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The story behind El Popo Avila

Maestra destilera (master distiller) Karen Hernandez perfected the recipe for El Popo when she was just 21 years old. It all started in her home state of Morelos, under the shadow of the majestic volcano El Popocatépetl. Here, the earth is showered with rich volcanic ash, resulting in lush soil where agave grows thick. 

But before you enjoy our handcrafted spirit, you must know the legend of the volcano. Because without the awesome power of Popocatépetl, there would be no El Popo. 

El Popo Avila Master Distiller Karen Hernandez
Aztec Princess Iztaccíhuatl and Aztec Warrior Popocatépetl
The Legend

When Aztecs reigned in the Valley of Mexico, the daughter of a powerful chieftain, Princess Iztaccíhuatl, fell deeply in love with the great warrior Popocatépetl. Izta, as she is affectionately known, was falsely told that her lover died in battle. 

Popocatépetl returned from war, only to find that the grief-stricken Izta had died of a broken heart. He built his lover a massive tomb and carried her to the top, where he remained by her side, watching over her body with a smoking torch. The two lovers were covered with snow and earth until they transformed into what are two of the highest active volcanoes in the Northern Hemisphere: Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl. It’s believed that each time Popocatépetl erupts, it’s to remind the world that his heart still burns for Itza. 

The spirit

To craft El Popo, we use 100% blue Weber agave grown in the rich soil beneath Popocatépetl. The volcano showers the earth with its ashes, fertilizing the land with essential nutrients and minerals. The agave farmers add coconut and seaweed to the soil, providing even more nutrition for the plants to thrive. 

After hand-harvesting the agave, we smoke 100% of the piñas with local roble (oak wood) and volcanic rock, imparting them with a beautiful smoky flavor from the earth. After distillation, we steam-filter 20% of the spirit to mellow its smokiness and infuse it with a soft sweetness. 

El Popo is double distilled to retain the nuanced flavors of the agave and the essence of Popocatépetl. This complex spirit is best enjoyed on its own, sipped from a copita or jícara cup, accompanied by simple slices of orange and sal de gusano. 

El Popo Avila being poured into a glass

Lush volcanic soil gives this avila a smokey flavor unlike any other. This is how we make an avila with rich history.


Our agave is given five to seven years to fully mature. Thanks to the active El Popo volcano, our farm’s soil is rich with nutrients and minerals, giving a flavor to our plants like no other agave in the nation. The beautiful, healthy earth of these lands contains what we call ‘virgin soil’, since it is not over farmed like the regions where tequila is produced. 


A fire is started in a large earthen pit from dried oak. Volcanic rock borrowed from the Popocatépetl volcano is tossed in and heated to an optimal temperature, which adds our signature smoke profile. The piñas are then placed on top and covered with wet fiber bags (recycled from local rice vendors). Sand and dirt completes the final layer and the piñas are left to cook for several days. 


The cooked piñas are shredded using a milling machine. Traditionally, a large, stone tahona is pulled by a donkey to crush the roasted agave, but we prefer to let gears and steel do all the work. 


The shredded agave mash is transferred to a tank. Spring water, once snow from El Popo’s summit, is added to the agave fibers (or “gabazo”). Here, natural fermentation occurs as the mash bubbles and mixes, pulling liquids and sugar from the plant. 

Every day, the Maestra Avilera, Karen Hernandez, checks the sugar grades (which change dependent on the weather) and more water is added if needed. The mix rests for several days, letting nature and the elements go to work. 


The gabazo and liquid are now transferred to the alembic still. It sits over a flame and runs twice through steel distillation columns, as the alcohol is vaporized and concentrated to 44%. 

Steamed Filtration

20% of the now distilled Avila is run through char-broiled filter sheets, traditionally used in the production of honey. This removes the smoky aroma and leaves the juice with a fresh, slightly sweet, agave-rich bouquet. We add this filtered Avila back to the remaining 80% yield to create our unique blend. This dual production method is what sets Avila apart from any other agave spirit on the market. 


Finally, a seven-year process and 500 years of tradition is bottled in recycled, hand-blown glass, ready to enjoy.