Clayton Szczech on La Cata

Clayton Szczech is La Cata's Chief Agave Guide and founding partner.

Why did you decide to be a part of building La Cata?

This concept has always been a fantasy of mine—a tasting room in the heart of Tequila where you could experience the wide selection of tequilas available, learn about them, and enjoy customized flights based on your personal preferences.

Currently, when aficionados come to Tequila town, they have the expectation that they will be able to try hundreds of tequilas. In reality, while there are some really cool places to drink, you can only easily find four or five brands in town. In fact, more tequilas are exported than exist in Mexico, so the closer you get to the birthplace of tequila, the fewer options there seem to be. We’re here to change that.

What’s your role specifically in La Cata?

As the Chief Agave Guide, I am responsible for ongoing staff education, spirit selection, and leading the tasting flights at La Cata. It’s important to me that our visitors know that I call Tequila home. La Cata isn’t a money-making endeavor for a bunch of foreigners: It’s a dream that grew from a shared passion for both tequila the spirit and Tequila the town. This dream has strong local support, both in and outside of the tequila industry.

Why Tequila, Mexico?

I’ve been doing business here now for 8 years, and I’m pretty well known around town. Although Tequila’s official population is 30,000, it feels a lot smaller than that, and the only local industry is tequila. Of the approximately 100 tequila distilleries in operation, a full quarter of them are in Tequila town. So in one way or another, everyone who lives here is connected to the industry. The people here are friendly, helpful, and very honest. Having grown up with tequila, they sometimes wonder why outsiders are so interested in their town and so into tequila. They find it kind of funny, actually! I fell in love with this town ten years ago, and that’s what set my on my life and career path. I owe a lot to this town and its people, and making La Cata’s success their success is very important to me.

What is it about the La Cata experience that you think guests will enjoy most?

La Cata will be defined not just by the wide selection of tequila, but in the way it’s expertly presented. Our staff’s expertise and the materials we have on hand to facilitate teaching are really unique. Every day at La Cata we’ll be able to offer a deconstructed distillery tour, using materials from the production process of tequila: raw agave, cooked agave, fermented agave juice, and ordinario (the liquid from the first distillation). Our understanding of how tequila is made and where it comes from, along with our familiarity with the gamut of brands, will enable us to gauge the tastes and preferences of our guests, assembling curated flights for them to enjoy.

What’s something most people are surprised to learn about tequila?

Most people are surprised to learn that just like wine, tequila can exhibit terroir. When made in a more traditional process, a tequila will allow the raw material – the blue agave – to express its origin. A well-executed tasting can help you appreciate this fully, as you can taste the difference.

Zach Ancell