Coming Soon: Social Media for Agave Spirits Course

We want to let you know about another big course we’ll be offering in 2019 in addition to the Consumer Catador Course.

If you’re one of the following, you might want to consider signing up to be the first to be invited to our Social Media for Tequila Brands and Influencers.

  • Tequila and Agave Spirit Brands

  • Brand Ambassadors

  • Mixologists & Bartenders

  • Chefs and Food/Beverage Personnel

  • Spirits Salespeople

  • Distributors and Importers

  • Brand Executives and Managers

  • Spirits Marketing Agencies

  • Spirits Curators and Buyers

  • Sommeliers and Spirits Buyers

  • PR Agencies and Social Media Managers

  • Catadors, Collectors, and Bloggers

 

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP TO BE THE FIRST TO KNOW

We’ve been bringing craft agave spirits and discerning consumers together since 1999 and social media is how we’ve been doing it all organically and on a shoestring. If you’re looking for a way to make a name for your tequila or agave spirit brand or brand yourself as an agave spirit influencer, we’ve got the fast track for you!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP TO BE THE FIRST TO BE INVITED

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The World’s Leading Bartender School Launches Exclusive Spirit Expeditions

The World’s Leading Bartender School Launches Exclusive Spirit Expeditions

We are posting this press release as part of our partnership with European Bartender School.  We will be receiving tickets for Mike & Lisa on the EBS June 20, 2019 expedition to Mexico and have also received a special 20% OFF coupon code for you.  Use code – EBSSPIRITTRIPS2019 – from now until May 31 for 20% off European Bartender School’s one of a kind expeditions.

European Bartender School introduces Scotch Whisky Trip in partnership with William Grant & Sons and Tequila & Mezcal Expedition for enthusiasts to gain an in-depth understanding of their favourite spirit.

BARCELONA, Spain 2019 – European Bartender School (EBS) is now adding another string to its bow by providing Scotch Whisky and Tequila & Mezcal expeditions, unique opportunities to experience Scottish and Mexican cultures by becoming immersed in the worlds of whisky and agave.


European Bartender School has debuted their first spirit expeditions of many more to come. On the 6th September 2018, the first group of participants embarked upon a 10-day adventure across Mexico during which they were able to live, breathe and of course taste all things tequila and mezcal in a way never possible before. The journey began in none other than the town of Tequila, before participants ventured into the highlands of Jalisco and finished in Oaxaca. Carefully crafted by expert tequila connoisseur and member of European Bartender School’s board of education, Björn Kjellberg, the expedition allows participants to explore agave fields, some of the most important distilleries as well as small and traditional family-run operations that are not accessible to the average tourist. From visiting La Capilla, the birthplace of La Batanga cocktail, to traditional pulquerías, to learning about the challenges the industry faces from the CRT (Consejo Regulador del Tequila) itself, this expedition strikes a perfect balance of fun and educational activities. This allows  participants to not only understand the intricate details of production, but also how agave spirits fit into and ultimately lie at the very heart of Mexico’s cultural, historical, economic and political identity.


‘I can talk about it so much and I can show pictures, but you won’t get it until you come here, until you see the agave fields, until you get all the smell and get to feel it, and get to feel the culture, not only the culture surrounding the distilleries and the producers, but the whole culture of Mexico; the bars, the people, the markets, the roads, the noise, the colours, everything. It goes so deep.’, says Björn Kjellberg

Join Mike & Lisa for a Tequila & Mezcal Adventure this June!

 

Soon after, on the 1st of October, European Bartender School launched their second spirit trip; a 4-day Scotch Whisky expedition to the Glenfiddich distillery created in partnership with William Grant & Sons. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay on-site at the Glenfiddich distillery has never been available to the general public until now, making this the most exclusive and immersive way for enthusiasts to experience whisky to date. There is no greater place to meticulously follow the production process than Glenfiddich, producer of the world’s best-selling and most awarded single malt whisky, situated in the heart of the biggest whisky producing region in Scotland. Glenfiddich carries out every stage of production from grain to glass, allowing participants to gain an understanding of each stage of the whisky making process, before blending their own whisky to keep and taking part in exclusive tasting sessions and a gala dinner with industry experts and a VIP whisky guest.


“It’s the first time we are opening our distillery accommodation to the public. The course promises to be hands-on, challenging and thoroughly enjoyable in a beautiful corner of Scotland at the Glenfiddich distillery,” says Ludovic Ducrocq, Head of Brand Ambassador Advocacy, William Grant & Sons

The whisky, tequila and mezcal industries are all enjoying great success, each more popular today than ever before, and European Bartender School is proud to provide enthusiasts with the experiences they’d been missing, broadening the ways in which these spirits can be explored. Following the success of these first trips, European Bartender School has announced three new dates for each trip, to take place in 2019.

For more information about the tequila and mezcal expedition, click here.

For more information about the scotch whisky expedition, click here  


Contact Details:


  • To request a press kit with further details about the expeditions, please contact European Bartender School at pr@barschool.net



ABOUT EUROPEAN BARTENDER SCHOOL

European Bartender School is the world’s leading bartender school.

Since 1999, we have trained 50,000+ students worldwide in the art of bartending. We now have 25+ schools across the globe and work with the industry’s elite bartenders and brands.
Twitter: @ebsbarschools

Our websitehttps://www.barschool.net/

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Mansplaining Revel Spirits Avila

You thought you knew everything there was to know about the main Mexican agave spirits–

Pulque, Tequila, Mezcal, Sotol and Bacanora.

Then, along comes another one you’ve never heard of…

Avila.

What the hell is it?

Glad you asked.

Get Acquainted with Avila

You first heard about Revel Spirits’ Avila on Sipping Off the Cuff(c).

In 2016, during our very successful Heartland Tour, we led the Revel Avila Spirits Experience.  It was a delightful sampling of its three expressions to a packed house of VIPs at 6 Smith restaurant on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.

And, for the agave geek in all of us, Revel Avila Agave Spirit Facts explains away the mysteries and misconceptions of Revel Spirits Avila.

Why Haven’t We Heard of Avila Before?

