Author Archives: M.A. "Mike" Morales

Dazed & Diffused: More on the Diffuser in Tequila Production

We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? and in Craft Tequila–WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 2  where we featured our Craft Tequila Gauntlet to help you make better buying decisions when seeking quality craft tequilas.

 Here, Tequila Aficionado Media delves deeper…

What’s Not on The Menu

The Pastry War's stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal., We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating?, diffuser, diffusor, difuser, difusor

The Pastry War’s stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal.

On the wall of The Pastry War, a world renowned mezcalería and restaurant in the heart of Houston, TX, this chalkboard message proudly explains why owners, outspoken agave advocates Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta, staunchly refuse to serve tequilas and mezcals produced with a diffuser.

In their view, it’s a battle between traditional methods of tequila [and mezcal] production which yields “delicious tequila [or mezcal],” versus more cost-conscious methods adopted by distilleries that produce “a shitty version of tequila [or mezcal].”

Let’s look more closely at this cursed contraption.

WTH Is It?

Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary diffuser definition–

“a device for reducing the velocity and increasing the static pressure of a fluid passing through a system.”

Diffuser, by its own definition, denotes watering, stripping, deflecting or softening down the finished product, whether it be light, air, or agua miel, what will eventually be distilled into tequila.

Using only hot water and sulfuric acid to extract up to 98%-99% of the sugars from raw, uncooked agave, the resultant tequila, as described by noted agave lover, Fortaleza tequila brand ambassador and blogger, Khyrs Maxwell, in his detailed instructional post, There May Be Too Much Agave in Your Tequila or Mezcal  tastes like…

“…what I would consider to have a chemical/medicinal taste–sometimes slight, sometimes overbearing flavor profile that always seems to overshadow the beauty of the agave.”  

He further states that it “tastes very much like vodka” and has coined the term “AgaVodka.”

Lastly, Maxwell warns…

“So if you come across a tequila or mezcal made with a difusor, the only way that there can be “notes of cooked agave” is by adding that flavor during the finishing process.  They can add “notes of cooked agave?”  Why, yes.  Yes they can…I’ve seen and smelled the additive.  It does exist.”

Maxwell’s statement above excludes the use of authorized additives to blanco (unaged) tequila, of course.

As of December 2012, such practices have been outlawed by the CRT in its normas (rules and regulations governing the production of tequila).  It remains to be seen how well it will be enforced, however, so your pricey, Fruit Loop scented blanco may still be safe for a year or two until inventories are depleted.

Spanish diffuser manufacturer, Tomsa Destil, offers a closer look at the mega-masher and its process, which seem to go hand-in-hand with column distillation.

The site mentions that they have installed 12 diffusers for use in agave processing, but makes no mention of their clients, nor if sulfuric acid to extract sugars from agave is also needed.

Tomsa Destil diffuser., Diffusor in Tequila

Tomsa Destil diffuser.

The Stigma

While controversy swirls around the use of a diffuser, most educated tequila aficionados understand that it is not illegal to do so.  In fact, its application was accepted by the CRT some time ago.

As we mentioned in item #5 of our Craft Tequila Gauntlet, diffuser use by a distillery is a closely guarded secret even though it is a fairly large piece of machinery to try to hide.  There is a stigma attached to it, with most distilleries that have one completely denying that any of their star brands are processed with it.

While most of the Tequila Industry’s heavy hitters are known to possess diffusers, many also own regular shredders, autoclaves and even stone ovens.  Ask any major brand owner whose tequila is produced at these maquiladoras (large production facilities that churn out juice for contracted brands) whether they are a by-product of a diffuser, and they vehemently deny it.

#AskRuben

Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura, Diffusor in Tequila

Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura.

 

In the Twitter thread attached to The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? it was revealed that Casa Herradura had used a diffuser from 2001-2010.

The historic tequila maker initially implemented the super shredder during the last great agave crisis of the late 90s.  Years later, it was taken to task by an organized group of key concerned mixologists and tequila supporters who refused to use Herradura in their cocktails or to include it in their bar menus due to a drastic change in its original flavor profile and quality.  Herradura finally succumbed and stopped using it for that label.

Vintage Casa Herradura, logo, Diffusor in Tequila

In the following screen captures of a Twitter chat from May 1, 2014, Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura’s Director of International Brand Development, admits that the diffuser is now only used for their Antiguo, El Jimador, and Pepe Lopez brands.

 

Twitter chat #AskRuben.

More Twitter chat. #AskRuben

 

Aceves had previously come clean to spirits writer, Emma Janzen in her article for The Statesman here.

