Defying gravity: Avion founder ‘passionate and proud’

avion tequilaBy Ryan Kelley | 10.01.10

Avion, the other character in HBO’s Entourage

Everyone in the business of selling high-quality, premium 100% blue agave tequila shares a primary mission of educating consumers on sipping ‘good’ tequila and breaking the mixto curse that comes from youthful indulgence and agave abuse. Some people were cursed so badly they refuse even a free sample. Ken Austin, co-founder of Tequila Avión, has an even bigger challenge: convincing consumers his product is real. This because the brand recently played a significant role in the hit, hip HBO television series “Entourage.” Adopted as a business venture by one of the show’s primary characters, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), the tequila ends up endorsed by Turtle’s friend, movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), who spreads the word (and demand) for the tequila via Twitter.

The product placement didn’t cost the brand a single penny. Austin is friends with the show’s creator and producer, Doug Ellin, who also happens to be a childhood friend of Kenny Dichter, the other co-founder of Tequila Avión (and CEO of Marquis Jet). Unlike most product placement arrangements, where a main character sips a Coke, for example, the tequila played a major role in the show’s plot and got a significant amount of screen time in more than half of the show’s 10 seventh season episodes. This prompted “Entourage” fans to seek out the brand online. On Facebook (where Avión has almost 7,000 fans), many of the show’s fans questioned if it was a real tequila and, once confirmed, began asking for the brand in their city or state, and there have been several requests from countries around the globe.

In a funny case of life imitating art, one of the ‘Entourage’ episodes finds Turtle trying to meet demand for a Los Angeles liquor store where the product has taken off due to Vince’s celebrity endorsement. Robi Brian of Cellars Wine & Spirits Warehouse in Fort Lauderdale exclaims on the brand’s Facebook page: “This Stuff is selling like crazy – no surprise really because it’s awesome!”

The incredible exposure and subsequent response to the tequila is a good “problem” to have for a brand that launched less than a half a year ago. Austin is working hard to keep the momentum going. He’s been traveling and working seemingly nonstop, personally visiting accounts across the country and assuring orders can be met in this period of high demand and major expansion – while still retaining product quality. Austin carved some time out of his demanding schedule to answer a few questions via email; in the below Q&A, we discuss the creation of the brand, the impact of the “Entourage” appearance, and the future of Tequila Avión.

Tequila Aficionado: Why did you start out on a journey to create your own tequila?

Ken Austin: I have loved tequila for many years. It has been my dream for over 20 years to create a product like Tequila Avión – the world’s finest tequila at a reasonable price. I’ve watched the enormous growth in popularity of ultra-premium tequila and seen it become a year-round drink. I thought to myself; imagine the potential of combining the smoothest tequila ever introduced with the brand strength of the leading ultra-premium product. So I went on a quest to create the world’s smoothest tequila.

TA: With so many new tequila brands on the market, how does Tequila Avión stand out?

KA: First, what distinguishes Avión from other brands is its combination of ultra-premium quality, flavor and unmatched smoothness at a price tag well below what you would expect for something this good. Critics, bartenders, mixologists and everyday consumers alike have been shocked at how smooth the taste is at $40 – $60 a bottle. It is great to hear these reactions. Our tequila comes from 100% pure weber agave from the highest regions of Jalisco, Mexico, resulting in the most flavorful agave. Our proprietary ultra-slow filtration process – which takes 10x longer than standard filtration – ultimately creates what’s been called the smoothest tequila anywhere.

Page 1 of 3 | Next page

Lisa Pietsch is the Chief Operations Officer of Tequila Aficionado Media, a USAF veteran, a multi-published novelist and freelance writer, a social media marketing consultant, and the mother of two boys. She has a passion for good tequila, foreign languages, and travel in all forms. Lisa currently makes her home in San Antonio, Texas.