Simply put, it doesn’t have a Denomination of Origin–yet.

This magnifies what the good folks at Revel Spirits are trying to accomplish.

Rather than being accepted and lumped into the Tequila or Mezcal designations, Revel Spirits has undertaken the herculean task of starting a whole new spirits category.

Not only are they importing a luscious distillate, but they are working closely with the government of Morelos to establish its own Denomination of Origin (DO).

Giving Back at The Ranch

One of the basic pillars that Revel Spirits is based on is philanthropy. So, in the meantime, the company has pledged to act just like a proper Geographic Indicator.

Revel Spirits is helping to lay the groundwork that will support the farmers’ and jimadores’ livelihoods, preserve Morelos’ unique environment, and safeguard the supply of blue weber agave for generations to come.

This last phase is accomplished by allowing bats to pollinate the blue agave, an ancient technique that is nearly lost in the Tequila Industry.

All this will aid the growth of the economy of the Mexican state of Morelos.

Favorite Pairing

Revel Spirits Avila anejo, aged for 24 months in French oak barrels and bottled at 48% ABV, or 96 proof, is a rare gem.

It can be paired equally as well with a rich dessert, or a fine after dinner cigar.  Notes of bitter chocolate or cacao, and coffee beans, along with wood and tobacco undertones, makes it a versatile expression.

Enjoy!

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Chisholm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes

Chisolm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5bd
An example of Chisolm Trail’s craftsmanship

Tasting notes submitted to Chisholm Trail Craft Glasses for the prototype of Stolzle’s jarrito tumbler, a proposed vessel designed to exclusively appreciate agave spirits.

***

JARRITO TUMBLER TASTING NOTES

 

Mr. Romeo Hristov from Chisholm Trail Crafts, Incorporated, has asked me to test a prototype of the Jarrito tumbler for tequila/agave spirits produced by Stölzle Lausitz GmbH.

Personal Tasting Procedure

All tequilas and other agave spirits are always tasted at room temperature.

As I had been instructed by a representative of Glencairn, the glass should be held at the chest or lower, and the aromas of a spirit should rise up to greet you.

Also, as I had been instructed in the past, with any type of stemmed glassware (brandy snifter, Riedel, champagne, etc.), I prefer to nose (with mouth open) by physically turning and facing to my left as I inhale through my left nostril, and doing the same movement to my right side and nostril.

Lastly, after nosing in the same manner at the front of my nose, I then use the single pass technique across my entire nose.

I prefer to hold all vessels from the stem or the foot to prevent inadvertent warming of the liquid being tasted.  The jarrito was held from the bottom.

Craft Agave Spirits

Tequila(s):  Cobalto Organic Blanco (NOM 1586 Destileria Casa de Piedra; 40% ABV, 80 proof).

Terralta blanco tequila (NOM 1579, Destileria El Pandillo; 55% ABV, 110 proof).

Terralta extra anejo tequila (NOM 1579, Destileria El Pandillo; 55% ABV, 110 proof).

Tequila G4 blanco (NOM 1579, Destileria El Pandillo; 40% ABV, 80 proof).

Hacienda Vieja anejo (NOM 1412, Destiladora de los Altos; 40% ABV, 80 proof)

Los 3 Garcias blanco, reposado, anejo (NOM 1594, Casa Tequilera Alcardan K & Asociados; 40% ABV, 80 proof)

Mezcal(s):  Estancia Raicilla (R & J Estancia Distillery; 40% ABV, 80 proof).

Santo Diablo Mezcal Joven (Unaged, 45% ABV, 90 proof, espadin).

Montelobos Mezcal Joven (Unaged, 43.2% ABV, 86.4 proof espadin).

 Glassware

Chisolm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5bd
Tears of Llorona served in Riedel stemware.

Riedel Ouverture tequila glass:

  1. Look, feel and handling (describe the shape, proportions, weight, and balance in the hand).

An accepted tool of tequila tasting since its introduction in 2001, it is the vessel most of us have been exposed to and taught to use to appreciate tequila’s many facets.

Elegantly stemmed and reminiscent of champagne glasses, but not as narrow at the bowl, it can be easily handled and tilted, either at the stem or foot, to examine the color and clarity of the liquid without spilling.

Weighing significantly less than common champagne glasses, there is a risk of Riedels breaking, especially between the stem and bowl.

  1. Initial nosing, persistence, complexity and emphasis of the aromas.

Nosing tequilas, and some 80 proof mezcals, can be a challenge.

Depending on the tequila, and regardless of the proof (ABV), one had to be instructed to literally stick one’s nose inside the bowl and to inhale deeply to find aromas that might have been missed at the initial pass.

Alcohol burn with any proof tequila is also a real possibility while “digging in” to try and capture the scents and nuances.  Frequent swirling is necessary in order for aromas to bloom and for any excess alcohol to dissipate.

While some tasters prefer the Riedel for unaged (blanco) tequilas, it was reputed by the Riedels to have been designed specifically for reposados.

That said, darker expressions of tequila (some older aged reposados, anejos and extra anejos) sampled, and their layers of complexity seem to remain, for the most part, intact.

Glencairn whiskey nosing glass:Chisolm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5bd

  1. Feel and handling (shape, proportions, weight, balance in the hand):

Long associated almost exclusively with the whisky and scotch industries, as well as its aficionados, it has been widely favored and accepted by tequila cognoscenti “oak heads” for many years.

In fact, it has been preferred over the Riedel Ouverture, especially in tasting and enjoying the more aged tequilas.

Known for its distinctive thick foot and bell shaped bowl ending in an extended neck chimney, it has the same size opening as the Riedel.  This allows for more even mouth surface (and ultimately palate) coverage with which to sip, savor and nose a spirit.

Its footed base keeps the vessel steady on any flat surface without the danger of breaking any stems as is often the case with Riedels when accidentally knocked over.

The thickness of the foot is ideal for handling the Glencairn.  Swirling, nosing and sipping are done easily, without inadvertently warming the liquid inside.  Its design is very pleasing to the eye, as well.

