on tequila too!)
Boozing Back to Guadalajara
And while the fun at Casa Herradura had concluded, we still had a two-hour train journey to complete the entire experience. The bartender was ready with an entirely new series of cocktails to dazzle us with on the ride back. And who are we to say no?
A flurry of cocktails continued to be delivered to our seats as the train chugged back to Guadalajara. We enjoyed our first margaritas of the day. Herradura’s version included lemongrass sprouting out from a highball glass. Yet perhaps our favorite cocktail was a fun & refreshing rendition of gin & tonic, garnished with a rosemary spring and cucumber slice. And yes, of course, the gin was replaced with tequila.
Tequila-fueled Reflections on an Awesome Day in Mexico
As we rolled back into the Guadalajara station with a head full of tequila, we attempted to reflect on how awesome this booze-filled day was. We expected to have fun, and we most definitely did. Perhaps most surprising, was how much we managed to learn along the way too. Throughout the excursion, we felt like we had been converted from casual tequila drinkers to tequila aficionados.
We had practiced using coa to hack away at agave by a jimador. Before this excursion, we didn’t even know what those words meant. We were educated about the complicated distilling process and the secrets of making the perfect blend of tequila. And we learned all about the symbolic Herradura horseshoe and why it is not traditionally upside-down for good luck. We don’t want to give everything about this tour away. So if you want to know why, you’ll just have to hop aboard the Herradura Tequila Express and find out!
Tequila Herradura Express Review & Value
If you couldn’t already tell, we loved this experience. Of course, we give the Herradura Tequila Express an excellent review. We’ve been on dozens of distillery tours throughout our world travels and touring Casa Herradura was among the very best.
We definitely recommend the Tequila Herradura Express to anyone who enjoys good food and drink. If in Mexico and wanting to dive deep into the culture, history, and taste of tequila, this is a fantastic all-day excursion to explore Jalisco’s famous liquor.
With prices starting at $1,900 pesos ($106 USD) per person, we did find the tequila train to be quite pricey, particularly so by Mexico standards. However, we also thought that the Herradura Tequila Express was totally worth the splurge. Considering everything that is included, this excursion has excellent value. We may have drunk nearly $100 worth of tequila throughout the day, so we felt that justified the cost alone.
But the Tequila Herradura Express was worth so much more than the free-flowing drinks. The included 4-course lunch, anchored by filet mignon, added tremendous value. The Casa Herradura tour, the premium tequila tasting, the mariachi performance, and the awesome train ride itself further supported the worth of the entire luxurious 10-hour day.
If You Go on the Tequila Herradura Express:
Price: There are three price levels to consider, based on the different train cars.
- Premium: $1,900 pesos. These standard rows of train seats are best for families.
- Club: $2,100 pesos. Provides more of an upscale lounge experience and includes an open bar. The music is louder and games are played on the return to Guadalajara, so this is the best option for those looking to have some fun.
- First Class: $2,300 pesos. This is the most luxurious option with large comfy seats and a private bar. This is best for those looking for more of relaxing and indulgent trip.
Where to buy tickets: You can buy your tickets directly from Herradura online here.
Where: The train departs from the Ferromex train station, located:
When: The Tequila Herradura Express currently runs weekly, only on Saturdays. The train departs promptly at 10:00 but you should arrive at the station no later than 9:30 for time to get checked in, go through security, and board the train. You return to Guadalajara at 7:30 pm. Alternatively, you can tour the Casa Herradura hacienda any day of the week but must arrange your own transportation.
Travel Tips To Know Before You Go on the Tequila Herradura Express:
Choosing a Tequila Train: Jose Cuervo Express vs Tequila Herradura Express
There are actually two different tequila trains from Guadalajara, one run by Jose Cuervo and the other by Herradura. On the surface, they seem similar. They both depart on Saturdays, visit tequila distilleries in the same region, and are even the same price. But there are some notable differences to be aware of when deciding between the two tequila trains.
- Distillery: Perhaps most obvious, is that the trains go to two completely different distilleries. Cuervo’s La Rojena distillery receives good reviews, but expect it to be busier and more touristic than Casa Herradura.
- Departure time: The Cuervo Express departs one hour earlier (9:00 am), compared to Herradura (10:00 am).
- Lunch included: The Herradura Express includes a full 4-course lunch with drinks, while the Cuervo Express lunch is not included. Instead, you are allotted a few hours to find a lunch spot on your own during the Cuervo Express.
- Train both ways: The Herradura Express has a train that goes both ways to/from Guadalajara, whereas the Cuervo Express travels by train one way and by bus the other way.
Overall, since the Tequila Herradura Express includes a decadent four-course lunch and because you take the luxury train in both directions, we find the Tequila Herradura Express to provide a better value. Plus those sippers of Herradura Seleccion Suprema weren’t so bad either. The Jose Cuervo Express looks like a similarly great experience, but it will ultimately cost more since you have to pay for lunch on your own. And returning to Guadalajara by bus seems anticlimactic. It’s all about the train!
General Travel Tips for the Tequila Herradura Express
Which train car to book: If you’re a family, the standard premium car is for you. Otherwise, we highly recommend going for the club or first class car. You’ll have a much comfier experience with a private bar that makes it definitely worth the extra $200 pesos (~$11 USD) for this modest upgrade.
Book early for the best seats: The first class and premium cars get sold out weeks in advance, so you must book early to get the good seats.
Go soon! During our visit to Casa Herrandura, they were building a brand new tasting room facility. I’m sure it will be great once it opens. However, we loved the ambiance of doing the tastings within the original 1870’s distillery. At time of writing, there’s no word on when the new tasting room will open. But if you want to sip your tequila down in the dark confines of the historic 1870’s distillery, then go soon!
Ask questions: The guides are filled with so much great information. But don’t be shy in asking questions. We learned so much that way and our guide was eager to share his knowledge.
Don’t be shy with drinks: Complimentary drinks flowed freely on the train. Yet we found that sometimes you needed to ask for them, particularly during lunch at Casa Herradura. So go ahead and indulge a little. They even were serving more of the Selccion Suprema during our lunch. It was never offered but was very available to those who asked at the bar. Have a good time!
But also don’t overdo it: It’s a long 10-hour day from start to finish. Know your personal limits and don’t overdo it. Don’t be that person. Pace yourself. Let the train do the chugging, not you. The Tequila Express is just as much a cultural experience as it is an awesome drinking experience. Have fun, but don’t be a lush.
Stay hydrated: Particularly if going during one of Guadalajara’s hotter months, April-June, be sure to drink plenty of water in between all of the cocktails and tequila tastings. Bottled water is provided on the train and during lunch.
Bring some cash: There are some souvenirs to buy and tequila, of course. Credit cards were accepted at the gift shop for those buying tequila. But there are some souvenir vendors who dealt in cash only.
Tips: Don’t forget to be kind to the car attendant that took good care of you throughout the ride. Tipping is customary in Mexico, so feel free to tip at your discretion.
Have fun: This is such a great experience, so come with a good attitude and be ready to have fun with the day.