Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation

[Transportation, room and board were provided to M.A. “Mike” Morales by Embajador Tequila in order to research this article.  No monetary compensation was received and no guarantee of a favorable article was given by M.A. ‘Mike” Morales or Tequila Aficionado Media.  This article was written by, and is the opinion of, M.A. “Mike” Morales.]

The Situation

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZSince that morning in early April when a news report in the Chinese press first announced that the Embajador distillery (NOM 1509) had been cited by COFEPRIS (Comisión Federál para la Protección contra Reisgos Sanitarios) and SAT (Servicio de Admistración Tributaria), and shut down for various minor infractions, I’d been anxious to investigate their situation, in-depth.

Without a single citation in over 12 years, multiple improvements in the works to compete effectively in Asia and Russia, and kosher certification, it made no sense to endanger their forward movement and future plans by being seemingly underhanded and distilling tainted juice.

This family-owned distillery has a stellar reputation for producing such Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZexquisite fan favorites like Alma de Agave, Crótalo, Cabresto, along with its highly decorated flagship brand, Embajador.

Things Don’t Add Up

As I expressed in my editorial, Bullying In Tequila, I believed this was clearly a case of government agencies bullying an up-and-coming player poised to enter the burgeoning Chinese and Russian spirits markets, and known to Tequila Industry insiders as a formidable force firmly positioned in the private label sector.

When Andres Garcia, Regional Sales Manager for Embajador Tequila, called to invite me to inspect the day-to-day operations of the Fabrica Santa Rosa, I found their willingness to be transparent refreshing, especially in the wake of such damaging charges.

The “Violations”

Let’s get right down to brass tacks.

According to the initial Chinese report–

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ

New log book and safety signs.

“Mexican health authorities seized over one million liters of tequila on Friday, which belongs to a production company in flagrant breach of health norms.

“All production of tequila was immediately suspended after the investigation found “sanitary conditions far below standards for production, as well as an inability to trace supplies and a lack of legal documentation.”

“The security included seizing 980,399 liters of tequila in tanks or unmarked bottles, 34,677 liters of finished products in labelled boxes mainly from the El Embajador and El General brands, and around 55,000 liters at various stages of the production process.”

In this news release from Mexico

“The second largest seizure of alcohol in three years is carried out.”

“It concerns the second largest securing of illegal inebriating beverages….  In this operation, 1.70MM liters of irregular alcoholic beverages were seized….”

(“Realizan el segundo decomiso más grande de alcohol en tres años 

“Se trata del segundo aseguaramiento de bebidas embriagantes ilegales mas grande….En esta acción…se aseguararon 1.70MM litros de bebidas alcoholicas irregulares…”)

In this incendiary report from El Financiero

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ

New delineation of departments.

“Federal authorities confiscated one million 70 thousand liters of tequila outside the normas in the locality of Atotonilco el Alto, and it concerns the largest securing of irregular alcoholic beverages.

(“Autoridades federales incautaron un millón 70 mil litros de tequila fuera de norma, en la localidad de Atotonilco el Alto, y se trata del aseguramiento más grande de bebidas alcohólicas irregulares.)

[Aforementioned federal authorities] imposed seals of closure and immobilized the product and installations of Tequila Embajador, where work and services were suspended due to deficient sanitary conditions in the production process, lack of traceability of supplies and scarcity of legal documentation.”

(“…impusieron sellos de clausura e inmovilizaron el producto e instalaciones de la empresa Tequila Embajador, donde se suspendieron sus trabajos y servicios por deficientes condiciones sanitarias en procesos de producción, falta de trazabilidad de insumos y carencia de documentación legal.”)

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ

New department signs.

“Security measures applied included the seizure of 980,399 liters of product in bulk inside storage tanks and bottled without labels; 34,676.7 liters of finished product in cases and labeled primarily of the brands El Embajador and El General; as well as 55,000 estimated liters of product in various stages of production, chopped, shredded, fermented and distilled.”

