Category Archives: Portraits

Falling Under the Spell of Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine Tequila

On a frigid and damp Saturday night in November 2013, Roger Clyne, along with his band The Peacemakers, invited Tequila Aficionado Media to an intimate concert and tequila tasting at Billy’s Ice House in New Braunfels, TX, to talk music, heritage, and his tequila, Mexican Moonshine.

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Hey, gringos, it could be worse…we did not get there first

Colt_Peacemaker

The Colt Single Action Army, also known as the Peacemaker, is considered a famous part of Americana. “The Gun That Won the West” was wielded by such action-oriented historical legends of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as Buffalo Bill Cody, Theodore Roosevelt, Judge Roy Bean, Pat Garrett and General George Patton.  It has also been the selected sidearm of Hollywood movies, preferred by everyone from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood in every single Dirty Harry film.  And in 2011, it was declared the official firearm of the state of Arizona. Arizona is also home to another piece of Americana–a guts and guitar driven, reggae and mariachi laced, roots based rock-n-roll band leyenda known as Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.  Armed with expressive lyrics, evocative melodies and four part harmonies, these straight shooters have come to redefine the indie music landscape by being the first band to debut six consecutive albums in the Top Ten of Billboard Magazine’s Internet Sales chart. Along the way, Clyne has gathered a burgeoning cult following that rivals that of Sammy Hagar and Jimmy Buffet–both themselves very successful tequila front men.

I fell under the spell when I stumbled over the line…

The full line-up of Roger Clyne's Mexican Moonshine.

Many aficionados roll their eyes when news of another celebrity endorsed tequila hits the liquor store shelves.  But Roger Clyne came upon his admiration for agave spirits early in life as part of his Southwestern ranching heritage, predating even his love for writing music and performing.

Roger was first introduced to scotch as a teenager by his grandfather who would pour him a dram to “put hair on your chest.”  The taste of “dirty socks in mud” was tough to swallow, but it was his father’s sharing of bacanora, another agave distillate, that opened him up to the wonders of Mexican spirits, and in particular, tequila. Like most of us, Clyne cut his teeth by shooting cheap mixto tequila in college, then swearing off of it until the next opportunity to overindulge.  He was well into his studies (psychology and anthropology) at Arizona State University when he rediscovered that “bright, wonderful, elegant, lyrical taste” of tequila during an exchange program in Ensenada, Mexico, while following a troop of mariachis.

 

It’s surreal, sublime, manmade and divine…it’s the moonshine….

Lyrics on the shipping box of Roger Clyne's Mexican Moonshine.

Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine tequila was born in true outlaw fashion in 2004 during the famed Circus Mexicus music festival that takes place annually in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (Rocky Point, for you ex-pats).

Check out the Circus Mexicus Lineup for 2014 here.

Circus Mexicus 2014.After that initial experience, Roger began scouting for factories to produce Mexican Moonshine, a journey that would even take him to the famed La Cofradía distillery (NOM 1137), the home of Casa Noble and Montejima tequilas.

He finally selected Fabrica de Tequilas Finos (NOM 1472) and forged a relationship with the distillery owner, Federico Cabo, and Master Distiller, Arturo Fuentes.  Together, the team first “dropped” Mexican Moonshine reposado onto the market in 2010, even though Clyne was advised against such commercial suicide due to historically poor sales of this expression.

Soak in the silvery light spillin’ out tonight from the moonshine…

 

In this clip, Roger pours and discusses Mexican Moonshine silver…

 

We’ll get a fine flow flowin’, a good glow goin’…

 

Believing that a reposado is the more definitive expression of tequila, Clyne was surprised when Master Distiller, Arturo Fuentes suggested that Mexican Moonshine be aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels.  Here, Roger explains further.

 

 

I got a healin’ home-brewed remedy, a low-brow therapy…

 

Award winning Mexican Moonshine añejo.

A Gold Medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2014, Mexican Moonshine añejo  was released in 2013 and is fast becoming Roger Clyne’s favorite expression, much to his chagrin.  In the following snippet, Roger breaks down its flavor profile.

