To say that Roberto Sanchez del Toro, exclusive importer and brand developer of Rancho La Joya tequila (NOM 1555) has endured adversity would be an understatement. To say that he has survived his life’s challenges, thus far, with grace and his boyish charm still intact would be putting it mildly.
San Antonio, Texas, resident, Roberto was a young high school student when, due to immigration reasons, he was forced to manage the family’s thriving tamale husk production business while his parents were temporarily out of the country.
Then, as a sophomore at St. Mary’s University, he decided to create his own tequila business only to suffer defeat at the hands of the merciless Texas spirits retail and distribution industries.
Fast forward to 2013…
Roberto Sanchez del Toro, importer of Rancho La Joya tequila.
A rabid lifelong San Antonio Spurs fan, it was during a hard fought pick up basketball game that Roberto took a knee to the groin. A subsequent doctor’s exam revealed the shocking news that he was suffering from advanced testicular cancer followed by surgery and three months of chemotherapy while simultaneously reviving his failed tequila business.
All of this before the age of 24!
In this clip, Sanchez del Toro, following in his parents’ entrepreneurial footsteps, learns the pitfalls of the tequila business firsthand…
Here, Roberto recalls the start of 2013…
A shrewd businessman even in college, Sanchez del Toro, now with a degree in International Business, kept the lines of communication open with the García family, third generation Highlands agave producers of Rancho La Joya tequila.
Roberto takes us through the tequila’s process…
Even though the distillery has a large output capacity to meet demand, Roberto discusses what the ramifications of the current agave shortage could mean to the producers of tequila Rancho La Joya.
[To learn more about Rancho La Joya’s production techniques, click here.]
The new look of Rancho La Joya tequila.
Along with partner, Mike Garcia, a successful San Antonio technology marketing executive (no relation to the agave producing and distilling family), and a team of consultants as guides, Roberto Sanchez del Toro, now 25, has a clean bill of health and is ready for the long haul with his newly revamped Rancho La Joya tequila, as well as having taken over the reigns of the family enterprise.
With a redesigned bottle that more accurately represents the juice inside, and the promise of statewide distribution from Glazer’s, Roberto is anxious to turn his initial sales call rejections into inspired action within the state of Texas, the second largest consumer of tequila, and beyond.
Of all the start up businesses Roberto could have chosen, he explains in the following segment why he selected tequila.
The Five Year Plan
Roberto describes where he sees Rancho La Joya Tequila in five years.
Rancho La Joya is available in blanco and reposado expressions. Plans are in the works for a 36 month aged añejo to be called Diamante that will be marketed with branded stemmed glassware.
Roberto Sanchez del Toro cheers on his beloved Spurs.
At this time, only the following local restaurants and bars carry Rancho La Joya…
Like the San Antonio Spurs, who are currently battling in the 2014 NBA Playoffs, Roberto Sanchez del Toro has proven that bringing your “A” Game and passion into everything you do invariably results in a winning record.
A thought provoking question was asked via Twitter about the use of diffusors in tequila production.
For the uninitiated, diffusors are used to efficiently extract the starches from harvested agave piñas that are subsequently cooked and distilled to make mass produced tequila. To purists, its use is blasphemy because it strips the tequila of character and results in something akin to vodka.
Furthermore, its use is usually kept under wraps by those distilleries who would prefer to let their marketing departments lead you to believe that they still produce tequila the “old fashioned way” without shortcuts.
Case in point is this following Twitter conversation:
Click on any of the links within the Twitter stream to follow, favorite, retweet, quote or respond.
More Questions Than Answers
Now, not only are we left to wonder who’s zooming who on whether or not Herradura uses a diffusor, but we feel the need to question the reasons for using a diffusor, who has been known to use it in the past and who may still be using it to eek out the most juice from their agave.
Follow the link below to one of the most thorough crash courses on tequila diffusor technology.
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.
Hey, gringos, it could be worse…we did not get there first
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…
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….
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).
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…
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.
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.”
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 theMoonshine!
Tequila Brands and Producers Have Already Sailed Into the Sucker Hole
For those new to the expression, a “sucker hole” is a colloquial term referring to a spate of good weather that “suckers” sailors into leaving port just in time for a storm to resume at full force and wreak havoc on the ship and crew.
