Don't be THIS writer.

How Your Favorite Periodicals Perpetuate Tequila Myths

One Day, At Band Camp…

Recently, myself, and a few select others in this tightly knit tequila community, were asked to be interviewed for quotes concerning “surprising things you can do with tequila” for the May issue of a major, worldwide men’s magazine.

In the US, this would be just in time for Cinco de Mayo, and the predictable onslaught of articles riddled with comical inaccuracies and beginning with hackneyed clichés like…

“Remember when you were in (grade school, high school, college)…?”  Or…

“Celebrating Mexican Independence Day…”  Or…

“I can’t stand the smell of tequila to this day because one time….”  And, my very favorite–

“…tequila, made from the agave cactus….”

The author of this upcoming article told me that his magazine’s circulation encompassed a wide age demographic that included

One day, at band camp...

One day, at band camp…

males from their mid-twenties to early sixties.  In other words, from Millennials to Baby Boomers.

He further confidently informed me that his readership “has no idea about tequila outside of Cuervo Gold.”

At least, that’s what his boss–the editor!–told him to assume was his audience.

I was both disheartened and dismayed.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to this magazine’s website…

“[It] is the world’s largest and best-selling men’s magazine with 47 editions in 61 countries and a global readership of more than +35 million.  In the U.S., [its] circulation exceeds 1.8 million, and it has been named a Capell’s Circulation Report top-ten performer every year for the past decade.”

This magazine also gives complete breakdowns of their demographics including education and income, and how they compare to other men’s magazines.

It is, by far, the leader.  Further, its mission statement is…

50 Shades of Grey, er, gray.

50 Shades of Grey, er, gray.

“It’s the brand for active, professional men who want greater control over their physical, mental and emotional lives.  We give men the tools they need to make their lives better through in-depth reporting, covering everything from fashion and grooming to health and nutrition as well as cutting edge gear, the latest entertainment, timely features and more.”

Lastly, it claims to be…

“#1 source of information for and about men.” 

Underestimating Your Audience

*Rant Alert!*

So–

What does it say about editors of major men’s magazines who still insist that their audience only shoots tequila and chugs suds when their own stats tell a different story?

Major men’s magazines who service this demographic continue to dumb down significant advancements in the spirits industry, as well as perpetuate tequila myths to keep their readers in the dark.

Tequila hasn’t just “come of age.”  It’s been coming “of age” for

Remember when luxury meant subtle?

Remember when luxury meant subtle?

the past twenty years like the most recent Paleo diet or ab workout.  Cutting edge technology doesn’t only occur in the latest sports car or luxury wristwatch.

Here’s a newsflash for you, Perry White–

The issues facing the Tequila Industry at this point in time are much more critical than “surprising things you can do with tequila.”

When you construct 9 pages on your website to convince potential advertisers that your audience is wealthy and educated, act like it.

Give them timely information with substance–

 For Instance…

This article in the Times-Picayune is a prime example of a journalist who refuses to underestimate her newspaper’s audience while adding value to their lives.

It’s no secret these days that the craft beer and distilling industries are taking a bite out of the huge market share that beer and spirits multinational corporations have dominated for decades.

In case you missed it, Tequila Aficionado Media tackled this issue at length in Craft Tequila–WTF Does That Mean? Part 1 and Part 2.  In Part 2, we made suggestions on how you can distinguish a craft tequila from all the others (the Craft Tequila Gauntlet).

These behemoth conglomerates continue to fight back, either by swallowing up smaller brewers or distillers, or, as in Budweiser’s case, by turning up its nose at the whole craft concept, illustrated in this now infamous Super Bowl XLIX TV spot.

 Consumers Care

Whether it’s a by product of self-education and exploration, or the education being received from the craft spirits sector of the market, the average consumer is becoming more aware of what they’re imbibing and demanding quality and transparency from the industry.

So much so, that some consumer groups have taken it upon themselves to sue spirits makers like Austin, Texas’ Tito’s Vodka, and most recently, Jim Beam bourbon, for false claims that they are handcrafted.

Handmade?

Handmade?

