Women In The Tequila Industry: Leticia Aceves Alvarez

Women In The Tequila Industry: Leticia Aceves Alvarez http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4LgI first met Carmen Leticia Aceves Alvarez in July 2016, during my investigative visit to Fabrica Santa Rosa.  The distillery is responsible for such fan favorite tequilas as Alma de Agave, Crótalo, Cabresto, and their flagship brand, Embajador.

At a round table lunch over delicious babacoa (barbecue) skirt steak at a local restaurant in Atotonilco, the group from the fabrica introduced me to its newest offering, Jaliscience.  We enjoyed small glasses of  the reposado while waiting for the mysterious and elusive “Lety” to join us.

Having sampled the above mentioned tequilas from NOM 1509, I was struck by how each one had its own distinctive taste and aroma.

“Oh, that’s Lety’s doing,” I was told.

“Lety is the maestra tequilera?” I asked, incredulously.

All the men at the table nodded approvingly.

We’ve already encounted several female master distillers like Melly Barajas of

Women In The Tequila Industry: Leticia Aceves Alvarez http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lg

Sino Tequila, or Maribel Garcia Cano of Don Diego Santa, who soar undetected in the Tequila Industry, while opening doors and people’s palates.

The shy and demure Lety is not unlike the other unsung lady heroes.  Here are her responses to our standard handful of questions.

[Editor’s note:  For the convenience of our interviewee and our Spanish speaking audience, this article is in both English and Spanish.]

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TA:  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?)

(¿Cómo describiría sus experiencias como una mujer de alto rango en su posición en una industria dominada principalmente masculina?)

LA:  Participating in the predominately male Tequila Industry, more than one obstacle has been a challenge that has afforded me the chance to bring a distinct approach to my work.

Every time, more women are involved in the Tequila supply chain.  We are making an effort to bring sophistication to this spirit, standardize its methods, and to highlight the artistic marvels that a bottle of tequila implies.

To be a woman in the Tequila Industry represents strength and dedication that sustains years of experience.

Women In The Tequila Industry: Leticia Aceves Alvarez http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lg

(Ser participe de la industria tequilera, donde predominan hombres,  más que un obstáculo ha sido un reto que me ha permitido brindar un enfoque distinto a mi trabajo.  

(Cada vez más mujeres estamos involucradas en la cadena de suministro del Tequila.  Estamos haciendo esfuerzos en sofisticar esta bebida espirituosa, estandarizar sus técnicas y resaltar las maravillas artísticas que implica una botella de Tequila.

(Ser mujer en la industria tequilera representa fortaleza y dedicación, que sustentan años de experiencia.)

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

(¿Cómo han sido capaces de cambiar las cosas dentro de su industria?)

 LA:  Perseverance is definitely a key point in this industry.

Women in Tequila have focused on opening and exploring new segments in the market.  One clear example is our entrance into Asia.

Currently, I am involved in a group of tequileros who jointly export [tequila] into China and surrounding countries.

This predominately female group is comprised of tequila lovers like me who struggle day by day so that more people recognize and value our spirit as a Women In The Tequila Industry: Leticia Aceves Alvarez http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lgmarvel of our country.

(Definitivamente la constancia es un punto clave en esta industria.

(Las mujeres en el Tequila se nos hemos enfocado en abrir y explorar nuevos nichos de mercado. Un claro ejemplo es nuestra incorporación a Asia.  

(Actualmente formo parte de un grupo de tequileros que en conjunto exportamos a china y alrededores.  

(Este grupo predominan mujeres amantes del tequila como yo, que día con día luchamos para que más personas reconozcan y valoren nuestra bebida espirituosa como una maravilla de nuestro país.)

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

 (¿Qué ves como el futuro de las mujeres que trabajan en la industria del Tequila?)

 LA:  Women have always been involved in the history of Tequila.  What has changed is that more women are taking the reins of corporations, and not just in our industry.

More professionals are becoming interested in forming part of the beautiful art of tequila and this [movement] has served to revolutionize and to fine-tune tequila’s perception onto the world.

It’s not just historic [first] families of tequila that are in the industry, but qualified people who are contributing to the solidity of the beverage.

