Jaclyn Jacquez considers herself an adelita, of sorts.
Soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution.
Adelitas were female solders (soldaderas) who were a vital force during the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s, fighting alongside men. As President of Don Cuco Sotol, she spearheads a sixth generation company producing a spirit steeped in 800 years of history.
The Don Cuco Sotol line up.
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised in El Paso, Texas and Chihuahua, Mexico, this charming but fierce warrior woman is more than armed with a masters degree in International Business from the American College of Switzerland. Under her leadership, the company trademarked its brand name, exported it first into New Mexico, and now, into New Zealand where it is gaining the attention of bars and restaurants specializing in serving handcrafted Mexican spirits-based cocktails.
Jaclyn Jacquez, President of Don Cuco Sotol.
In an industry where the image and story behind a spirit is crucial for its marketing success, Jaclyn and the entire Jacquez family, staunchly refuse to stray from their artisanal roots. Opting instead to concentrate on honoring their culture and way of life in the Sonoran Desert, they have managed to capture its essence inside every bottle of Don Cuco Sotol.
As I related to author, Tom Barry, in his stellar article “A Sotol Story” (it may be bad form to quote oneself, but I’ll do so here), “There is no mistaking that Don Cuco Sotol is produced–handcrafted, micro-distilled–and lovingly brought into the market by the Jacquez family.”
A revolutionary spirit fronted by a soldadera, Jaclyn Jacquez most certainly belongs among the ranks of Tequila Boss Ladies.
To repeat, we asked a short list of five questions to prominent women leading the charge for change in the Tequila Industry and beyond.
Interview with Don Cuco Sotol’s President, Jaclyn Jacquez.
TA: How would you describe your experiences as a high ranking woman in your position in a primarily male dominated industry?
JJ: To be in a male dominated industry has been an empowering feeling. The liquor industry is starting to realize the great power of influence women have in this business. Not only do we have influence in advertisement and marketing but we are playing a major role in strategic business decisions at an international level.
TA: How have you been able to change things within your industry?
JJ: The sotol industry had played a major role during Mexico’s revolutionary times just as the women called ” Adelitas” did during that period. Now its challenge, and my challenge, is to revolutionize everyone’s cocktail with this spirit.
My heritage is from Chihuahua and I, too, carry that northern revolutionary spirit within me. I don’t think I’ve made a change in this industry, yet, but Sotol is a revolutionary drink and I’m just part of its heritage.
I just happen to be the “Adelita.”
TA: What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila/Sotol Industry?
Adelitas of the Mexican Revolution.
JJ: I see huge potential for women and the liquor industry itself.
I see women not only in the marketing aspect of it, but in the agriculture, business, social conscious awareness of it and education. I see women taking this challenging industry to a much higher level where people will not only be asking for just well drinks but for a cocktail with a specific brand of sotol or tequila.
TA: What things would you like to see changed?
I want people to understand that tequila and sotol are not just another alcoholic beverage to drink. It is more than that. It is culture, art, and a spirit that has to be treated with respect. That’s why the Ancestors called it spirits. Consumers need to research and know what they are consuming and demand it.
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.
Organized by Mike Morales, the NMIITT is an official “Cata de Tequila” or tequila judging held under the guidelines of the American Academy of Tequila and/or the Mexican Academy of Tequila. The “Catadores”, or judges blind taste a series of tequilas by class (Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, and Extra Anejo) having no knowledge of name or distilleries participating. Each tequila is scored on its own merit of sight, smell, and taste then rated on a twenty-point scale.
The event was held at Nativo Lodge over a full weekend, where the judges first gathered in a private room for the Cata. The following day a public tasing was held along with the announcement of the winners in each catatgory. ~ Forbes Magazine
OnFriday, July 22, 2011, in celebration of National Tequila Weekend, twelve of the most inspired and celebrated catadores (tequila tasters) from around the US enthusiastically gathered to judge a wide array of tequilas in an historic blind tasting competition at the New Mexico International Intimate Tequila Tasting(TM) held at Heritage Hotels & Resorts’ Nativo Lodge.
Gold, silver and bronze medals werebestowed not just in the blanco, reposado, añejo and extra añejo entries, but also unprecedented awards were given in the new Certified Organic Tequila category.
To ensure tequila’s integrity within the spirits industry, the New Mexico International Intimate Tequila Tasting™ followed the prestigiousAcademia Mexicana del Tequila (Mexican Tequila Academy) tasting protocols based on a twenty point rating system developed exclusively for the spirit.
In close cooperation with National Distributing Company of New Mexico, and conducted by SpiritsAficionado.com/American Tequila Academy, over sixty different brands and expressions of tequila were tested for their visual, aroma and flavor profiles.
Hopeful tequila “brands of promise” who participated in the cata (tasting) and vying for distribution in New Mexico were TequilaRack, Cuestión tequila, Alquimia organic tequila, Nobleza Azúl, Don Modesto, Tequila David Reyes, Cocula, and Sin Rival.
In the first ever Certified Organic Tequila Category, history was made when Alquimia Tequila gained gold medals in the blanco, reposado and extra añejo categories followed by a silver medal in the añejo entry. Certified Organic Republic Tequila scored a silver medal in the blanco and a gold medal in the añejo categories.
Composing the stellar panel of judges was a who’s-who in the tequila industry: Christopher Zarus, CEO of International Tasting Group/TequilaRack; Jason Lerner, partner in the newest restaurant and tequila bar in Chicago, Masa Azúl; Chris Milligan, The Santa Fe Barman and blogger for Forbes Magazine; Bob Wolter of TequilaTracker.com; Catador Mario Alejandro Marquez, President of Magía Azúl tequila consulting; Jason Silverman, Agave Beverage Manager at one of New York’s premier tequila bars and restaurants, AgaveNYC, and Alex Perez, Editor-in-Chief of TequilaAficionado.com, were among the twelve ardent tequila professionals, collectors and connoisseurs selected for this monumental task.
Among the top three blanco tequilas were Corazón de Agave, award winning Alquimia Organic, and the surprise in this vibrant category, a tie between mainstay Gran Centenario plata and new brand of promise, Nobleza Azúl.
Reposado winners were perennial powerhouse Herradura, Penacho Azteca grasped a silver medal, and in their first competition ever, Don Modesto broke through in dramatic fashion to grab the bronze from Nobleza Azúl by only two-tenths of a percentage point.
The añejo category was dominated by Herradura’s Antiguo 1870. A silver medal was shared by both Don Modesto and Republic Tequila (organic). The bronze medal was awarded to the dazzling Nobleza Azúl.
Finally, in the elegant Extra Añejo category, Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia was the frontrunner. Alquimia’s Reserva de Don Adolfo placed a solid second, and another tie between two tequilas from the same house, Sin Rival and Cocula snared bronze medals.
For a complete list of medal winners and competing tequilas, visit www.NMIITT.com.
Forbes’ Chris Milligan describes his experience at the historic New Mexico International Intimate Tequila Tasting (NMIITT) in Albuquerque. he also describes how it was historic in two ways and what set it apart from any other tasting to date. be sure to read the entire story (short) as well as the comments. Click here now.
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.