For both Tequila Brand Owners and producers of a certain size, their ship has already sailed, and the storm is now closing in on them. Some in denial, others looking through rose-colored margarita glasses, still believe they can navigate through to that glimmer of light on the horizon. However, the perfect storm of doom looms just past the horizon of hope, and will soon envelope and destroy most, if not all, in its wake.
Oh, and that’s the good news. The bad news is that only a few of the big and the very nimble will survive.
This is because of a number of factors, primarily that too many of us bought in to the Yankelovich and similar studies that declared premium and above 100% Agave Tequila brands as the next big thing.
While the premises of these market premonitions were undoubtedly true, too many of us jumped headfirst into the juice just before the world economic decline. Six hundred brands have turned into 1200 brands in less than five years. The growth of the market has been dramatic compared with other distilled spirits, yet, it’s still relatively small, ranked only 4th in US volume. It has not grown fast enough to accommodate all of the entries into the field.
Resistance is Futile – Change is at Hand for the Tequila Market
The Gravy Train Wreck Ahead
I’m sure that for many of you, in just reading the title of this article, your blood pressure has escalated, and you may already be misdirecting your anger at the author.
For others who have experienced the many similar economic paths to consolidation in the global beverage industry, you have already accepted that change has to occur, and you will soon better understand and appreciate the math behind what I am about to lay out, and why everything I’m about to outline here will happen in due course.
For those of you who have your personal fortunes riding on the Tequila Train, both prominence and profit may still seem to be so close that you think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or beyond the next bend. But, I’m sorry to say that for most of us in the biz, the light at the end of the tunnel is that of an oncoming locomotive. This will be a catastrophic collision, albeit in slow motion, that will drain your resources and your resolve.
What can be learned from the Russians? (Excerpted from JustDrinks.com)
The global economic crisis has had a significant impact on the Russian spirits market, changing market dynamics and briefly halting the much-lauded premiumisation trend, according to current research.
A recently released report from the International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR) on Russia’s spirits market claims that the downturn has also led to “…disruptions across the supply chain, with many suppliers and distributors going bankrupt or halting production. For healthier companies, however, it has presented an opening to establish their brands and take market share…”
The Silver Tequila Clouds have a very Dark Lining (Excerpted from Global market review of Tequila – forecasts to 2013 www.researchandmarkets.com )
The history of the Tequila industry has been one of boom and bust. Sales rose during the 1940’s only to collapse again in the mid-50’s. Export sales rose steadily from the 1960’s onward, although domestic sales fell sharply in the 1980’s due again to an economic slump, and the severe Mexican economic crisis of the early 1980’s resulted in plummeting sales.
The market was again disrupted by a critical shortage of Agave beginning in the late ’90’s, which served to hold back the category’s international development as brand owners were forced to divert limited supplies to the core US market, and quality perceptions were damaged as some manufacturers moved from 100% to 51% (Mixto) Agave products.
Today, that dynamic is in reverse, and the market is in oversupply. More and more 100% Agave products are coming into the market. This is helping to raise quality perceptions, and in turn, demand is surging not only in core Mexican and US markets but across a number of other countries.
The outlook for the category has rarely been better, and Casa Noble Tequila president and COO David Ravandi commented, “Tequila is entering a stage of consolidation in the world markets. It is no longer a fad. The fact that 100% Agave Tequila exports have increased tremendously over the last two years is extremely positive for the product’s outlook in the years to come.”
US Tequila Importation is a Sucker Bet
“My cousin will make the best Tequila for you Mr. Gringo”
“So, my friend, you want a great Tequila brand? We will make it for you. Just fifty percent cash up front to start the process.”
Unfortunately, far too many have fallen for this old gag. Relying heavily on the forecasting reports of the early 2000’s that suggested that luxury Tequila would be the next big spirits category after vodka.
With dollar signs in their eyes, the believers drank the Tequila Kool-Aid, most of them spending way too much to buy a brand, custom molded bottles, etc. But the worst part was that this left little if any money for marketing. Many did not even understand brand marketing inflation was happening right under their noses.
It had started soon after Patron hit 100,000 cases in volume in 2001, and the cost to market a Tequila brand in the US went from $1 to $10M per year. Today it takes at least $20M per year just to play in the same ballpark as Patron’s $50M plus, Sauza’s $35M plus, and Cuervo’s $30M plus marketing budgets.
Who could have predicted that a “realistic” business plan for the next successful ultra-premium Tequila brand calling for only 10,000 cases in the first year would end in it’s investors taking a bath?