  1. Initial nosing, persistence, complexity and emphasis of the aromas:

The Glencairn’s construction allows the taster to discern aromas and nuances often overlooked or muted by other accepted glassware without completely extinguishing the necessary effects of any excess alcohol.

In the case of sampling blanco tequilas, and in particular high proof blancos, I believe the bell (bowl) allows for any excess alcohol to become trapped long enough to not interfere with the nosing process.

As I mentioned earlier, the Glencairn efficiently presents any spirits’ aromas when held in close proximity to the nose.

I believe the thinness and strength of the glass Glencairn uses to produce its vessels is the secret to its value and versatility.

It is just about the perfect glass for any spirit, including tequila, and everyday use.

Stolzle jarrito tumbler:

  1. Feel and handling (shape, proportions, weight, balance in the hand):

In the attempt to craft a drinking vessel that could ultimately be associated exclusively with Mexican agave spirits of all types, both styles of jarritos (tumblers) are uniquely designed without a stem or handle which are both European inventions.

Both jarritos have a slightly weighted flattened base.  One model has a more extended neck similar to the Glencairn or Riedel.  The other model has a slightly shorter neck and a bit wider circumference providing even more mouth surface, and eventually, palate coverage by the sampled liquid.  Both have a slightly bell shaped bowl, not unlike the Glencairn.

Also, similar to the Glencairn, I believe its bell or bowl allows for the non-interference of excess alcohol when nosing higher proof tequilas and mezcals while still discerning the spirits’ various aromas.

Our CMO, Lisa Pietsch, particularly enjoyed the “hand feel” of both jarritos.

Gracefully designed, the jarritos seem to naturally invite the casual sipper to wrap his or her fingers around the bowl and neck of the vessel, allowing the impression of becoming more “intimate” with the agave spirit inside.

For judging purposes, the natural reflex to hold the vessel by the bowl can be circumvented by simply placing the jarrito on a flat surface and nosing from a standing position, if necessary.

The base of both models is still wide enough to hold the jarrito securely by the fingertips to swirl and sniff.  The danger of inadvertently warming the liquid inside by using this technique is negligible.

Finally, the thickness of the jarrito glass is just millimeters thicker than the Glencairn.  The short necked jarrito is also slightly thicker than the long necked one.

  1. Initial nosing, persistence, complexity and emphasis of the aromas:

Glassware:  Extended neck jarrito.

Nosing (80 proof tequila)

The floral aromas were instantly noticeable without having to swirl the jarrito to help aerate the liquid.  Upon closer nosing, the fruit aromas became very prevalent, as well.

In the case of Tequila G4, there was an instantly discernible scent of wet cement perceived at just the initial pass through.  Normally, this particular aroma isn’t evident until after several attempts using the Riedel Ouverture.

Nosing (110 proof tequila)

 The sharpness remained as above.

As with any high proof spirit, there would be significant alcohol present, however, only at the bottom of the glass where it belongs.  In this case, the alcohol was not at all offensive or aggressive.

Intake 

 Again, I was taken aback by how lucid and sharp the liquid tasted on the intake.

Glassware:  Short neck jarrito.

Nosing and Intake (110 proof tequila)

Same as long necked jarrito, however…

Both the nose and the intake showcased significantly sweeter elements in the Terralta extra anejo that was both surprising and pleasing.

Terralta is a very complex tequila to begin with, but the short neck jarrito stood up to the challenge.

Overall Impressions and Recommendations

 Incongruence between nosing and tasting… 

For those of us using Riedels exclusively to assess tequilas and all other agave spirits, it is not uncommon to perceive an imbalance or incongruence between nosing and tasting.

I believe, at least in tequila competitions and tastings that I have been involved in, that frequent re-tastings or re-pours are necessary for the judge to determine accurate ratings and/or flavor notes.

Tasting in HD…

In nosing 80 proof tequilas with the jarrito, I was struck by how sharply and easily it was to discern the separate aromas from each other.

It was like watching television in HD, or hearing the notes on a finely tuned piano for the first time.  The nuances and subtleties of the tequilas came across loud and clear.  It was very exciting.

The presence of alcohol…

In nosing 110 proof tequilas, and having spoken to well known tequila master distillers at length, the presence of alcohol is a necessary element for the spirit itself to express its unique characteristics and aromas.

Any attempt to eliminate its presence, either by using specific glassware designed to do so, using ice, or additives included during the spirits’ rectification process, only serve to mask a potential flaw or to mute other pertinent characteristics inherent in the spirit.

For this reason, I look for and expect a certain amount of alcohol.

Criticism against Glencairn…

Chisolm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5bd

There have been some reviews by a few critics of the Glencairn that it presents the aromas and flavors of the liquid inside “almost too brightly.”

While I’ve never experienced this effect, to me, there is no such thing as presenting a liquid “too brightly.”

My belief is that over reliance on the Riedel Ouverture tequila glass has possibly trained “catadores” (tequila tasters) to become “nose blind” to certain aromas.  In the long run, the Riedel’s design doesn’t do agave spirits justice.

If a vessel is properly constructed, it should allow both the connoisseur and the layman an equal footing in making professional judging determinations at competitions, or simply personal buying decisions for one’s enjoyment.

In my opinion, the jarrito does as comparable a job in presenting agave spirits—perhaps even more so—than the Glencairn.

Marketability and acceptance of the jarrito tumblers…

My first reaction was to use the shorter necked jarrito to taste mezcals, and the longer necked one for tequilas.  My reason for this is that I use a Glencairn Canadian whisky glass almost exclusively for mezcals and felt the short necked jarrito was a natural progression.

The longer necked jarrito reminded me of the traditional Glencairn or Riedel Ouverture, which is why I chose it for tequilas.

Apart from the individual properties of each agave spirit that I tasted, what I found most gratifying about using the jarrito was that there was a consistency of nosing-to-flavor that is often lacking in other glassware.

After using both jarrito models interchangeably between tequilas and mezcals, the differences were slight.

The higher proof liquids seemed to be presented better in the shorter jarrito with the slightly thicker glass, while the 80 proof spirits compared equally favorably to the Glencairn whisky glass using the longer necked tumbler.