There have been huge efforts to leave behind the image that tequila is just an intoxicating drink, and I see a clear elevation of Tequila before the world.

(Las mujeres siempre hemos estado involucradas en la historia del tequila.  Lo que está cambiando es que más mujeres estamos tomando las riendas de corporativos y no sólo en nuestra industria.

(Más profesionistas  se están interesando por formar parte del bello arte del tequila lo que ha llevado a revolucionar y sofisticar la percepción del tequila ante el mundo.

(Ya no sólo son familias de antaño en la industria sino gente preparada que está aportando una solidificación de la bebida.

(Se han hecho esfuerzos exorbitantes para dejar atrás la imagen de que el tequila es únicamente una bebida embriagante y veo una clara ascendencia del Tequila ante el mundo.)

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

 (¿Qué cosas gustaría cambiar? )

 LA:  I’d like to bear witness to the existence of major education regarding tequila in the marketplace.

That more dinner guests order a snifter of tequila, and that more of us are aware of the respect and history that this beverage entails.

That there would be an aligned strategy to grow as an industry around the world.

Women In The Tequila Industry: Leticia Aceves Alvarez http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lg

(Me gustaría ser testigo de que exista una mayor educación del mercado acerca del tequila.

(Que más comensales ordenen una copa de tequila, que más estemos enterados del respeto e historia que conlleva esta bebida.

(Que exista una estrategia alineada para crecer como industria alrededor del mundo.)

 TA:  Do you approve of how Tequila/Mezcal brands are currently marketing themselves?

(Esta Ud está de acuerdo con la comercialización de marcas de tequilas o mezcal, hoy en dia?)

Women In The Tequila Industry: Leticia Aceves Alvarez http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4LgLA:  I believe it is an error that we’ve, and various brands, have committed in following the leaders of our industry, instead of looking to define a unique personalty and to focus on particular segments.

The principle reasons that this has occurred is because of the lack budgeting for marketing departments, and, on occasion, it is forgotten that these efforts help in the commercial and sales arena to solidly position the brand.

(Creo que un error en que hemos incurrido varías marcas es en seguir a los líderes de nuestra industria en lugar de buscar definir una personalidad única y enfocarnos en nichos particulares.

(Las razones principales que esto ocurre es por falta de presupuesto para departamentos de mercadotecnia y en ocasiones se olvida que estos esfuerzos ayudan al área comercial y ventas, ya que al posicionar la marca la misma se vuelve más solida.)

 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?

 (¿Existe algo que le gustaría decir a las mujeres que pueden estar contemplando entrar y trabajar en la industria del Tequila en una forma u otra?)

LA:  The Tequila Industry is extremely passionate; it envelopes history and tradition.  It’s incredible to see that reflected in a snifter of tequila–all the flavors of Mexico.

To be a woman in the Tequila Industry is a challenge and a responsibility to present our nation before the world.

I invite even more women to not only form a part of the industry, but to be leaders that project Tequila as a beverage that exposes colors, flavors, aromas, and hundreds of years of struggle.

A beverage that deserves respect and celebration.

(La industria del tequila es extremadamente apasionante; te envuelve la historia, tradición.  Es increíble ver reflejada en una copa de tequila todos los sabores de México.

(Ser mujer en la industria del tequila representa un reto y una responsabilidad de presentar a nuestro país ante el mundo.

(Invito a que más mujeres no sólo formen parte de la industria sino sean líderes que proyecten el Tequila como una bebida que expone colores, sabores, olores y esfuerzo de cientos de años.  

(Una bebida que merece respeto y celebración.)

Women In The Tequila Industry: Leticia Aceves Alvarez http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lg

Embajdor Tequila Online

  

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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.

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Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation

[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.]

The Situation

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZSince that morning in early April when a news report in the Chinese press first announced that the Embajador distillery (NOM 1509) had been cited by COFEPRIS (Comisión Federál para la Protección contra Reisgos Sanitarios) and SAT (Servicio de Admistración Tributaria), and shut down for various minor infractions, I’d been anxious to investigate their situation, in-depth.

Without a single citation in over 12 years, multiple improvements in the works to compete effectively in Asia and Russia, and kosher certification, it made no sense to endanger their forward movement and future plans by being seemingly underhanded and distilling tainted juice.