(“Las medidas de seguridad aplicadas, incluyeron el aseguramiento de: 980 mil 399 litros de producto a granel dispuesto en tanques y en botellas sin etiqueta, 34 mil 676.7 litros de producto terminado en cajas y etiquetado principalmente de las marcas El Embajador y El General, así como 55 mil litros estimados de producto en proceso, troceado, molienda, fermentación y destilación.”)

“Sanitary irregularities were also detected such as tanks without protection,

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ

Protection and delineation.

[and] accumulated dirt and grime.  Additionally, there were no physical separations between the fermentation and distillation areas from the rest of the spaces of the distillery.”

(“También se detectaron irregularidades sanitarias, como tanques sin protección, y acumulación de suciedad; además que no había una separación física entre las áreas de fermentación y destilación del resto de los espacios de la empresa.”)

“In addition, there were flies present in the fermentation and distillation zones due to a lack of pest control, evident lack of order and cleanliness and there were no log books registering the carrying out of cleaning and maintenance of equipment.”

(“Además, se detectó la presencia de moscos en zonas de fermentación y destilado, debido al deficiente control de plagas, evidente falta de orden y limpieza en las instalaciones y no se contaba con bitácoras de limpieza actualizadas ni registro de mantenimiento de equipos.”)

And, from this blatant smear campaign–

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ

More coverage and delineation.

“Any person who would want to consume any of the brands of tequilas involved should know that these products were elaborated under dubious sanitary conditions.  For instance, the inspectors found a platform over the reception tanks and one over the fermentation tanks that did not have any protection.

Moreover, there were gutters without protection with an accumulation of grime, evidence of consumed foods in the processing areas and lack of cleanliness in the fermentation area with the presence of non-useful materials including a motorcycle.”

(“Cualquier persona que guste consumir alguna de las marcas de los tequilas involucrados, debe saber que estos productos fueron elaborados en condiciones sanitarias muy dudosas; por ejemplo, los inspectores encontraron una plataforma sobre las tinas de recepción de jugo y uno de los tanques de fermentación, las cuales no tienen protección; además, se encontraron canaletas sin protección y con acumulación de suciedad, evidencia de consumo de alimentos en las áreas de proceso y falta de limpieza en el área de fermentación, con presencia de materiales en desuso, incluyendo una motocicleta.”)

“Also, an open bag was identified with detergent and a bottle containing liquid with the smell of disinfectant over the barrels.  There was lack of maintenance of the walls and a presence of clearings, windows without protection [screens] in different areas.  The distillery had no physical separation between the

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ

Barrels naturally protect against…birds.

fermentation and distillation areas from the rest of the spaces.  It also had no identification and delineation of the areas such that packing material, products, chemicals and bottles were found in the same place.”

(“También identificaron la presencia de una bolsa abierta con detergente y un envase conteniendo un líquido con olor a desinfectante sobre las barricas; hay falta de mantenimiento en paredes y presencia de claros, ventanas sin protección en diferentes áreas; la empresa no cuenta con una separación física entre las áreas de fermentación y destilación del resto de los espacios del lugar, ni tiene identificación y delimitación de áreas, de tal forma que el material de empaque, productos químicos y envases se encontraban en un mismo sitio.”)

And finally, a simple English translation from the original press release by COFEPRIS and SAT by trade magazine, The Spirits Business.

The Rest of The Story

What all these news services failed to mention was that each of the above infractions, except one, was addressed within a couple of hours.

So, why was the lifting of the closure of Fabrica Santa Rosa distillery not met with equal timeliness by these government agencies?

Why allow the escalation of a situation that normally requires only a warning, and malign a distillery’s spotless reputation?

Why did it take almost 90 days to rectify the situation and to restore the Embajador family’s impeccable integrity within the industry?

Two reasons–

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ

COFEPRIS’ and SAT’s ongoing three year campaign (some call it a smoke screen or a witch hunt) called “Juntos Contra la Ilegalidad” (“Together Against Illegality”), to reduce illegally produced alcoholic beverages on the Mexican market, and…

Paperwork.

***

Click for Part 2, Embajador Tequila:  Business As Usual.

 

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