In Khrys Maxwell’s aforementioned blog, he lists tequila producers known to employ diffusers.  Tequila Aficionado also includes this list on every updated NOM List for your convenience.

Nevertheless, one of those distilleries mentioned in Maxwell’s list boldly refuses to hide behind a veil of secrecy–

Destilería Leyros (NOM 1489).

In Defense Of Diffusers

Destilería Leyros, producers of their flagship brand, Tequila Don Fermin and many others, bills itself as a model for modern and efficient tequila making.

It was proudly represented that way even in the wildly popular Spanish language telenovela Destilando Amor, where it stood in for the then fictional Destilería Montalvo.

 

Enrique Legorreta Carranco, one of the owners of Leyros, agreed to answer some of our questions and to try to help dispel the myths and mysteries surrounding the diffuser.

Controversy

“I am aware about the controversy of using difusor [Spanish spelling] in the tequila process.  Here are some key factors and benefits of the process in order to be firm with the press:

“In fact, there is nothing to hide and we are willing to receive tequila bloggers, media or people from Tequila Aficionado in order to know first hand this innovative and ecological process.”

Process

“The difusor extracts the agave juice first of all, followed by the cooking of the agave juice to extract the agave sugars.  This cooked agave juice is called the agua miel.  In traditional process they first cooked the agave followed by the agave juice extraction.  We obviously need to cook the agave juice in order to get its sugars in order to be able to be fermentated (biological process where sugar turns into alcohol).”

Flavor

[We’ll note that Sr. Legorreta took issue with the portrayal of the tastes and essences of tequilas produced with a diffuser as described by some bloggers, believing them to be too subjective.]

“This process gives to the taster a more herbal, clean and citric experience.  Also this process is more efficient and as a result gives a tequila with better standards in methanol, aldehydes and other compounds not desired because at high levels produces hangovers.”

 

Traditional Process vs. Modern Technology

“We respect a lot [the] traditional process.  The only thing we believe is that the consumer has the last word to choose between one tequila flavor from another.
“There are people that prefer the traditional strong flavor from tequila.  Other people are preferring tequilas [that are] more pure, citric with subtle notes of fresh agave like if you are smelling [the] agave and [the] land.”

 

Environment

Reiterating what was demonstrated in the videos above, Sr. Legorreta explains…
“A difusor process uses less than 50% of energy, and less than 60% of water used in traditional processes to produce same quantities of liters.  Additional to this [at the] Leyros Distillery we recycle the bagasse that we get in the last phase of the difusor.  All this with our completely self-sufficient green boiler is fueled with bagasse from our own mill.”

 

About That Stigma…

“About why many distilleries denied they have a difusor, I can guess without knowing a reason from first hand–that is because traditional process with ovens sounds more romantic than the technology of a difusor.”
“In fact, a lot of distilleries focus their marketing efforts around traditional processes.  I guess this is working.  If not, I [suppose] they would be focusing more in the tasting notes of the final product.”
Indeed, Destilería Leyros’ website and videos play on the romance using a smattering of phrases as, “It tastes like countryside, like fire in your blood,” and “Like a passionate kiss, the Taste of Mexico.”

A New Style

In much the same manner as importers, brand owners, and maestro tequileros defend

Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.

Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.

(and advertise in their marketing materials!) the use of additives in their aged tequilas (“finished and polished”), Sr. Legorreta asserts that juice made with a diffuser is simply another style of tequila.

“The essence of tequila is the agave, and both processes distill agave, just in different ways.  There are some people that love traditions [and] there are others that like to innovate and improve things.”
Just as Leyros’ website and videos “invites you to taste and compare, and then let your palate decide which tequila you’d rather raise in a toast,” Sr. Legorreta concludes:
“At the end of the day, or the end of the history, [it] is the consumer [who] chooses their tequila without a bias in the information.”
Some Truths to Consider

The Leyros videos above claim to use machinery as a way to “considerably reduce the risk of injury” to the people on their workforce.  Yet, as Maxwell points out…

“Not only is the difusor a way to pump out product, it also uses a very small labor force.  As more distilleries use the difusor, there will be less jobs available to those, who for hundreds of years,  have built towns and created families by working in the agave distillate industry.  So what happens to the unemployed?  …do they leave for the US to become illegal immigrants?  Or do they work for the narcos?”

At the risk of being redundant, it bears repeating what noted agave ethno-botanist, Ana Valenzuela said about the diffuser here

Shredder.

Shredder.