Mezcal has no official glassware like tequila does.  Most traditional or ancestral mezcals at higher alcohol grades are usually served in gourds or clay “copitas” without masking their true characteristics.  Instead, these vessels seem to enhance the complexity of the mezcals.

In other words, one could serve a well made mezcal from a tennis shoe without affecting the overall flavor profile!

For this reason, the marketability of two distinct glasses—one for tequila and one for mezcal, or other agave spirits—may not be a bad idea.

As with any new innovation in drinking vessels, training in its use is essential to its success and acceptance among the agave spirits communities.

Bonus!

Lastly, I discovered that while testing the jarrito tumblers, they required far less liquid to sample and make proper determinations.

In medal competitions, this factor could lead to much less palate fatigue for judges, and cost savings to brand owners.

Recommendation…

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that with the jarrito, there were no surprises or incongruence in the nose vs. flavor factor.

The only surprise is that the jarrito made it so easy!

 

Signed:  Mike Morales, CEO

Tequila Aficionado Media

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Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director’s Cut

Skepticism and Terror

Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57m

In early June 2017, I was interviewed via email by VinePair’s conscientious staff writer, Nickolaus Hines, on whether I thought that mezcal could “…Grow its way to the Mainstream Without Losing its Roots.”

Skepticism usually sets in whenever we’re approached for quotes by writers attempting to compose complex articles about the plight of agave spirits.

Skepticism turns into sheer terror whenever the writer represents a website that is not known for its thoughtful content.

More often than not, facts get muddled and the same old tequila cliches are regurgitated.

Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57m

Such was not the case here.

Director’s Cut

Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57m

When interviewing several people at once to create a relevant article, it’s a rarity for a journalist to be able to use all of the interviewee’s replies to produce a coherent final piece.

It’s a common practice in the movie industry to edit a character’s scenes only to later add them back in.  It’s what becomes the Director’s Cut once the movie is available to buy or rent.

What follows are the exact questions Mr. Hines asked, and my answers, including what wound up on the cutting room floor.

***

NH:  Was there a defining moment that you’re aware of when tequila became a mainstream spirit in the U.S.?  Did it have to do with a multinational liquor company’s investment?

Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57mMM:  For me personally, it was when the sale of Herradura tequila to Brown-Forman was announced in late 2006 (and subsequently finalized in January of 2007).

Jose Cuervo’s Especial and 1800 “mixto” brands (51% agave, 49% other sugars) had been mainstays in clubs and restaurants for decades prior to that, mostly consumed in shots and margaritas.  At that time, 100% de agave tequilas like Chinaco, El Tesoro de Don Felipe, and Herradura Blanco Suave, were out of most people’s price ranges, and sipping them was a foreign concept.

I had visited Herradura’s historic San Jose del Refugio distillery earlier in 2006, and was shocked to hear news of its sale to B-F, a transnational corporation.

I knew then that things would never be the same.

NH:  How has tequila becoming a mainstream spirit impacted tequila producers?  Is it harder than ever for small and independent producers, or is it easier because consumers are more familiar with tequila in general?

MM:  According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), tequila volumes have jettisoned 121% since 2002.  Much of this consumption is due to multinational corporations and their massive distribution, sales and marketing channels.

As of the current Consejo Regulador del Tequila’s (CRT) NOM list (dated May 31, 2017), there are 1373 brands of tequila being produced by roughly only 130 distilleries.  Most are what are called “maquiladoras,” that distill tequila for various brand owners.

Small and independent craft tequila producers, as well as reputable small-to-mid-sized maquiladoras are few and far between, but they do exist.

Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57m

Most don’t have the funding, marketing budgets and distribution channels that the Big Boys have, so they struggle to compete on a level playing field.

Constant and consistent education of the average consumer by smaller brands of their quality is a key component to their success, and vital for their continued existence in the marketplace.

NH:  Mezcal has less restrictions on where, with which types of agave, and how it can be produced than tequila does.  Is that an advantage that could make mezcal as popular (or more) than tequila?

MM:  Actually, like Tequila, Mezcal has a Denomination of Origin.

It is currently produced in the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Durango, Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57mZacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Guerrero, and Tamaulipas.  Michoacan has also been recently admitted, and many other states are expected to be added in years to come.

Because several other types of agave can be used to distill mezcal (as well as bacanora and raicilla), unlike the singular blue weber agave from which tequila must be produced by law, that is its main attraction to consumers.

The fact that it is relatively new, unusual, has a story behind every bottle and batch, and is arguably the most artisanal product in the world, makes mezcal particularly attractive to Millennials and connoisseurs alike.

The danger is that these characteristics COULD, indeed, make mezcal even more popular than tequila.

NH:  Does the rise of tequila provide a blueprint for mezcal, or is the intended consumer base too different?

MM:  The rise of tequila does provide a blueprint for mezcal, but not in the way you think.  The Mezcal Industry has shown that it has learned from the mistakes made by the Tequila Industry.

In February 2017, the Mezcal Regulatory Council passed into law an amendment to its normas that would categorize mezcal by its methods of processing (mezcal, mezcal artesanal, and mezcal ancestral).

These new categories will allow for small producers to continue making mezcal their way, and for large, multinational corporations to attempt to mass produce juice that can still be labeled mezcal.

Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57m

Unlike the Tequila Industry, where consumers who are tired of the same cookie-cutter flavor profiles of the more popular brands, and are desperately seeking authenticity and quality, this type of transparency lets all consumers choose for themselves which type of mezcal best suits their tastes.

NH:  Where do you see the mezcal business in 10 years?  Will it be mostly owned by multinational corporations, or will smaller companies retain control?

Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57mMM:  The above mentioned new law will presumably allow both large and small producers to thrive, but mezcal finds itself in a conundrum: 

That is, how to simultaneously protect the industry for future survival while meeting the burgeoning global demand.

Aside from the more commercially grown espadin variety, many of the more sought after agave are wild harvested and take years to mature.  As I mentioned in question #3, the different types of agave used for mezcal is the attraction, but could also lead to its demise.