 

Turn your back on all the deadlines…

 

On April 29, 2014, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers will unleash their seventh studio album, The Independent.  The title fits these musical mavericks like an old pair of faded jeans worn as a statement against oppression on Casual Fridays.   Yet, as Clyne states, “There’s something about our music that celebrates what’s uniting versus what’s dividing.”

independent

Click on the image to pre-order The Independent now (Release April 29, 2014).

Using this “Tequila Logic,” Roger Clyne has managed to do the same with Mexican Moonshine, gently hitching the spirit’s Lowland agave heritage to the wood notes of Kentucky bourbon to create a peacemaker that rightfully belongs in any collector’s arsenal.

Mexican Moonshine, Mexican Moonshine…Let your heart and your cup overflow, under the glow of the moonshine!  May your heart and your cup… Overflow…under the glow of the Moonshine!

See Part 2 of our visit with Roger Clyne here!

Visit Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers online now

Visit Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers online now

 

 

mex moonshine

Visit Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine online now

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Tequila 88: A Tequila Hero’s Journey

Hari Dhiman, Founder and CEO of Tequila 88.

Hari Dhiman, Founder and CEO of Tequila 88.

Hari Dhiman, dressed in a black tuxedo, stood humbly but firmly at the podium and looked out over the darkened auditorium packed with guests and well-wishers from all over the Inland Empire of Southern California.

A masterful networker and community leader, the Founder and CEO of upstart tequila brand Tequila 88 had formally invited this who’s-who of politics and business to join him and his family on an early February evening in 2013 to celebrate the brand’s first year accomplishments. A true success in both his life and business, it hasn’t always been easy for East Indian born Hari, as he explains here…

 Tequila 88:  A Love Story

Coasters and brochures.

Coasters and brochures.

In an age where trendy tequila monikers abound and many are marketed to appear so exclusive that they are christened after the area code of certain cities where the brand owners reside or hail from, or the steps taken to represent the tequila’s production (901, 512,  1-2-3, Tres, Cuatro, Cinco), Tequila 88 has a sweet and tender reason for its name that began in exotic Singapore:

Why Tequila?

The man and his tequila.

The man and his tequila.

Dhiman acknowledged that getting into the tequila business during the recession of 2009-2010 wasn’t an easy decision.

Having made his fortune in the hotel and hospitality business, an industry which suffered significant economic blows during that era, as well, Hari confessed that it seemed a safer bet than developing his own tequila brand.

Perseverance, Commitment, Passion

By Hari’s own admission, Tequila 88’s journey was long and arduous.  As a “hands-on” kind of guy, he was involved in every aspect and detail of the brand.  Countless hours were spent on the flavor profile alone, which at one point, even led to his chemical engineer/master distiller to give up on the project in frustration.

Hari, however, doggedly insisted that they both press on.

Determined to bring a solid product into the market, and his long term plans for Tequila 88 hanging in the balance, Dhiman refused to cut corners and met every requirement set down by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) as outlined in its rules and regulations (normas).

Superseding Expectations

Not only did Hari Dhiman acquire his desired flavor profiles for Tequila 88 by exceeding the CRT’s standards, he has since successfully exported his first shipment of Tequila 88 to his homeland in India in the spring of 2013.

A Unique Bottle

Tequila 88 blanco and boxes.

Tequila 88 blanco and boxes.

When I first met Hari Dhiman at his offices and warehouse in Ontario, CA in January 2013, he recounted the events that lead to designing his unique tequila bottle, several of which were artistically displayed as centerpieces.  He then pulled out some shaped pieces of paper from his desk drawer.  These were his initial attempts at making a 3-D model of his dream tequila vessel.

He enlisted a mechanical engineer to complete the plans that now hang on his office wall.  Tequila 88’s bottle and packaging have become a sought after trophy by collectors.