This family-owned distillery has a stellar reputation for producing such Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZexquisite fan favorites like Alma de Agave, Crótalo, Cabresto, along with its highly decorated flagship brand, Embajador.

Things Don’t Add Up

As I expressed in my editorial, Bullying In Tequila, I believed this was clearly a case of government agencies bullying an up-and-coming player poised to enter the burgeoning Chinese and Russian spirits markets, and known to Tequila Industry insiders as a formidable force firmly positioned in the private label sector.

When Andres Garcia, Regional Sales Manager for Embajador Tequila, called to invite me to inspect the day-to-day operations of the Fabrica Santa Rosa, I found their willingness to be transparent refreshing, especially in the wake of such damaging charges.

The “Violations”

Let’s get right down to brass tacks.

According to the initial Chinese report–

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ
New log book and safety signs.

“Mexican health authorities seized over one million liters of tequila on Friday, which belongs to a production company in flagrant breach of health norms.

“All production of tequila was immediately suspended after the investigation found “sanitary conditions far below standards for production, as well as an inability to trace supplies and a lack of legal documentation.”

“The security included seizing 980,399 liters of tequila in tanks or unmarked bottles, 34,677 liters of finished products in labelled boxes mainly from the El Embajador and El General brands, and around 55,000 liters at various stages of the production process.”

In this news release from Mexico

“The second largest seizure of alcohol in three years is carried out.”

“It concerns the second largest securing of illegal inebriating beverages….  In this operation, 1.70MM liters of irregular alcoholic beverages were seized….”

(“Realizan el segundo decomiso más grande de alcohol en tres años 

“Se trata del segundo aseguaramiento de bebidas embriagantes ilegales mas grande….En esta acción…se aseguararon 1.70MM litros de bebidas alcoholicas irregulares…”)

In this incendiary report from El Financiero

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ
New delineation of departments.

“Federal authorities confiscated one million 70 thousand liters of tequila outside the normas in the locality of Atotonilco el Alto, and it concerns the largest securing of irregular alcoholic beverages.

(“Autoridades federales incautaron un millón 70 mil litros de tequila fuera de norma, en la localidad de Atotonilco el Alto, y se trata del aseguramiento más grande de bebidas alcohólicas irregulares.)

[Aforementioned federal authorities] imposed seals of closure and immobilized the product and installations of Tequila Embajador, where work and services were suspended due to deficient sanitary conditions in the production process, lack of traceability of supplies and scarcity of legal documentation.”

(“…impusieron sellos de clausura e inmovilizaron el producto e instalaciones de la empresa Tequila Embajador, donde se suspendieron sus trabajos y servicios por deficientes condiciones sanitarias en procesos de producción, falta de trazabilidad de insumos y carencia de documentación legal.”)

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ
New department signs.

“Security measures applied included the seizure of 980,399 liters of product in bulk inside storage tanks and bottled without labels; 34,676.7 liters of finished product in cases and labeled primarily of the brands El Embajador and El General; as well as 55,000 estimated liters of product in various stages of production, chopped, shredded, fermented and distilled.”

(“Las medidas de seguridad aplicadas, incluyeron el aseguramiento de: 980 mil 399 litros de producto a granel dispuesto en tanques y en botellas sin etiqueta, 34 mil 676.7 litros de producto terminado en cajas y etiquetado principalmente de las marcas El Embajador y El General, así como 55 mil litros estimados de producto en proceso, troceado, molienda, fermentación y destilación.”)

“Sanitary irregularities were also detected such as tanks without protection,

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ
Protection and delineation.

[and] accumulated dirt and grime.  Additionally, there were no physical separations between the fermentation and distillation areas from the rest of the spaces of the distillery.”

(“También se detectaron irregularidades sanitarias, como tanques sin protección, y acumulación de suciedad; además que no había una separación física entre las áreas de fermentación y destilación del resto de los espacios de la empresa.”)

“In addition, there were flies present in the fermentation and distillation zones due to a lack of pest control, evident lack of order and cleanliness and there were no log books registering the carrying out of cleaning and maintenance of equipment.”

(“Además, se detectó la presencia de moscos en zonas de fermentación y destilado, debido al deficiente control de plagas, evidente falta de orden y limpieza en las instalaciones y no se contaba con bitácoras de limpieza actualizadas ni registro de mantenimiento de equipos.”)