Unless sustainability and preservation of all types of agave–and the cultural and economic well being of the communities in which mezcal has been historically distilled for decades–is part of any business plan (especially by transnational corporations), then the Mezcal Industry is doomed and the collateral damage could be devastating.

NH:  Is there anything that happened to small tequila producers and small villages where tequila is made that you believe could happen to small mezcal producers small villages where mezcal is made?

MM:  Tequila and mezcal don’t share parallel histories.

When Jose Cuervo was granted permission by the Spanish Crown to commercially produce tequila in the mid-18th century, distillation of mezcal (or pulque) was legitimized (taxed) and refined for the aristocracy.

Throughout tequila’s over 250 year history, several other clans emerged as wealthy landowners settling in various regions, growing their own agave and establishing family brands.

Tequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57m

The tequila industry charged forward when the Sauza family first exported tequila, then known as vino mezcal, into the United States in the late 19th century.

When the Sauza’s sold the brand in the late 1980s to Spanish brandy maker Pedro Domecq, it signaled that the industry was open to foreign interests, mergers and acquisitions.

Over several decades, some small commercial agaveros (blue agave farmers) made their fortunes during times of severe agave shortages.  With their newfound wealth, many started their own brands and constructed distilleries.

Mezcal, on the other hand, had continued to be clandestinely produced all this time by indigenous people in rural areas of Mexico.  It had remained largely unchanged.

While tequila struggled to elevate its image throughout the 20th century from a poor man’s drink, to a party shooter, to an elegant sipper, mezcal’s has always been akin to white lightening.

Its booming popularity in the 21st century has only proven how everyTequila vs Mezcal: The Director's Cut http://wp.me/p3u1xi-57m facet of mezcal production—from commercial farming of espadin and other agave, to mass production and even regulation—is still in its infancy.

Mezcal can no longer be ignored, though.

The recent positioning by multinational companies capturing significant stakes in popular and pioneering brands has now made mezcal a valuable asset to any spirits portfolio.

It remains to be seen, however, whether anybody outside of these transnational corporations gets rich from distilling mezcal.

NH:  Is mezcal as scaleable as tequila?

MM:  Not at the present time.

Can it be?  Sure.

But concessions by the Mezcal Regulatory Council would have to be made, for instance, by allowing for the distillation of “mixto” mezcal.

Tequila’s Denomination of Origin is currently the only one in existence that is allowed to be adulterated by the production of mixto.

I doubt seriously that the Mezcal Industry would agree for its DO to be bastardized in this way.

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Embajador Tequila: Framework for The Future

[Transportation, room and board were provided to M.A. “Mike” Morales by Embajador Tequila in order to research this article.  No monetary compensation was received and no guarantee of a favorable article was given by M.A. ‘Mike” Morales or Tequila Aficionado Media.  This article was written by, and is the opinion of, M.A. “Mike” Morales.]

Open Doors

Embajador Tequila: Framework for The Future http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4mC

Everyone in Atotonilco had heard of the Fabrica Santa Rosa’s suspension due to COFEPRIS’ (Comisión Federál para la Protección contra Reisgos Sanitarios) and SAT’s (Servicio de Admistración Tributaria) prolonged “Juntos Contra la Ilegalidad” (“Together Against Illegality”) crusade  to reduce illegally produced alcoholic beverages on the Mexican market.

Many were shocked since Embajador’s outstanding reputation for producing top notch tequilas had been stalwartly guarded–and envied–for years.

20160719_165039Collectively, the crew at Fabrica Santa Rosa was still reeling from the aftereffects of the shutdown.  A few described these agencies’ G-Men as acting arrogantly and condescendingly.

Certainly, this was no way to treat a group of professionals who had many years of extensive experience in distilling frontline tequilas to the strict adherence of the normas.

Individually, each recounted how he or she felt ambushed by the government officials and bum-rushed by the deliberate escalation of what were considered by many high ranking officials in the industry as minor—even laughable– infractions.

Despite that, neighboring tequila distilleries were shaking in their boots wondering if their stored tequila would be targeted by those government agencies’ assault that existed only to add more liters of seized juice to their latest numbers.

In fact, the concerned brand owner’s tequila who inspired my Bullying In Tequila editorial during the early stages of Embajador’s closure, is distilled just up the road from Fabrica Santa Rosa.

In this clip, we entered through the iron gates of the perimeter of Tequila Embajador.  The rows of estate grown agave and the rich, red soil of Atotonilco el Alto took center stage.

(Taken from inside our SUV, it may be too fast to watch continuously, and the sound is a bit muffled by the wind as we drove onto the grounds.)

20160719_124459

Once we parked on the property, the charm of the Fabrica Santa Rosa took over.

How the Magic Happens

Here’s where it all starts:  three autoclaves, from 40,000 KGS to 25,000 KGS in capacity, plus 2 ovens of mamposteria (brick/stone masonry).  The cook time in autoclaves is approx 10 hours; in ovens it’s 24 hours.  Embajador is a combination of both of these methods.

Behind the Iron Door

Opening the iron door of one of the masonry ovens and taking a peek inside.  As you can tell, it’s quite a chore.

Adjusting to Variables

Our tour guide, Francisco Segura Garcia, the company’s accountant and bookkeeper who, since the age of 16 has worked in the tequila industry in some form, explains–

A tahona for the boutique distillery.
A tahona for the boutique distillery.

What influences the flavor profile of a tequila?  A common question, he admits, that has a simple answer, yet, complex at the same time.  For instance…

Older agave vs. younger agave; and healthy agave vs. diseased agave.  If you put either of these through the same process, you won’t get the same results.

20160719_144545 (2)Cooking time varies with the time of year, as well.  That’s why there are master distillers with years of experience in the variations that can affect the final outcome.  Also, the seasons of the year makes a difference (summer vs. winter).

The agave is an extraordinary organism, continues Francisco.  One of the most adaptable plants ever created.  It can exist in the desert or near the coast.  Wherever water is abundant, or in extremely arid climates.

Francisco outlines that when they harvest during the colder months, the agave defends itself with a special coating that they must adjust for.