 

“…to prohibit the use of diffusers (in hydrolysis of agave juices) that takes the “soul” (the flavor of baked agave) out of our native distillates, singular in the world for its complexities of aromas and flavors.”

In conclusion, if current figures are correct, exports of tequila rose 16% to US$568 million in the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period last year.  It is expected that China will import 10 million liters of tequila in the next 5 years.

Where will Mexico find enough agave to serve their thirsty customers?

Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.

Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.

These guys know where.

Turning A Blind Eye

On September 4, 2014, dozens of mezcaleros (mezcal producers) dumped 200 liters of mezcal onto the streets of Oaxaca City in protest for their government’s lack of support against tequileros from Jalisco who are allegedly raiding tons of espadín and other maguey (agave), the prime ingredient in mezcal, to produce tequila.

In the process, say Maestros del Mezcal Tradiciónal del Estado de Oaxaca (a trade association) 15 of the 32 varieties of maguey native to Oaxaca are in danger of becoming extinct.

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.

Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.

Thanks to these transnational maguey marauders, the burgeoning mezcal industry’s days are numbered, it seems.

If indeed a diffuser strips away the agave’s regional characteristics leaving behind a more citric, vodka-like, cookie cutter flavor profile that easily lends itself to clandestine adulteration, over distillation and multiple barrel blendings, then what’s to keep these pirate tequileros from pilfering agave from outside the requisite growing states and using a diffuser to crank out “tequila?”

These days, filling orders to emerging world markets is more important than the blatant disregard for the Denomination of Origin.

The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention

What’s New

The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention successfully launched its first annual event at the Radisson Hotel & Suites in downtown Austin on August 10-11, 2014.

Primarily a show that serves the spirits industry (or trade) in Texas, for us at Tequila Aficionado Media, it was a chance to visit with new brands, products and services trying to break into the challenging Texas spirits market.

In this clip, Michael E. Klein, a spirits entrepreneur and long-time Austin businessman who spearheaded the formation of the alliance, explains its purpose.

What follows are some of the highlighted products that you should watch out for on Tequila Aficionado Media, in Texas, and beyond.

Briscas Mezcal2014-08-11 15.09.09

In the current booming mezcal market, more and more brands are appearing under the traditional higher alcoholic proofs that more established mezcals are known for.  Briscas is a refreshing libation that refuses to be confused with other gateway mezcal brands.

Ricardo Gonzales, Sales & Marketing Director for importer Moreno Spirits, gives us a quick rundown of the small batch espadín Briscas Mezcal.

Juan Moreno, President & CEO of Moreno Spirits, explains how bringing Briscas to market was a journey of discovery for himself and his family.

Surprises

The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention was not without surprises for us at Tequila Aficionado Media.

Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the 86 Company.

Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the 86 Company.

Austin resident Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the celebrated The 86 Company responsible for a brilliant line of spirits with exacting quality like our Brands Of Promise(TM) Overproof Silver Medal winning Tequila Cabeza, made an appearance in support of the event.

tbnca

L-R: Mike Morales, Jason Kosmas, John Rivers

Also exhibiting in grand style was John L. Rivers IV (a.k.a.: Juan Rios), Managing Director of Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila, a new offering from the illustrious former boxing champion.

Not only did he share with us some of this fine sipping tequila and listed its current markets, but also an exclusive photo of a super piña in the champ’s agave fields.

[Spoiler Alert!  At press time, we had not notified John about our verdict of Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila’s review on a future Sipping Off The Cuff(TM), but we let the cat out of the bag, here….]

Mixing and Matching

2014-08-11 16.02.19One of the more exciting and refreshing combos we discovered at the Texas Nightclub & Bar Alliance Convention was between Pablo Madrigali, Brand Manager with Mexcor International and Lucy Corona, co-founder of Slim Ritas, the 100 calorie fresh juice margarita mix.

Mexcor, a family owned business based in Houston, TX, has been the importer of crowd pleasing tequilas at reasonable prices from Destiladora del Valle de Tequila (NOM 1438)  for several years, including El Reformador, Cava de los Morales and Agavales.

Lucy Corona is a dynamic and spirited mother and business owner whose dream after giving birth to her children was to enjoy a satisfying and natural margarita.  So she made them herself!

Here, Rob Corona explains the birth of SlimRitas.

Here, Pablo gives a bit of Mexcor’s and Agavales’ history, and how he and Lucy joined forces.

One To Watch

2014-08-11 14.35.19 michael kleinMichael E. Klein has handed the reigns of planning future conventions to the team at San Antonio based SMC Events, and it looks to expand the tradeshow’s reach even further with more products and services participating.