Rags To Riches

A self-made millionaire and serial entrepreneur with several thriving businesses to his credit, Hari shares his formula for success…

During the course of the evening, the milestone celebration swayed between a fiesta and a stockholders’ meeting, but with a lighthearted and humorous atmosphere, nevertheless.   And while it may sound like a cliché, Hari Dhiman’s voyage through life is the epitome of the rags to riches story.  The American Dream personified mixed with an intense entrepreneurial spirit.

Exporting Tequila 88 to India.

Exporting Tequila 88 to India.

From mopping floors for minimum wage, to lifting a snifter of tequila to salute his first overseas shipment into a burgeoning new economy and tequila market, one gets the sense that the next phase of Hari Dhiman’s odyssey will take him even further onto his Tequila Hero’s Journey.

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Tequila Tapatío And The Source of Life

Welcome Back, Old Friend

Tapatío logo poster

Tapatío logo poster

On two separate occasions, Carlos Camarena, the third generation master distiller of El Tesoro de Don Felipe and the equally famous and classic Tequila Tapatío, stepped outside of Las Perlas mezcal and tequila bar in the heart of downtown Los Angeles to enjoy a cigarette.

Taking in the scenery of a chilly and overcast Sunday afternoon in early June, he witnessed the pursuit of a purse snatcher by LAPD, and then an attempted carjacking by another perpetrator while the police were arresting the purse snatcher!

Carlos smiled and shook his head.  Surrounded by movie cameras and flood lights outside the front entrance to Las Perlas, his only thought was…

Another average day in LA.

La Perla Tapatía

Once inside the rustic and darkly lit Las Perlas, one of the more complete tequila and mezcal bars in Los Angeles, one realized that the movie cameras weren’t there to record street crimes or another TV reality show.  They were there to film an historic event–

The triumphant entrance of  the iconic Tequila Tapatío into California and the rest of the United States.

The press wall.

The press wall.

Jeff Couch and Vaughn Halyard, the co-partners of Congenial Spirits, a nimble distributor focused on boutique, handcrafted spirits, and the chosen distributor for Tapatío, had the foresight to sense the importance of documenting its US premier, even adding a professional photographer and a press wall for that red carpet feeling.

The invitees, comprised of LA spirits industry professionals and mixologists, settled in and Raul Yrastorza, the general manager and curator of Las Perlas, began the introductions for this question and answer segment with the guests of honor.

The Charbay Connection

Producing wines, ports, liqueurs, aperitifs, vodkas, rums, and whiskies at the famed Charbay Winery & Distillery in St. Helena, CA, Marko Karakasevic is also the importer of Tapatío under his Marko K Spirits of California banner.

Marko, a bear of a man who looks more like a right tackle for the Oakland Raiders instead of a barely 40 year old 13th generation master distiller, jokingly explains:

“In a family of distillers, no fruit, no root, is safe.”

Here, Marko recounts his first meeting with Carlos Camarena that lead to his family being invited to distill its own brand of Charbay Tequila at La Alteña distillery.

Heads, Hearts & Tails

So what do master distillers talk about in the wee hours of the morning over endless tequila?  Distillation, of course!

Carlos Camarena and Marko Karakasevic tell the story of their awkward first encounter that turned into what can only be an enduring relationship based on mutual respect and admiration.

The Upside Down World of Agave Spirits

Carlos chuckled that Miles Karakasevic, Marko’s father, the retired 12th generation master distiller of Charbay, and he did not get along that evening.

Whenever Carlos tried to explain the physics and biochemistry of tequila distillation versus the distillation of other spirits, it was in complete contrast to Miles’ years of education. 

Bullshit was uttered more than once.

“It’s not right!” exclaimed Marko.

Carlos discusses the upside down world of agave spirits distillation in depth…

Why Did It Take So Long To Get Here?

On my first visit to La Alteña in 2006, I asked Carlos what would happen if there was a sudden demand in El Tesoro de Don Felipe.  Would he be able to fill orders, or be forced to cut corners?

He declared that at any given time, he had approximately one million liters of tequila in storage to handle any spike in demand.  There would never be any need to cut corners and suffer a loss in quality.  No doubt, his policy also carried over to the Tapatío brand.