While Simon Ford, one of the erudite founders of The 86 Company, makers of Tequila Cabeza, agreed in this interview, that such lawsuits are frivolous, he does admit that small companies like his owes it to the consumer “to explain the ins and outs of how it’s made and why it’s a worthy spirit.”

Therein lies the rub.

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

It behooves all small craft brands to continue educating their customers every chance they get, whether in person, through word-of-mouth, in point-of-sale materials (POS), or through social media channels.  And…

It is vitally important do so in print periodicals.

Conversely, it is the responsibility of the journalist, blogger, writer, copy editor or author of the article to report the information accurately–no matter what your boss says.

Think we’re being too difficult in demanding that we be quoted truthfully?  That we’re acting like prima donnas because we refuse to pair down our quote to fit your word count?  That we’re making a big deal out of a little white tequila lie?

Read this horrendous tequila blog posted on Liquor Online from August 2014, and then, get back to me.

If The Explosion Doesn’t Kill You, the Fallout Will

This piece of rubbish garnered such responses from readers like…

“What a disservice to someone that wants to learn / understand!”

And, this one…

Don't be THIS writer.

Don’t be THIS writer.

Lifestyle and Spirits Writers–

Let Me Let You In On a Little Secret…

It isn’t that we in this tequila community aren’t grateful for the opportunity to voice our opinions and impart our knowledge of our beloved spirit to your subscribers.  On the contrary–we are fully aware of the enormous goodwill that that kind of street cred can generate for us.

But you must understand and respect that it is our reputations, images, and brands that are also on the line.  Not to mention our character and integrity.

Remember–

You asked for our expertise to up your street cred, too!

Those of us throughout the tequila community take very seriously what we preach.  Whether we’re in the liquor store

Does your magazine add value to your lifestyle?

Does your magazine add value to your lifestyle?

aisles or quoted in the pages of a magazine or newspaper, we believe that at every moment we are adding value to someone’s life and lifestyle.

Don’t Be That Magazine

Like it says on Tequila Aficionado Media’s website and all of its social media, it is…

“The most comprehensive and informative source for Tequila, Mezcal and Sotol on the Internet or in print today.”

We don’t pretend to be anything else.  Your favorite magazine shouldn’t either.

No time for your social media?

Tequila Branding–Ain’t Nobody Got Time Fo’ Dat

Tequila Branding

If you are a start up tequila brand on a tight budget, how can you still be perceived as a player in your field when you don’t have deep pockets?

Squeezing every marketing penny?

Squeezing every marketing penny?

This Beverage Trade Network article shares several ways to optimize small marketing budgets to support your retailers and build your brand.

You might be implementing a lot of these strategies, already.  Yet, when it comes to the most cost-effective way to generate brand awareness, exposure and loyalty–Social Media–chances are, you’re so lost that not even GPS can help you.

Say Hello to My Little Friend

Social Media is your friend–or, at least, it can be.  Let me explain.

Social Media is your friend.

Social Media is your friend.

Social Media (SM) levels the playing field for small, start up brands and craft labels that don’t have the enormous war chests like the Big Boys.  But…

The secret to using it effectively is not to be on all the SM platforms. You can’t be–and you know why.

You’re too busy selling, trying to get placements, forging key relationships with distributers and mixologists, putting out fires, and educating your customers.

And what about those that don’t know about you, yet?  How do you reach them in a genuine manner without spending hours in front of your Facebook page that you could be using to pitch the next account?

And how do you do damage control when someone has spread misinformation about your brand?  Online reputation management (damage control) carries its own unique challenges as we described in Ambhar Tequila–The Recalibrating of A Brand, that not every company is prepared to deal with.  Few, like Ambhar, do so successfully.  Most need to call in a professional and pay dearly.

Value Added

Nico Martini is a former professor who taught Digital Marketing Design and Self-Branding Through Social Media and is the founder of Hypeworthy.  Hypeworthy manages, among other things, social media, public relations, digital content creation, and online reputation management.  We caught up with Nico at the speakeasy, The Last Word, during the San Antonio Cocktail Conference where he was a featured speaker.