Judging from the contagious energy coming from the booths of other exhibitors at the first annual Texas Nightclub & Bar Alliance Convention, the promise of bigger yearly events looks to be a sure thing.

Jessica’s Journey – Epic Marketing or Sauza History Lesson?

Epic Marketing or Sauza History Lesson?

You Be the Judge

Part 3 in Jessica’s Epic Journey

By Jessica Arent, Tequila Aficionado Contributor

Sauza History, tequila, jessica arent, tequila aficionado, la cofradia, jaime sauza, cuervo, distillery, wine, dobecq, brandyMy second day in Mexico was focused on the product and team brainstorming for a market launch. Believe me when I say Mel Gibson’s character in “What Women Want” wasn’t so far off in the process of branding and advertising. Total immersion into the product to help identify the audience, and the creativity necessary to capture the attention of the targeted audience can be taxing, especially when the tasting begins before the first cappuccino.

I walked into the meeting feeling the weight of travel, the mess of humidity, and trying to pull myself together. Guadalajara has a humid climate and the morning had already proven challenging with the struggle to tame my ever-frizzing hair. If you have ever attempted to straighten and smooth naturally curly hair in humid climates you know this can be an exercise in futility and frustrating endeavor, and yet we still attempt the battle. It tends to leave you irritable and makes for a difficult start to the day…until there was tequila? For breakfast? No way!!!

Several unmarked bottles sat on the table along with dozens of glasses.

And so the work day began, with a flute of 5-year Anejo in one hand and a double cappuccino in the other. . .

While I will not bore you with the details of the work day and the brainstorming that went into it, I will say that I felt like I consumed more tequila on this day than I have in all my years of drinking! 5-year, Plata, Reposado, 7-year…

Glass after glass, note after note…

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

What?! It’s work!!

The truth is, while an extraordinary team, the incredible opportunity to work side by side with Jaime Sauza, and garner some of his knowledge and the rich family history that is his in the world of tequila, was without a doubt an incredible experience, and it was exactly this way that I spent the work day, collaborating with this extraordinary man…

Sauza History

Sauza History, tequila, jessica arent, tequila aficionado, la cofradia, jaime sauza, cuervo, distillery, wine, dobecq, brandyOriginally considered “Mexican Moonshine”, the poor man’s drink, Don Cenobio Sauza recognized opportunity early on(“Don” makes you think of the Godfather, doesn’t it?) In 1873 Don Cenobio Sauza founded Sauza Tequila at “La Perseverancia” distillery. He was the first distiller to call the spirit produced from the blue agave plant “tequila”, and the first to export the drink to the United States.

The Story goes like this….

Don Cenobio Sauza was born on a farm in Jalisco, Mexico. He was the third child of Hilario Sauza and Doña Margarita Madrigal Navarro. He worked on his father’s farm along with his siblings Adelaida, Juana, Fernanda, Luis and Herminia until he was sixteen. In 1858 Cenobio traveled to Tequila to visit his cousin Ramon Corona Madrigal. Enamored with the countryside and the rich soil, Cenobio settled in Tequila and got a job working at the distillery of José Antonio Gómez Cuervo. There he learned how to farm agave and distill mezcal-tequila.

Cenobio began to export mezcal-tequila from Tequila to other parts of the country. In 1870, no longer content to just sell, Sauza leased the “La Gallardeña” distillery from Lazaro Gallardo. Sauza saw great success, and three years later, on September 1, 1873 , purchased the “La Antigua Cruz” (The Old Cross) distillery (the oldest registered tequila distillery, founded in 1805 by José Maria Castañeda) from Don Felix Lopez. The transaction equated to 5,000 pesos and he promptly renamed it “La Perseverancia” (Perseverance).The former employee of Cuervo had successfully founded Sauza Tequila and become one of Cuervo’s great rivals.

In 1873 Sauza was the first to export tequila to the United States; crossing through the border at El Paso del Norte (present day Ciudad Juarez) carrying three casks and six jugs of his mezcal-tequila. This was the beginning of the export market for tequila.

The arrival of the railroad in Tequila, Jalisco, increased Sauza’s business and in 1889 he purchased the “La Gallardeña” distillery from Lazaro Gallardo. That same year he purchased the “Hacienda de San Martin de las Cañas”. This became Sauza’s headquarters and was simply known as “La Hacienda Cenobio”. Here he planted more than 2 million agave and started producing an estimated 800 casks of tequila per year. He purchased and sold thirteen more distilleries and numerous fields of agave, always working at least three at a time in order to remain the leader in tequila production and sales. Don Cenobio is credited with determining that the blue agave was the best agave for tequila in the 1890. Obviously the rest followed suit.