Variables like pressure, cook time, water temperatures at shredding, and above all, fermentation and distillation.  Otherwise, the tequila produced appears cloudy and bitter even though you’ve followed the same recipe as before.

Two Important Elements

Francisco discusses the importance of fermentation and distillation, and how they are equally influential elements within the tequila making process.

The type of yeast used during fermentation is also important since some can produce more higher alcohols than others, which is in violation of the normas.

Framework surrounding a new shredder.
Framework surrounding a new shredder.

Embajador uses proprietary yeast made from their own estate grown agave.

Fermentation time also varies depending upon the time of year (warm vs. cold weather).

The Vision

We witnessed the ongoing construction on the grounds leading to its phased in expansion that would eventually include a boutique distillery within the larger Embajador distillery.  It will include a tahona, barrel room, gift shop, and an historically accurate re-creation of a vintage working tequila taberna, among other things.

The mini distillery is estimated to be completed by the end of 2016, with the remaining improvements to be finished within a year.

Eco-Friendly

Aiming to cut down on the distillery’s carbon footprint, the eco-conscious family recently modernized the fabrica by installing a boiler to heat water used in the plant.  It runs on a combination of leftover bagasse (bagazo) from shredding the agave and wood chips.

The Future Framework

The framework of Embajador’s future.  More of the buildings and what they will house on the grounds.  (Hint:  Even the bricks of the vintage distillery are made by hand.)

Positioned For Success

Licenciado Cristobal Morales Hernández, legal representative for Tequila Embajador and the Fabrica Santa Rosa, describes what he sees for the immediate future of Embajador in two to three years, including the improvements and growth projected for the distillery.

He also takes into consideration the ramping up of the volume of the plant’s production without suffering a dip in quality of its consistently exceptional juice that they have proudly maintained for 12 years.

He concludes that the buying public should continue to expect the same lofty standards of prizewinning tequila and he acknowledges that the situation concerning the mandated stoppage in production was simply a lesson learned.

See And Taste For Yourself

Lic. Morales relays what he wants consumers to know about Embajador.

He graciously extends a heartfelt invitation to the public to see their more than adequate facilities for themselves.

Shhh...Embajador is resting.
Shhh…Embajador is resting.

He ensures that Embajador is strictly adhering to Mexican and global regulations, and that when the public samples any of the tequilas produced at the fabrica that they can be assured of its propensity for high standards of excellence.

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Embajador Tequila: Business As Usual

[Transportation, room and board were provided to M.A. “Mike” Morales by Embajador Tequila in order to research this article.  No monetary compensation was received and no guarantee of a favorable article was given by M.A. ‘Mike” Morales or Tequila Aficionado Media.  This article was written by, and is the opinion of, M.A. “Mike” Morales.]

Let’s Review…

Embajador Tequila: Business As Usual http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4lfIn Part 1, Embajador Tequila:  Rectifying The Situation, we listed all the minor infractions that the distillery, Fabrica Santa Rosa, was charged with by COFEPRIS (Comisión Federál para la Protección contra Reisgos Sanitarios) and SAT (Servicio de Admistración Tributaria).

We also brought to light the fact that every breach was addressed within hours, and that the real delay of lifting the ban on the Embajador distillery’s operations was the bureaucratic read tape surrounding the method of documenting and tracking of raw materials and supplies.

Before we tackle this topic, however, a word about the yellow journalism popular with Mexican news agencies.

Scraping A Dead Horse

The phrase “beating a dead horse” is often used when the same story is repeated over and over again, until the subject matter becomes tiresome.

Scraping is a term used by copywriters when expounding on a press release Embajador Tequila: Business As Usual http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4lfthat is distributed to several news agencies at once.  It’s extracting pertinent information from the news release or website, sometimes copied word-for-word, without proper credit given to the original source material.

In essence, it’s stealing (plagiarism), but, it helps to keep the topic fresh and different from the rest of the reports seen on other news channels.

Making matters worse, name any reputable producer allegedly busted during COFEPRIS’ and SAT’s “Juntos Contra la Ilegalidad” (“Together Against Illegality”) blitzkrieg, and they are instantly guilty by association.

While there are many honorable news writers in Mexico (many having lost their lives, especially those reporting on narco trafficking activities), most Mexican newspapers are tabloids using this archaic, unethical and unprofessional style of reporting.

The more controversial the titles and the more alarming the descriptions, the more the reader feels like an actual eyewitness to the alleged crime, and, the more newspapers are sold.

It resulted in sensational headlines for the copywriters who, chances are, had never even set foot onto a tequila distillery, and high fives all around for COFEPRIS and SAT.

Embajador Tequila: Business As Usual http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4lf

No one at the Fabrica Santa Rosa denies that they were guilty of the minor infractions they had been charged with, but, in reviewing the aforementioned articles in Part 1, you’d think the Untouchables had just captured Al Capone for tax evasion.

In true Elliot Ness fashion, there was a loophole.

But, it’s wasn’t what you thought.

The Loophole

Embajador Tequila: Business As Usual http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4lf

Imagine driving across the state line and being immediately pulled over by a state trooper.  When he asks you for your home state’s current registration, the smokey takes one look at your paperwork and tells you that your registration is not legally recognized by his state’s laws.  He then impounds your car until you can prove that your registration is legal.

That’s exactly what happened to Tequila Embajador.

Embajador Tequila: Business As Usual http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4lf

After a mound of paperwork providing and proving their procedural accurateness, converting to the more approved methods of record keeping–ninety days later–the ban on Fabrica Santa Rosa was lifted and it’s back to business as usual.

Embajador Tequila Goes On The Record

In this snippet, Licenciado Cristobal Morales Hernández introduces himself as the legal representative for Tequila Embajador and the Fabrica Santa Rosa.

Lic. Morales explains that while Embajador has never suffered infractions due to the wholesomeness and quality of their tequila (in other words, it has never produced illegal tequila), the main problem was in providing proper documentation as per the normas.

Morales goes on to describe that what the authorities actually did was to seal the distillery and the remaining tanks and barrels of tequila, but the product was never destroyed as is customary for the aforementioned government agencies to do during their “Juntos Contra la Ilegalidad” offensive.