Here, Nico gives us the following tips on balancing the score, whether you’re a spirits brand, a budding mixologist, or just trying to launch your own plumbing business.

Not only should you add value to your customers’ lives, but as Nico further recommends, represent yourself and your brand accurately and honestly.

Eso No Me Ayuda

Perhaps you’re just too good at what you do but you feel that word-of-mouth just isn’t traveling fast enough.  You have no patience for Pinterest, no tolerance for Twitter, and no stomach for Instagram, so you decide to bite the bullet and hire someone else to deal with your social media headaches.

Or…

You’ve just figured out which popular SM platforms you should have a presence on and how to use them when, like the deluge of tequila and mezcal brands lately, another one pops out of nowhere claiming to be the “next big thing.”

You could…

Choose one of the myriad of other PR firms who profess to know all there is about social media, but when you look at their own Facebook or Twitter pages, they have less active followers than you do.

Lisa Pietsch makes it look easy.

Lisa Pietsch makes it look easy.

On the other hand, you could seek a competent individual with impeccable references like Tequila Aficionado Media’s own Lisa Pietsch, who specializes only in niche marketing of spirits brands, as well as bestselling book authors.

With a keen sense for accurately marketing to, and targeting these segments, Lisa teaches online classes on Social Media geared to these specialties a few times a year.

Unlike most every PR firm, she, like a handful of other social media mavens, practices what she preaches with real followers numbering in the thousands in just about every SM platform that counts.

Who Got Time Fo’ Dat?

Whether you choose to hire a reputable outside service like

Where can you get the best return on investment?

Where can you get the best return on investment?

Hypeworthy that deals with businesses from a variety of industries, or your cousin’s niece who communicates to her friends on three different platforms at the same time but isn’t old enough to drink, decide who will do the best job of representing your brand and transmitting that image to your customers.

Shop around for the best marketing bang for your buck.  You can’t afford to leave your branding–your image–to amateurs or charlatans.

Ambhar logo.

Ambhar Tequila–The Recalibrating of A Brand

[Between seminars during the Fourth Annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to the Ambhar Tequila Relaxation Lounge inside the historic Sheraton Gunter Hotel where we finally sampled each expression of this elusive brand with a jaded past.

The following day, we caught up with the new Ambhar CEO, Jaime Celorio, at the acclaimed Bohanan’s Restaurant while the staff prepared for the busy dinner shift.]

The Deceptive Dragonfly

In the spirits realm, and in particular, the tequila segment, brands come and go for a variety of reasons–

Either the juice is not up to par,  or the ineptitude of the brand owners or importers causes a rift between them, or the marketing is all wrong.  You name it, it happens.

Every once in a while, a brand gets lucky and all the elements click and a star is born.

Partida’s Gary Shansby, a self-proclaimed student of one of Patrón‘s founders, Martin Crowley, once declared that a tequila brand needed three things to be successful–

Good juice, a pretty bottle, and a symbol with a story.

Ambhar appeared to have all three.

On the other hand, a tequila label could experience the worst

Ambhar Goddess review.

Ambhar Goddess review.

case scenario, but for some reason, it just doesn’t go away.

The latter may be the perfect example of what happened to Ambhar tequila.

All That Glitters…

Launched in 2009, Ambhar was originally based in Austin, Texas, but made its big splash on the Las Vegas Strip.

Ambhar Lounge logo.

Ambhar Lounge logo.

Owing to key friendships among the principals, Ambhar became a part of the Tropicana Hotel’s facelift in 2010 and established the Ambhar Lounge.

More key relationships allowed the brand to have a very visible presence, especially among the MGM properties.  Ambhar soon became Las Vegas’ go-to tequila for many events including several outdoor pool parties during the warmer months.

Then, things began to unravel.

After unbridled spending, Ambhar accrued a rumored debt of up to $2 million.  Another round of funding gave it a much needed infusion of $2.7 million from investors in 2011, but still, rumblings of unpaid bills and payrolls persisted.

Ambhar banner.

Ambhar banner.