Sauza History, tequila, jessica arent, tequila aficionado, la cofradia, jaime sauza, cuervo, distillery, wine, dobecq, brandyDon Cenobio’s son, Don Eladio Sauza, was born in Tequila in 1883. At age 20 Eladio moved to Tecolotlan to take charge of his father’s distillery, “La Hacienda La Labor”. It was there that he learned the business of producing and selling tequila. Later, he moved to Mazatlán, a major port in the Northeastern part of Mexico, to establish a Sauza Tequila distribution center in order to increase exportation.

Upon Don Cenobio’s death in 1909, Eladio returned to Guadalajara to mourn his father and to take control of the Sauza Tequila Empire. Shortly thereafter, the Mexican Revolution threatened to expropriate Eladio’s business and farmland. During the Revolution, Eladio rallied patriotic sentiment and helped to establish tequila as the official spirit of Mexico.

Eladio modernized and expanded the family business by opening branches in Monterrey and Mexico City, as well as a concession in Spain. When Don Eladio Sauza died at the age of 63 on July 22, 1946, he left the Sauza Tequila business to his firstborn son, Francisco Javier Sauza

The Third Generation is Born

Sauza History, tequila, jessica arent, tequila aficionado, la cofradia, jaime sauza, cuervo, distillery, wine, dobecq, brandyFrancisco Javier Sauza was born in Tecolotlan, Mexico on December 8, 1903 to Don Eladio Sauza and Doña Silveria Mora Enriquez. Francisco Javier Sauza, like his father, was raised on tequila, and in the family tradition of his father and his grandfather he too grew to become part of the family legacy.

When Javier Sauza took over Tequila Sauza, shortly before his father’s death in 1946, he began at once to change the image of tequila from a “drink of the campesinos” to a refined spirit of the upper classes. His competitors scoffed when he redesigned the bottles and labels for a more tasteful look and began to age some of the tequila in wooden barrels for a smoother taste and color.  He took his product to fairs and expositions throughout Mexico, the United States, and Europe, and promoted it as “the drink of romance.” He also modernized production and transportation systems and built a bottling plant in Guadalajara.

In 1950, Francisco Javier added the Sauza Hornitos brand to the Sauza family of tequila. In 1963, he created Sauza Conmemorativo, a tequila that commemorated the 90th anniversary of the La Perseverancia distillery.

In 1973, to celebrate 100 years since the founding of the La Perseverancia distillery, Sauza created a specially aged tequila that he presented in a limited edition, green ceramic bottle. He called his creation Tres Generaciones in honor of the three generations that had produced Sauza Tequila: Don Cenobio, Don Eladio and Don Francisco Javier.

Traveling throughout Europe and Asia, Sauza grew concerned about the number of “pseudo-tequilas” being produced. Working with other tequila producers from Jalisco, Francisco lobbied President Jose Lopez Portillo saying, “Tequila is the only one made in the State of Jalisco, Mexico.” On December 9, 1974 the Label of Integrity decree stated that true tequila only came from the State of Jalisco.

Sauza History, tequila, jessica arent, tequila aficionado, la cofradia, jaime sauza, cuervo, distillery, wine, dobecq, brandyFrancisco Javier continued his father and grandfather’s legacy, but in 1988, for personal reasons, he decided to sell the Sauza Tequila business to Mexican brandy producer Pedro Domecq. The tequilas Sauza innovated – Sauza, Hornitos, Tres Generaciones – are still in production. Today Sauza owns about 300 agave plantations and is the second largest tequila manufacturer in the world.

The Fifth Generation

And here I was, spending my day working side by side with Jaime Sauza, the great, great grandson of Cenobio Sauza, getting the education of a lifetime in tequila. It just doesn’t get much better than this.

Or does it?

Well, that’s another segment anyway.

The end of the day had me returning to the hotel to change into cocktail attire for the evening ahead. Still wrestling with the humidity and the unruly mass that was once my hair, I managed to pull myself together (after an ice cold shower and having room service deliver a double espresso) and hustle back to the office for a “roof top CATA”.  Stepping into the elevator I smoothed down my dress, and checked my makeup in the reflection of the doors one last time. As the elevator approached the roof, I could hear a Spanish guitar and the tinkling of glasses.