Here, Carlos demystifies his reasons for taking almost 76 years to bring Tapatío into the US market, and gives a bit of family history, as well.

During the course of the question and answer session, Congenial Spirits’ Vaughn and Jeff made sure that each of the Tapatío expressions were being served to the crowd in specially branded Tapatío shot glasses, starting with the 80 proof blanco and ending with the stellar Tapatío 110 proof.

Sipping it immediately brought back fond memories of my first trip to La Alteña and tasting this tequila directly from the still.

It hadn’t changed a bit.

Cocktail Hour

Drinks menu

Drinks menu

Once the Q & A ended, it was time to unleash the infinite possibilities that Tapatío 110 could provide.  Amanda Gunderson, Tapatío’s brand ambassador and designer of the evening’s drinks menu, wowed the crowd with her signature cocktails.

Names like Lolita Swizzle and La Alteña guaranteed that everyone in attendance would get a feel of what it would be like to visit Tapatío’s legendary distillery.  To say that these cocktails were lethally delicious would be an understatement.

La Alteña signature cocktail.

La Alteña signature cocktail.

Be aware that Tapatío 110 proof will not only shine in your cocktail and take you back to the Highlands of Jalisco, but it will sing to you for the rest of the evening.  Definitely, sip wisely.

The Source Of Life

Since many in attendance weren’t as well versed in the science of distillation as Carlos and Marko were, I asked Camarena how he would define distillation to a lay person.

Here’s what he had to say…

When Tequila Tapatío can be considered the source of life on this planet, there can be no such thing as just an average day in LA–or anywhere else, for that matter.

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View more photos of this momentous event on our Facebook page here.

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Portraits In Tequila–Alex Viecco of Montalvo Tequila…

A full array of Montalvo tequila

A full array of Montalvo tequila

Alex Viecco, CEO of award winning and triple distilled Montalvo tequila is a new hybrid of tequila brand owner.

While he shares the passion of many of the family owned brands that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, he has a keen business sense that comes from his many years in the financial planning industry.

In other words…

He doesn’t let his emotional attachment to the juice get in the way of his business decisions.  Like a solid investment portfolio, he is also quite diversified.

Alex Viecco unwraps Montalvo tequila.

Alex Viecco unwraps Montalvo tequila

Alex is one of the founding investors of a company that I’ve been watching with interest for some time–Greenhouse Holdings (now Premier Alliance), a company dedicated to finding a solution to the alarming Vinazas Crisis that I’ve discussed here.

As outspoken and passionate as I have been about the illegal dumping of tequila wastewaters (vinazas) by distilleries into the rivers and streams of the Paisaje Agavero, Alex has been even more of an advocate for foreign investment in wastewater processing plants as a way of combating the pollution epidemic that still haunts the Tequila Industry.

Since this February 2011 Fox News Latino news release cited here, the original project that he brought to Greenhouse’s attention has been placed on hold due to the merger with Premier Alliance.  Viecco assures, however, that the mission to clean up tequila wastewaters is again gaining traction with the present company, whose new investors include basketball great, Shaquille O’Neal.

“They are exploring a couple of different options to provide yet additional solutions in the region,” explains Viecco.

Montalvo“As you know, many of the companies are a bit leery due to the Big Guys being in so much control.  The goal is to provide a much broader solution to the region which will include the small and mid guys [tequila producers].”

“We have been talking with two groups, Premier and another group, to see who will fund a project to get things cleaned up.  My partners and I are the ones bringing in the guns to make it happen.”

“Like anything else,” Alex cautions, “it is still about relationships and foreign companies overcoming their fear of investing in foreign lands.”

Montalvo tequila and Vinturi aerator.

Montalvo tequila and Vinturi aerator.

And relationship building is exactly what Viecco strives for when visiting new accounts to sample Montalvo blanco, reposado and añejo.