To make matters worse, a series of ho-hum reviews, including this scathing blog by the OC Weekly, made Ambhar the butt of jokes among the tequila cognoscente who took particular issue with the label’s claims of being distilled five times.

It seemed that the powers behind Ambhar at that time had been blinded by the glitz and glam of Las Vegas, and paid a hefty price.

Saving A Broken Brand

Coming from a solid financial background, Jaime Celerio, CEO of the newly formed Ambhar Global Spirits, LLC., explains what attracted him to purchase the troubled label in 2013.

Challenges

Here, Jaime explains the dilemmas of taking over a broken brand and what is being done now to revive it.

Further, he illustrates the problems in dealing with the Nevada market, and which states Ambhar will target, instead.

 

Retooling

Ambhar Texas having fun at #SACC2015.

Ambhar Texas having fun at #SACC2015.

Overhauling the former sales and marketing division, Jaime Celorio has surrounded himself with both a young, enthusiastic crew along with some premier seasoned veterans to reestablish a foothold in Ambhar’s home state of Texas.

Damage control, and distancing itself from the past, also requires making some improvements to the packaging.

No tinkering will be done to the substantial and elegant bottle, but the corks will be changed from real to synthetic, and the stoppers, as well as the wearable dragonfly charm around the bottlenecks, will be made of a much lighter alloy.

To continue to win back customer loyalty and regain goodwill,

Ambhar barrel.

Ambhar barrel.

Celorio insists on concentrating on Ambhar’s strong points by demanding complete honesty and transparency on the website, subsequent point of sales (POS) materials, and from his sales team.

The More Things Change

When we met with the Ambhar Texas unit, they admitted that Jaime Celorio felt the brand itself would not have survived its tumultuous circumstances had the juice not been favorable in the first place.

Celorio next discloses the reason why Ambhar’s flavor profile, especially that of its añejo, remains intact even though it’s more labor intensive than the reposado expression.

Future Focus

In this snippet, Celorio recounts the improvements since rebooting the brand, and its focus for the future which includes sales in Mexico and exporting to China.

Here, Celorio discusses the focus on the dragonfly logo and what it means in China.

Cinco Vodka logo.

Cinco Vodka logo.

It’s Not All About Tequila

Like a good portfolio manager, Jaime Celorio has diversified by establishing a sister company to compete in the vodka sector of the spirits market.

The Texas Vodka Trail

In this clip, Celorio reveals plans for Cinco Vodka’s distillery based in San Antonio, Texas.

Cinco Vodka–Imported All the Way From Texas

Jaime further reviews plans for the Texas Vodka Trail Tour and its similarities to tequila distillery tours in Mexico in aiding to educate consumers.

In this portion, Celorio considers how competitive the vodka market is in Mexico, and where you can find Cinco Vodka.

So…Why Tequila?

Jaime Celorio, gives his explanation as to why he chose to sell tequila in the first place.

Same Old Friend, Whole New Character

Described as his “elevator pitch,” Jaime Celorio, gives us the one thing he wants people to know about Ambhar, and shares his vision for its future.

Whether in the US, Mexico, or even China, look for the recalibrated Ambhar tequila to continue to make splashes, but in a much more precise, targeted and cost effective way.

Master Distiller, Germán González.

Germán González’s T1 Tequila Uno–Questions and Answers

Response to the interview series with Master Distiller Germán González has been wonderful.

Rightly so, for a man who is a living part of tequila history and continues to make history today with T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorona.

Here are some of your questions answered:

Q:  Does Germán always blend agaves from Tamaulipas and Atotonilco because originally he didn’t have enough from Atotonilco?

A:  As we stated in Tequila From the Heart, Germán blended

T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorona.

T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorona.

agaves from Atotonilco with those from his family ranchos in Tamaulipas only during Chinaco’s resurgence and for his duration with that brand.

T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorona use only agave from the highlands in Atotonilco.

Q:  Did Germán say what blending percentages he uses?
A:   Mas o menos, but…off the record!
T1 Selecto.

T1 Selecto.

Q:  Do all his expressions start as Ultra Fino except Selecto?