Then the Doors Opened

Sauza History, tequila, jessica arent, tequila aficionado, la cofradia, jaime sauza, cuervo, distillery, wine, dobecq, brandyI walked into the most elegant setting I could imagine. A pergola covered the rooftop with climbing bougainvillea in vibrant colors. Elegant wicker seating with crisp white linen cushions was strategically placed for lounging and open conversation. Small teak tables, dressed with glowing candle lanterns and aromatic orchids in purples and whites were the centerpieces of the seating arrangements.

In one corner stood a bar with dozens of amber colored unmarked bottles.  Mike Vernardo, the master mixologist brought in from Austin, Texas, masterfully created artistic libations, served by four beautiful young Mexican women wearing little black dresses and engaging smiles.

The League of Extraordinary “Tequilans”

Sauza History, Mike Vernardo, tequila, jessica arent, tequila aficionado, la cofradia, jaime sauza, cuervo, distillery, wine, dobecq, brandyOut across the terrace the sun was setting over Guadalajara, in hues of pinks and oranges and purples and the lights of the city slowly came on.  As I looked around I saw the most beautiful people begin to come in to the party. Elegant, sophisticated women of Guadalajara on the arms of distinguished gentlemen, and as I began to mingle, I came to realize every attendee was a part of the process of the production of Tequila. From the General Director of La Cofradia Distillery, and his wife, to the master bottle cap maker, who works in precious metals of gold, silver and copper to make the cap and label of this emerging product, to the glass bottle designer himself, and their respective wives. Every person that walked into this party had some part in the creation of an extraordinary elixir from Tequila. I felt as though I was in a League of Extraordinary “Tequilans”.

Not long into the evening, Jaime arrived with his beautiful wife, and the party really got started. Charismatic and congenial, Jaime began to expound on the notes and virtues of each of the samplings of the evening. Elaborating on the legs, crown and brilliance of each, he offered his insights on comparisons and values. Although this might sound dry to some, Jaime’s communicated his thoughts congenially with a touch of humor and was entertaining and engaging. Who wouldn’t be mesmerized by a man who can conclude a tequila lesson with a course in popping a champagne cork with his glass stem?

Sauza History, tequila, jessica arent, tequila aficionado, la cofradia, jaime sauza, cuervo, distillery, wine, dobecq, brandyIt’s true. . . Jaime is very versatile!

Waiters in white jackets and great big smiles weaved in and out with delicious food pairings that included fresh ceviche in guacamole sauce served in shot glasses, miniature ranchero tacos, and Ahi tartar tostadas.  The menu was created exclusively by Josue Banuelos for the tequilas we tasted that evening. Mike mixed incredibly creative concoctions of epic proportions out of recipes specifically designed around this tequila, and a joyful mood of what could only be described as “success” filled the air.

I think we all knew we were on to something extraordinary, something epic…

This Cinderella turned in her dancing shoes and cocktail dress for pajamas and a nightcap not long before midnight. My nightcap was a special “gift” given to me by my new friend Jaime.  I fell in love with this dream libation after one sip. An unlikely recipe, this “moonshine” (let’s face it, isn’t it really “moonshine” until it has a NOM, label, and is legal the eyes of the CRT?) takes you to Italy and Mexico at the same time in a seamless blend of liquid perfection.

I cannot tell you more yet, but I can tell you it was the perfect finish to my day.

I closed my eyes in anticipation of the next day and the adventure that lay in before me and drifted off to dreamland.


 

Read the continuation of Jessica’s Journey coming soon!

 

jessica Arent, Sauza History, tequila, jessica arent, tequila aficionado, la cofradia, jaime sauza, cuervo, distillery, wine, dobecq, brandyJessica Arent has spent her career steeped in the Hispanic culture. Passionate about the Latin culture and experiencing roles that have taken her from television to digital marketing throughout the United States and Mexico, Jessica’s passion for Mexico runs in her blood. An accomplished writer, Mexico is where her heart lives and is the focus of her work and writing.  Specializing in marketing Hispanic based products and services, Jessica will tell you there are few people in the world or places she has traveled, from Asia to Europe and in between, who compare to the Mexican culture.  Building websites such as ALL ABOUT MEXICO and fostering the marketing endeavors of a number of tequila products, to name a few, Jessica sets out to inspire the world around her, one person, one relationship at a time, to know and understand the culture she calls home.  Jessica is a partner at Intermountain Media, LLC, the Communications and Media Director of Terra Energy Resources Corp, and shares other travel and tequila adventures on her blog, Jessica’s Mexico.

 

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The Roca Patron Road Show

The Roca Patrón launch party invitation.

