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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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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.

Follow Tequila 88 on Facebook.

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