A:  Correct.
Q:  What exactly does that mean?
A:  The entire process starts with Ultra Fino, but as you know, Selecto is at a higher alcohol by volume (43% ABV) to acquire a more robust, agave forward flavor profile.
Q:  Does Germán make Selecto from scratch [using] more mature agaves and it was never Ultra Fino? 
A.  As he stated in Tequila From The Heart, Germán always uses mature agave according to his definition, but…
Selecto is distilled to be different than Ultra Fino, which is

Ultra Fino

Ultra Fino

softer on the palate.

Q:  Besides the more mature agave and the different alcohol level, what else is different?
A:  Those answers can be found in the feature article, Germán González–Tequila From The Heart.
Have you seen our video series with Germán González, yet?  If you haven’t, pour yourself a glass of T1 Tequila Uno and watch the entire playlist here:

Tequila Ocho Single Barrel Anejo Review

Tequila Ocho Single Barrel Anejo imageYou only turn 50 once, so why not celebrate?

That was my logic last fall when I bought a bottle of Tequila Ocho Single Barrel Anejo (NOM 1474). I don’t commonly spend $78 for spirits, but, hey, it was a special occasion made extraordinary by this smart splurge.

Some reviewers tend to gush over new spirit finds and wax poetic about the sipping experience. I promise I won’t do that. But what I do promise is this tequila is worthy of all praise. It is truly exceptional, one the finest I’ve ever tasted.

Made from agave harvested in 2012, the tequila was distilled and aged one year and 19 days under the watchful eye of Carlos Camarena. Bottled at barrel proof (109), the añejo is straw colored, nowhere near the golden brown common even to some reposados. But that lightness belies the profound barrel influence here. As the script on the back label promises, “You hold in your hands the truth of agave, a sepia-toned tequila terroir.”

True, true.

The nose is powerful, redolent of agave, wild flowers and a hint of caramel. It’s so inviting that it’s hard to wait for it to open up. Just dive right in.

ochoBut prepare for the bite, which is neither subtle nor a punch in the face; it’s mostly what you expect from a high-proof spirit. Though it demands your attention, the sting is short lived and quickly gives way to sweet complexity of light caramel backed by citrus, agua miel, huge minerality and white pepper. A second sip delivers spice and smoky wood notes to the mid-palate. That tequila that young picks up so much wood character in only one year is amazing.

A brief rest, then a third sip brings an even greater array of flavors: coriander, lemongrass, field grasses and Vietnamese cinnamon, all riding a wave of ample body.
Some long-aged bourbons never achieve such structure, yet this anjeo gets it in a single year. Surely Mexico’s weather extremes boost body during aging.

I didn’t notice that a friend, a casual tequila drinker who’s not big on it neat, poured himself a a couple of ounces. But I caught his expression of astonishment after he sipped it.
“My gosh, that’s crazy good,” he said. “Where did you get that?” (Isn’t it fun to see someone “get it” and recognize they’re drinking something extraordinary?) He was thrilled to know it came from our neighborhood liquor store.

I’ve had Tequila Ocho’s fantastic plata, and this añejo somehow maintains that expression’s youthful agave and minerality while adding layers of complexity. The aged product is beautiful and exuberant, yet smooth and classy. It’s Rob Lowe in 2015: miraculously holding on to his boyish good looks while maturing with gentlemanly grace. Treat yourself to a bottle of this if you can find it.

 

Special thanks to Australian Bartender for the video share.

 

stephen coomes, steve coomes,Tequila Aficionado is proud to welcome rising star in tequila and travel journalism, Stephen Coomes, as a Contributing Writer and Reviewer.  His steady gigs include roles as contributing editor for Nation’s Restaurant News (the U.S. restaurant industry’s largest publication), restaurant critic and feature writer for Louisville magazine, feature writer for Edible Louisville and Seafood Business magazines, Kentucky travel and dining contributor for Southern Living, and dining blogger for Insider Louisville. He also writes marketing, PR, web copy and ghostwrites for numerous private clients.  You can visit Steve online at www.stevecoomes.com.