The Roca Patrón launch party invitation.

 

Roca Patron Hits The Road

All across the country, in carefully selected cities where the beautiful people roam like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco, the Patrón PR machine (which spent a reported $34.1 million in measured media in 2013), is rolling out its new Roca Patrón line of tequilas.

Here in Tejas, on August 11, 2014, at the famed Brazos Hall in Austin, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to the head of the line and behind the braided rope to be one of the first to try this new offering from Planet Patrón.

Once Inside…

The Brazos Hall was entirely furnished with wooden Roca Patrón branded furniture, fixtures, barrels and props, along with its own stage where a dynamic digital screen replayed a two minute silent video that was programmed to pulsating club music at deafening decibels.

 

 

Besides coming with its own publicity campaign that includes a stylized knockoff of their familiar bottle, projecting the Patrón name and iconic bee symbol onto the walls and some snappy slogans on ads and cushy sofa pillows, the entire experience is designed to embed a feeling of Old World rustic tequila-making with a modern twist.

The Process

El Tesoro's tahona, still in use.

El Tesoro’s tahona, still in use.

What makes this new addition to the Patrón portfolio any different from its usual ho-hum juice?

Roca Patrón (a Spanish corruption of the English word rock) is made exclusively using a tahona or volcanic stone wheel to macerate agave piñas to extract its juice.  Until the invention and adoption of more efficient and less labor intensive shredding machines, this was once how all tequilas were produced.

In this clip, Patrón Quality Director, Mario Chavez, explains why they settled on a 90 proof blanco and reveals some of the details in the pre-planning of the Roca line.

Mario explained that the tahona has always been part of the tequila making process for regular Patrón which they blend after distillation with juice that has been shredded.  This method was made famous by Tequila Siete Leguas, Patrón’s original producer, and eventually pilfered by Patrón.  For Roca, however, no blending occurs.

 

2014-08-11 19.12.58

L-R: Mike Morales, John Rivers of Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila, Mario Chavez. Patrón Quality Director, Mario Chavez, was so animated and excited about sharing Roca Patron that we couldn’t capture a still photo of him! Special thanks to Greg Cohen for inviting us to a great party!

 

Francisco-head-shot

Francisco Alcaraz, Patron Master Distiller

In his passion, Mario was sure that there were no other tequilas produced exclusively using a tahona.  I reminded him of the sought-after Fortaleza brand which he acknowledged, and Suerte, which he had never heard of.  But, why would he?  He is so engrossed in his own line that it figures that he would be oblivious to any other ones.  An honest, and forgivable, mistake.

Several distillers/chemical engineers are associated with the Roca line.  It’s refreshing to see a new face representing Patrón besides Francisco Alcaraz, their long time Master Distiller.

Cocktail Worthy

The Roca Patrón website has plenty of signature cocktails, but for each of the other 40 odd launch cities including Austin, original recipes were created by hired hot mixologists.

As previously pointed out in our reviews of Cabeza, Tapatío 110, and the entire Dulce Vida line, overproof tequilas shine in cocktails and Roca Patrón is no different.

Both myself and Mario agreed, however, that for a purist, a tequila the caliber of Roca

Lutfy Flores, David Alan, Carolyn Gil, Brian Dressel, Joyce Garrison, Patrón's guest mixologists.

Lutfy Flores, David Alan, Carolyn Gil, Brian Dressel, Joyce Garrison, Patrón’s guest mixologists.

Patrón would be much better served either neat, or simply on the rocks.

The Break Down

For the sake of transparency, we were served Roca Patrón on tap at room temperature in branded champagne glasses.  (Don’t be fooled by the lit-from-behind liquid lines viewed through false tequila barrel tops.  Patrón invented the art of visual illusion for these events.)

Patrón reps that evening admitted that it was not the best way to taste test tequila, but considering the amount of guests invited to the launch, it proved more cost effective.

Due to the darkness of the Brazos Hall, observing Roca’s color was next to impossible.

Roca Patrón Silver–90 proof

The new Roca Patrón line.

The new Roca Patrón line.

At first sniff, instant piedra (tahona, rock) with barely any hint of alcohol.  The nose gives no warning for what’s to come, however.  Extreme agave on the entry, so brace yourselves.  Light to medium finish that lingers on the palate, not down your throat.  On the second intake, more sweetness is evident.

Roca Patrón Reposado–84 proof

Instant butter on the nose to go along with the wood notes, vanilla and caramel.  Mario confessed that his wife is even able to pull some pineapple and pear on the entry.  Both were slightly noticeable, again with very little to no alcohol.  Aged in American oak barrels and guaranteed to coat your palate.