The distillery was allowed to finish elaborating the tequila in all its various stages of production until the matter of the paperwork documentation was in compliance with the normas.

Embajador Tequila: Business As Usual http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4lf
Lic. Cristobal Morales with flagship tequilas, El General, Embajador and Jalisciense.

They were not allowed to truck out finished product, however, or to receive more harvested agave until that matter was resolved.  These same conditions were enforced on all of their contracted brands, as well.

In fact, even though the method of paperwork was not in keeping with the two agencies’ guidelines, paperwork DID exist making every step of Embajador’s tequila making process traceable to the very last agave plant and liter of tequila.

Lesson Learned

Cristobal asserts that in the 90 days of the plant’s closure, the company not only met the requirements of the agencies, but exceeded their expectations throughout the distillery, particularly concentrating in the fermentation, distillation and warehouse sections of the fabrica.

Lic. Morales admits that while the agencies’ reaction to the minor infractions were considered harsh, the situation served as a wake up call to step up their game on all levels of each department to stay on par with their indisputable high quality.

***

In the next segment, Embajador Tequila showcases its Framework for The Future.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The Top 20 Craft Tequilas You’ve Overlooked

USA_Today_comIn early August of 2016, I received an email from USA Today asking me to weigh in on their craft spirits-themed Readers’ Choice contests, and in our case (at press time), the soon-to-be-launched craft tequilas list.

I’ll be honest, I dread these lists.  What’s worse is, I dread being asked to participate in compiling them.

Let me tell you why.

It’s A List

In the Digital Age, everyone wants things in bite sized form and they want it now.  It is also proven that numbered lists draw attention.  And, there are so many of them out there on the Interwebs–

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover…

The 10 Best Ways to Cheat On Your Mate…

Six Ways Your Cat Plots to Kill You…

A Word About Your Sins

Ever wonder why those numbered titles are so enticing?7-deadly-sins

It’s because they are aimed at the 7 Deadly Sins.

A steadfast rule of copywriters is to compose content that elicits an emotional response from readers to take action.

To drive your particular sin even further to cause you to read the content, the word YOU is hammered into every title.

[Editor’s note:  See what I did with my title?  You choose which sin fits best for YOU.]

Craft Is A Buzzword

As we thoroughly examined in our reports, Craft Tequila:  WTF Does That Mean? Parts 1 and 2, the term craft has been kidnapped by marketers writing fancy copy to confuse the consumer.

Only 10?

gato sorprendido

While the instructions in the email required at least 20 selections from me, the contest will butcher the selections down to only 10–

Selected by those who are unaware of what a craft tequila really is, and…

Curated by someone whose job it is to find ways to engage USA Today’s readers.

It’s A Contest

check-list-red-wfjgrkbmmkvlWhen our COO, Lisa Pietsch, examined the contest website and the myriad of other pre-existing lists, she found that this is a clever way for USA Today to increase reader engagement.

Reader engagement translates to readers’ time spent on USA Today’s mammoth website, which in turn translates to money they charge advertisers.

The term we use is “sticky” as in spider’s web sticky.

Which leads me to–

Paid Advertisers 

Having been paid to ghost write Editor’s Choice lists in the past, I am fully aware that many times, spirits sponsors of major magazines and websites tend to sneak onto them.

This, despite my vehement objections to the editors that such a move invalidates the list altogether.

So, before any of the Usual Suspects wind up on USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards Craft Tequilas list, here are my selections.  Bear in mind, I was limited to only twenty brands.

The Top 20 Craft Tequilas You’ve Overlooked

In no particular order…

  1. Fortaleza
  2. T1 Tequila Uno
  3. Tears of Llorana
  4. Suerte
  5. Siembra Azul
  6. Siembra Valles
  7. Tapatio
  8. Tequila G4
  9. ArteNOM 1414
  10. ArteNOM 1580
  11. ArteNOM 1146
  12. ArteNOM 1549
  13. Trianon
  14. Pasote
  15. Embajador
  16. Alquimia
  17. DesMaDre
  18. Dulce Vida
  19. Don Fulano
  20. IXA

The Fallout

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Whether any of my selections make the cut, remains to be seen.

Depending on who the other “tequila experts” were that contributed to the final list to be voted on, the results, if nothing else, should be interesting.

One thing is for certain–

Not everyone will be happy.

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Tequila Marketing Happy Talk

Tequila Marketing Happy Talk http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4hXSome well-meaning follower posted on our Facebook page this answer to a press release referring to Espolón tequila…

“PSA: “super premium” has no real meaning—it’s marketing happy talk.”

While we’re inclined to believe that sneaky marketers have hijacked the word premium and turned it into a buzzword, in all actuality, it is a spirits pricing term.

Let’s Review

As we pointed out in our feature, Craft Tequila:  WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 2, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the national trade association and lobbyist representing the leading producers and marketers of distilled spirits in the United States, separates all booze into four categories–

Value, Premium, High End Premium and Super Premium.  [Note the absence of the term, Ultra Premium.]

The confusion stems from the fact that DISCUS lists the price points of each particular spirit by supplier revenue per case, not by retail price per bottle.

It is DISCUS’ industry-focused terms that are the culprit, and marketers have indelibly embedded premium into consumer’s minds like an embarrassing tattoo on a mixologist’s forearm.

Think Like a Marketer

[Warning:  You might want to shower after this segment.]

Webster’s Online Dictionary defines premium as “a price that is higher than the regular price.”

Want to think like a marketer?

Then, run premium through Webster’s Thesaurus and inhale deeply as if you’ve just stumbled upon a secret cava filled to the ceiling with barrels of resting añejos.

Revel in the treasure trove of descriptors like Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now.

via GIPHY

A Stroll Down the Tequila Aisle

Now that you’ve toweled off, take a look at DISCUS’ 2015 Industry Review Supplemental Tables, here.

Scroll to the section titled Distilled Spirits Pricing Categories and notice the names listed under Major Brands, especially those in the Tequila segment.