And, from this blatant smear campaign–

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ
More coverage and delineation.

“Any person who would want to consume any of the brands of tequilas involved should know that these products were elaborated under dubious sanitary conditions.  For instance, the inspectors found a platform over the reception tanks and one over the fermentation tanks that did not have any protection.

Moreover, there were gutters without protection with an accumulation of grime, evidence of consumed foods in the processing areas and lack of cleanliness in the fermentation area with the presence of non-useful materials including a motorcycle.”

(“Cualquier persona que guste consumir alguna de las marcas de los tequilas involucrados, debe saber que estos productos fueron elaborados en condiciones sanitarias muy dudosas; por ejemplo, los inspectores encontraron una plataforma sobre las tinas de recepción de jugo y uno de los tanques de fermentación, las cuales no tienen protección; además, se encontraron canaletas sin protección y con acumulación de suciedad, evidencia de consumo de alimentos en las áreas de proceso y falta de limpieza en el área de fermentación, con presencia de materiales en desuso, incluyendo una motocicleta.”)

“Also, an open bag was identified with detergent and a bottle containing liquid with the smell of disinfectant over the barrels.  There was lack of maintenance of the walls and a presence of clearings, windows without protection [screens] in different areas.  The distillery had no physical separation between the

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ
Barrels naturally protect against…birds.

fermentation and distillation areas from the rest of the spaces.  It also had no identification and delineation of the areas such that packing material, products, chemicals and bottles were found in the same place.”

(“También identificaron la presencia de una bolsa abierta con detergente y un envase conteniendo un líquido con olor a desinfectante sobre las barricas; hay falta de mantenimiento en paredes y presencia de claros, ventanas sin protección en diferentes áreas; la empresa no cuenta con una separación física entre las áreas de fermentación y destilación del resto de los espacios del lugar, ni tiene identificación y delimitación de áreas, de tal forma que el material de empaque, productos químicos y envases se encontraban en un mismo sitio.”)

And finally, a simple English translation from the original press release by COFEPRIS and SAT by trade magazine, The Spirits Business.

The Rest of The Story

What all these news services failed to mention was that each of the above infractions, except one, was addressed within a couple of hours.

So, why was the lifting of the closure of Fabrica Santa Rosa distillery not met with equal timeliness by these government agencies?

Why allow the escalation of a situation that normally requires only a warning, and malign a distillery’s spotless reputation?

Why did it take almost 90 days to rectify the situation and to restore the Embajador family’s impeccable integrity within the industry?

Two reasons–

Embajador Tequila: Rectifying the Situation http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4iZ

COFEPRIS’ and SAT’s ongoing three year campaign (some call it a smoke screen or a witch hunt) called “Juntos Contra la Ilegalidad” (“Together Against Illegality”), to reduce illegally produced alcoholic beverages on the Mexican market, and…

Paperwork.

***

Click for Part 2, Embajador Tequila:  Business As Usual.

 

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Cabresto Reposado Tequila Review

cabresto, tequila, reposadoCabresto Reposado Tequila

Mike Morales and Alex Perez taste and discuss Cabresto Reposado Tequila, nominating it for the 2014 Brands of Promise Awards.

 

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Cabresto Blanco Tequila Review

Cabresto Blanco

Mike Morales and Alex Perez taste and discuss Cabresto Blanco Tequila, nominating it for the 2014 Brands of Promise Awards.

About Cabresto Tequila

cabresto, tequilaCabresto with one man one man who had the dream of creating a spirited tequila born in the traditional method. Setting the highly ambitious and unique benchmark, Cabresto starts at 2500 elevation in the Tequilera region of Los Altos De Jalisco in the highland region of Arandas ( Jalisco where sun, earth and knowledge yield the finest “pinas” on earth). Through a process of dedicated craftsmanship and 100% blue agave (hand selected for their high sugar yield) each batch is carefully processed to strict code and distilled in limited batches using the “Process Original”. Cabresto Tequila represents the new standard in ultra premium sipping tequila.

Experience and enjoy the truly extraordinary modern spirit that is redefining Ultra Premium Tequila!

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!!