Roca Patrón Añejo–88 proof

Aged 14 months, mas o menos, there is evidence of dried fruit, nuts and some citrus.  Again, very little if any alcohol was present in the nose.  Very easy finish, but not as memorable as the reposado even though it, too, will coat the palate.

The Verdict

Both at the event and in digital print, Patrón reps and officials have admitted that there has been a gradual decline in demand for its tequila in the United States.  Consumers and industry professionals alike have dismissed it as a brand that rests on its colorful past and deft marketing.

Whether this trend has been due to the rise of mixologists and their demands for better and more artisanal ingredients for their cocktail creations, a more sophisticated and educated consumer, or focusing on its ravenous rise to dominance in the overseas Duty Free market, Roca Patrón is their bold statement to these allegations.

Despite Patrón’s attempt to backpedal into the current craft tequila craze with Roca, it is still a mass produced tequila targeted to their own particular customer base–

Those willing to spend anywhere from $69, $79, and $89 for silver, reposado, and añejo expressions.

Don’t expect to see these prices drop, either.  Patrón was one of the only tequila producers that refused to roll back prices during the recession even though consumers were trading down to cheaper brands.

In the end, those faithful Patrón followers who enjoy the Gran Patrón line (Platinum, Piedra, or Burdeos), but not the heady price tags, will appreciate Roca Patrón’s assertive flavor profile and less aggressive cost.

As for the Patrón Road Show…

It was an elegant, eventful, and enlightening affair.  Like watching Cirque du Soleil but without the embarrassing costumes.

***

Watch for a future Sipping Off The Cuff(TM) featuring Roca Patrón, coming soon!


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Mestizo Mezcal–A Perfect Convergence of Cultures

 

Mestizo logo

 

When we first met Arturo Palencia, co-founder of the award winning Mestizo Mezcal, we were struck by his boyish charm and seemingly tender age.  We were surprised to discover that this thirty-something was no newcomer to the competitive and often brutal spirits industry.

In this clip, Arturo tells how he became involved with mezcal and the surprising birth of Mestizo.

 

What’s In A Name?

According to Wikipedia, the term mestizo refers to a person of combined heritage, usually European (Spanish) and indigenous peoples of the Americas.  The term was later used as a racial category during the Spanish Empire’s control of its colonies.

During that colonial period, mestizos became the dominant race in many Spanish speaking countries in Latin America, including Mexico.

Today, Hispanic or Latino is the more appropriate term, but for Arturo the meaning of mestizo for his mezcal is much more poetic and thoughtful.

 

 

Jessica Rosman (right), co-founder of Mestizo.

Jessica Rosman (right), co-founder of Mestizo.

A Formal Introduction

Arturo and co-founder, Jessica Rosman, spent countless hours journeying throughout the mezcal producing regions of Mexico in search of the perfect single village, settling on Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca.

In this taped portion, Arturo introduces us to his 4th generation maestro mezcalero and his nearly 300 years of tradition.

With more brands popping up at an alarming rate in the current booming mezcal market, Arturo discusses Mestizo’s process in gauging its target audience that is looking for a more palatable mezcal.

Fat Ass donkey logoDoes This Donkey Make My Ass Look Fat?

 

As a college student in the mid-2000s, Arturo was actively involved in the initial launching of the infamous Fat Ass Tequila.

Produced as an old style tequila in a hand blown bottle, and marketed to the Spring Breakers that invade Cancún and Cabo San Lucas,  it became wildly popular with both connoisseurs and young people, winning numerous awards along the way.

Then, it virtually disappeared from store shelves.

Here, Arturo describes what it was like to be on the ground floor of this provocative brand.

 

Truly Handcrafted

Mestizo Mezcal añejoWords like artisanal or handcrafted are loosely bandied about in the spirits industry these days.  But, whether as a young college student helping friends launch their tequila brand, or today, plotting Mestizo’s success, Arturo Palencia’s focus hasn’t changed–

To bring to market a high quality spirit while preserving its tradition.  In Mestizo’s case, maintaining consistency and promoting sustainability also go hand-in-hand.

In this snippet, Arturo reveals how Mestizo does both by their unique barrel aging process.

 

 

One Thing…

Like the name illustrates, Mestizo Mezcal has centuries of pedigree, and from Arturo Palencia’s point of view, the future promises to hold true to its roots.

Dii’zh bèeyuu!

(cheers and good health in Zapotec)

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