Bear in mind that all spirits categories are measured by how well or badly the Big Boys are performing.  Your preferred craft label may not even be mentioned.

Tequila Marketing Happy Talk http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4hXNow, pretend you’re in the Tequila Aisle of your favorite liquor store and ask yourself–

Would I buy this tequila?

Whether your answer is yes or no, determine where your preferred tequila brand is priced and pigeonholed.

Value, Premium, High End Premium and Super Premium.

Are they within a few bucks of the Usual Suspects, or are they completely out of your ballpark?

By the way, if you’re drinking at the Ultra Premium range, I have swamp land in Arizona that I’d like to unload, er, sell to you.

Falling For Marketing Happy Talk

Next, just for kicks and giggles, take a gander at DISCUS’ US Tequila Market at a Glance, here.

Look closely at the astronomical growth of the High End Premium and Super Premium divisions since 2002-2003.  This trend even has a name–

Premiumisation.  How’s that for a buzzword?

Depending on which categories your favorite tequilas land, are you Tequila Marketing Happy Talk http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4hXcomfortable paying those prices?

Put another way–

Are you happy for supporting the Big Boys all these years?

Remember, there is no shame in sipping value tequilas.  We won’t judge you.  When in doubt, turn to our Sipping Off The Cuff(c) episodes to help with your buying decisions.

Go ahead…

Reach for that box of tissues, pour yourself a craft tequila, and vow never again to fall for the marketing happy talk.

 

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Women In The Tequila Industry: Sarah Bowen

Divided Spirits, Sarah BowenI have many fond memories of my first meeting Sarah Bowen during the historic Ian Chadwick Blue Agave Forum tour of tequila distilleries in 2006.

She was a young student then, relentlessly recording every interview with master distillers and jimadores on a digital voice recorder, in flawless Spanish.

Who knew that ten years later she would be a wife, mother, and an Associate Professor of Sociology at North Carolina State University?

No doubt, she did.

Her years of intricate research into the tequila–and the now booming mezcal–industry led her in 2015 to publish Divided Spirits:  Tequila, Mezcal and the Politics of Production.

A vital voice that every potential Tequila Boss Lady should heed, here are Sarah’s responses to our handful of questions.

***

Bowen_headshot, Sarah BowenTA:  How would you describe your experiences as a woman in a primarily male dominated industry?  (What are the challenges you face when dealing with the male dominated Tequila/Mezcal Industries?)

SB:  I am a researcher, not a part of the tequila or mezcal industries, so I think that matters.  I have thought a lot, however, about how being a woman mattered for my research.

For my book, I did over 100 interviews, and most of these were with men, who still hold most positions of power in the industry.  I think that in some cases, being a woman gave me an advantage.

Many of the men I interviewed did not perceive me, a young woman and a student at the time, as a threat or even as someone with a lot of knowledge of the industry.

This meant they were often willing to share politically controversial perspectives or details about their companies that I don’t know they would have shared with someone they saw as more of a contemporary.

TA:  How have you been able to change things within the Tequila/Mezcal Industries?

SB:  In my book and in some of my other writing, I have tried to communicate the important issues facing the tequila and mezcal industries and show how consumers in the U.S. can advocate on behalf of small producers, farmers, and workers.

Consumers in the U.S. and Mexico helped defeat NOM 186 several years ago, and I hope we will be able to defeat NOM 199, the absurd proposal that would force many small mezcal producers to use the word “komil” to sell their spirits.

In a certain sense, I have more hope for the future of mezcal, in particular, than I have [tequila] in the ten years since I started studying these industries.

Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable about issues related to sustainability, quality, and fairness in these industries, and I hope that I might have played some small part in that.  But I also realize that it’s an uphill battle.

The rules that define tequila and mezcal have evolved in one direction for the last 60 years, and almost every decision has favored the big companies over small producers and workers.  Changing that trajectory is difficult, but I think we’re starting to see some positive changes.

TA:  What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila/Mezcal Industries?

SB:  I think that women are going to become more visible in the tequila and mezcal industries in the next few years.

Sarita Gaytán and Ana Valenzuela’s research on women in the tequila industry has shown that women are represented in increasingly diverse positions in the tequila industry:  from tequila companies to the CRT.

GracielaAngeles, Sarah BowenThe diversity and amount of mezcal being sold in the U.S. has grown so much in the last few years, and women are an important part of that growth as well.

For example, we see women like Graciela Angeles heading up Real Minero, one of the most interesting mezcal brands, and also being an influential and important voice about many current debates related to mezcal.

I think that these trends are going to continue, and that this is really important for the future of these industries.

TA:  What facets of the Tequila/Mezcal Industries would you like to see change?

SB:  We need more transparency about how profits are being distributed.

As I said above, savvy American consumers and bartenders are increasingly knowledgeable about the practices used to make their tequila and mezcal, and in the case of mezcal, about the type of agave that goes into it.  I think this has had positive effects.

But consumers know very little about how the people who make tequila and mezcal are compensated.

We live far away from the communities where [mezcal] is being produced, and it’s easy to romanticize these producers and their traditions.

We need to ask questions about how their mezcal is being produced—and perhaps most importantly, about how the small producers, farmers, and workers are being paid.

We also need to question a mezcal Denomination of Origin [DO] that excludes so many people and regions with long histories of making mezcal.

The rules of the DO excludes many people by setting standards that are more appropriate for large, industrial producers.  Even more egregiously, the geographical boundaries of the DO exclude people in many regions of Mexico where people have been making mezcal for multiple generations.

And NOM 199 threatens to make this even worse, by now making these people call their products “komil.”

TA:  Is there anything you’d like to say to women who may be contemplating entering and working in the Tequila/Mezcal Industries in one form or another?

SB:  I hope that they will continue, and I hope that they will support each other.

Bowen_agave

Diversifying the voices we hear from regarding the future of these industries–in terms of gender, but also in terms of geography, size, and ethnicity—is the best way to preserve the quality of tequila and mezcal and also support all of the people that make them.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

How to Get Paid to Drink Tequila:

How you can turn your passion into profits and get paid to drink tequila as a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or author

 

Salud!!