The problem with this equation is three-fold:
1) Pricing: Unlike vodka and white rum, 100% Agave Tequila is just too expensive to produce and bottle in Mexico. Unless, like rum, vodka and mixto Tequila, it is able to be shipped in bulk and bottled near the final consumer, the cost involved with 100% Agave Tequila is always going to be too high to attain critical volume and profit levels.
2) Volume: US mass volumes are best when a spirits category is between $9.99-29.99/750ml. One hundred percent Agave Tequila is currently profitable only at the upper ranges when higher volumes are attained.
3) Distribution: The US “3-Tier” Distribution System is at best an oligopoly, and 19 states run a monopoly. Of the 1200 plus Tequila brands, want to guess how many they want to carry? Well, after the top 20, you are very lucky to be “special order only”. If you are fortunate enough to live in the states of California or Arizona, where one can be both the importer and distributor, you will find yourself driving your precious Tequila brand around to each account in your car.
Without product volumes or market clout, you will be hard pressed to get even an appointment, let alone a vender number with the chain restaurants and grocery stores. These major chain stores like Chili’s, Chevy’s, Costco, Kroger, etc., drive at least 85% of the combined volume in all but the control states. Without access to the chains, your market becomes the handful of privately owned, “Mom & Pop” accounts that usually know that small independent distributors are easy prey for bending the law on consignment, stringing out payments, or not paying at all.
While driving your own brand around certainly makes time for the personal touch and focus, these hand-selling efforts prove to be the most inefficient ways to distribute one Tequila brand. Your glass ceiling to fame and fortune becomes that next level of chain distribution that can only be had by a state-wide delivery system of the large wholesale distributor.
With Tequila segment Pricing, Volume and Distribution all against you, one will need to have a lot more money than the brands of the past in order to simply survive in the US.
Tanks-a-lot for Nothing
Call the tank maker and raise your stocks of liquid now!
Unfortunately, most of the mid-sized Tequila distilleries have bought into the notion that Agave prices will go up in the very near future. They base this notion on the boom and bust cycle of the past, and like Lehman Brothers, believe that they have successfully timed the market.
Greedily, many producers are now mortgaged to the hilt in order to produce all the Tequila that they possibly can afford to store in stainless tanks or wooden barrels. Fear of the impending Agave price increase that has yet to happen (and may not for many, many years) has seemingly forced them all into a squirrel-like stockpiling frenzy.
Are they storing Blanco, like acorns, for the hard winter ahead? These stored nuts of liquid demise are in reality winds conspiring to produce the perfect storm for all but the most financially secure and/or nimble producers.
Copyright 2010 International Tasting Group (ITG), All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted, ITG is the legal copyright holder of the material on our blog and it may not be used, reprinted, or published without our written consent.
Our updated list of distilleries and tequila brands “Nom List”, as of 28 October 2013, is now available for download in both PDF and Excel formats. Unlike other tequila brand listings, Tequila Aficionado adds links within the list to all of our reviews, articles and features on each tequila brand. Click on any hotlink within the list to be taken directly to these tequila reviews and articles.
Click on any link within the list to see the Tequila Aficionado articles and reviews done on that particular brand.
Brands highlighted in Green are recent additions (see comment on Excel spreadsheet for first shown date)
Brands highlighted in Red did not appear on the current list (see comment on Excel spreadsheet for last shown date)
What is a NOM List?
The Norma Oficial Mexicana (Official Mexican Standard), abbreviated NOM, is the name of each of a series of official, compulsory standards and regulations for diverse activities in Mexico. They are more commonly referred to as NOMs or normas.
In the case of tequila, Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) regulates production NOMs. The NOM identifier means the tequila meets government standards – but this is not any guarantee of tequila’s quality. However, without the NOM stamp of legitimacy, it is not guaranteed that the bottle contains tequila.
All 100% agave tequilas must have a NOM identifier on the bottle. The important laws since 1990 were NOM-006-SCFI-1993 and the later update NOM-006-SCFI-1994 revised in late 2005 NOM-006-SCFI-2005 and the most recent revision in 2012 NOM-006-SCFI-2012.
The number after NOM is the distillery number, assigned by the government. NOM does not indicate the location of the distillery, merely the parent company or – in the case where a company leases space in a plant – the physical plant where the tequila was manufactured. (Source: Wikipedia)
We do not purchase all the spirits we review here. Some we receive from the brand owner, some we receive from the distributor, and some we receive through PR companies. Some spirits we purchase ourselves.