A small batch tequila whose agave is sourced from the Lowlands of Jalisco, Alex realizes that his brand isn’t for everyone.  And just like the fourth generation distillers who oversee the triple distillation of Montalvo (a brand named after a fictional family brand of the popular 2007 telenovela, Destilando Amor), he carefully and deliberately chooses who he will partner with and where he will place the precious bottles of Montalvo.

Another strategic partnership Alex has forged is with Vinturi, makers of wine and spirits aerators (an item we’ll cover in an upcoming post) that allows your wine and spirits to open or “bloom” in a much shorter time.

Finally, what would Alex Viecco like for you to know about Montalvo?

In a word, “explore” the wonderful world of tequila, and start with Montalvo.

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Gary Shansby and Partida Tequila – Part 3

gary shansby, partida tequila
By Ryan Kelley | 04.19.10

With all the accolades, praise, and taste test data, how come Partida isn’t taking the country by storm and trying to dethrone Patrón’s grasp on the premium tequila market? Shansby retorts, “let Patrón be Patrón, and Patrón is what they are. It’s probably the most brilliantly marketed spirit brand, certainly tequila, in the world today [but] it doesn’t win any taste tests, and doesn’t even enter them anymore.” So even though other tequilas are obviously vying for Patrón’s market, Shansby prefers to remain above the fray. “Nobody should get ahead by beating someone else up,” he says.

Shansby made a name for himself by building popular brands in a variety of industries, and part of success in marketing products is to know about the people who consume or use (or, who should consume or use) one brand over another.

“People today are interested in exploring and discovering on their own,” he says. “They’re not interested in copying anymore. That’s kind of passé. They’ll trade up to good brands which they discover on their own and they love telling their friends about it.”

This moment of “discovery” is important to Shansby, and it is paramount to Partida’s marketing strategy. “Don’t try to talk them into it,” he advises, “just entice them into exploring. If they explore and discover it [on their own], they’ll like it more!” He does his part, too. Shansby lectures about tequila in the U.S. and Mexico, “with no commercials” – although it often ends with a tasting. He strives to educate (or in many cases, re-educate) people so they can have a better understanding of tequila. “Once a year we do a ‘tequila immersion day,’ where we bring in 40-50 up-and-coming bartenders from an area and start from the basics.” They are taught everything about tequila, and given information they can pass on to their customers – and managers.

Shansby is proud of his tequila, (why not – it’s delicious!) and is fond of sharing it with others. On a vacation in Oregon with Partida investor, and hugely successful winemaker, Michael Mondavi, Shansby brought a case of Partida with them and held a tequila tasting. He noticed four gentlemen who were ignoring the tequila. Upon asking, they told him they “did not drink tequila” and preferred to sip their single malt scotch. Shansby tasted their scotch and “praised them for how good it was.” They were very proud, and so he asked that they humor him, and have a “tiny taste of añejo – knowing that they drank single malt scotch. They reluctantly agreed. So I went over and got four champagne glasses, which kind of blew their minds, and I put about half an inch in the bottom and they tasted it. The first comment to come out was: ‘that’s not tequila!’ I told them it was very fine, estate-bottled tequila. The next comment to come out was: ‘you know, I can drink that!’”

When not enjoying Partida (“reposado – neat – in a stem glass”), Shansby does enjoy other tequilas. His “second favorite tequila is El Tesoro. It’s a very different tequila than ours. It’s cooked differently. It’s from a different region. It’s a highlands product, and not a big brand, but it’s a high-quality brand.” Shansby also likes Don Julio reposado, Gran Centenario añejo, Chinaco, Siete Leguas, and “Cabo Wabo has a fairly decent reposado.”

All the effort in developing and producing Partida has paid off. Shansby has a solid product and it’s validated every day by tequila and spirit enthusiasts around the world. He has, indeed, met his goal of developing “a really fine tequila, [and] it’s delivered beyond my best dreams. Now it’s my job to make sure it stays as good as it can be – and consistently good. The awards we have received have been gratifying, and the mixology community loves us, and I don’t dare let anyone down.”

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