The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila

Bloodshed

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mAOn Jan. 22, 2018, a particularly savvy tequila brand owner announced in a private message to this office:

“Agave prices out of control.  $22/kilo.  Industry getting destroyed!”

Coincidentally, earlier that same day, another brand owner/ambassador admitted to us that the current cost had blown up to $24/kilo.

That savvy brand owner then added to his message–

“…but Cuervo started it.  Bought up a ton of [agave] before their IPO.  Increase balance sheet.  That’s, at least, the word on the street.”

But, shit got REAL for Jose Cuervo when…

Cuervo Cries Wolf

In this El Financiero article dated December 21, 2017, Francisco Beckmann Vidal, owner of Tierra de Agaves and Jose Cuervo, warned of a looming agave shortage.  He…

“…urged agave producers to increase plantings because whether in tons or in number of agaves, the industry requires more of your prime material.  Planting must begin now.  Eyes have to be opened and decisions need to be made.  Only the industry can provoke the necessary changes.”

[“…instó a los productores agaveros a que incrementen los plantíos porque tanto en toneladas o en número de agaves la industria cada vez requiere de más de sus materia prima, “hay que empezar a plantar desde ahorita. Hay que abrir los ojos y tomar decisiones. Solamente la industria es la que va a provocar estos cambios que se necesitan hacer.”]

Like Shaggy said–

It wasn’t me!

 Here’s Your Sign

All the signs of an impending shortage were there.  Major spirits distributors, tequila and even mezcal brands jockeyed for position in the Agave Triple Crown race.

In 2015, Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits, swapped its Bushmills Irish The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mAwhiskey brand for Don Julio, previously owned by José Cuervo.

After Cuervo’s early February 2017 initial public offering, Davos Brands acquired a controlling interest in Master Sommelier Richard Betts’ Sombra Mezcal and Astral Tequila brands, in March.

Then, in early June 2017, spirits and wine behemoth, Pernod Ricard, purchased a significant stake in founder Ron Cooper’s beloved Del Maguey Single Village Mezcals amid uproar from long time fans claiming “sell out.”

Later that June, in a surprising move, Diageo bought Casamigos tequila, co-founded by celebs George Clooney and Rande Gerber, for up to $1 billion.

All this time, Bacardi, lurking like a shark in the water, in January 2018, bared its jaws and swallowed up Patron for a reported $5.1 billion.

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

Pernod Ricard, in an attempt to get the last word in January 2018, shelled out the big bucks to purchase the remaining 16% of Ken Austin’s Avion tequila that it had invested $100 million in back in 2014.

M & A was the name of the game in the spirits distribution sector, too.

Late November 2017 brought the news that distributor Breakthru Beverage was set to combine with Texas based Republic National Distribution Company to match 2016’s mega-merger of Southern Wine and Spirits with Glazer’s, Inc.

Real, or Fake?

Some skeptics still don’t believe that an agave shortage exists.

Unlike the more seasoned, and–dare I say–older sippers, this may be the first time Millennials and Gen Xers have ever experienced a truly severe Agave Crisis.

Others completely ignore the fact declaring an upcoming tequila boom, instead, instigated by the Big Three named above.

Even in this article in the Spirits Business, Vinexpo, the leading wine and spirits trade show, and IWSR (International Wine & Spirits Research) predict that:

“The fastest-growing spirit category in terms of volume will be Tequila, which is predicted to increase by 118% between 2016 and 2021 to 35m cases.”

Seriously?

 Thank You, Captain Obvious

We told you last year this was coming.The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

Weren’t you paying attention?

In the article The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thought we outlined the reasons for the then looming crisis.

Still, you bought ALL the tequila and mezcal you could drink, didn’t you?

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to DISCUS, 17.2 million cases of tequila were sold in 2017.  3.2 million of those cases were in the pricey Super Premium category, alone.

Must have been a good year for some of you.

On the Mexico side of the border, things aren’t so rosy.

Freak Out

According to these articles in Joe  , Telam , and Reuters

“This year [2018], a total of 42 million agave plants were projected to supply 140 registered companies.  However, only 17.7 million of those planted in 2011 are ready to be harvested, the Tequila Regulatory Council and National Tequila Industry Chamber have said.”

That’s assuming producers are using full grown agave.  As explained in the above articles–including our own–2 to 4 year old immature agaves are being sold, as well.

With the use of diffusers by the large producers like Sauza and Bacardi (Cazadores), the age of agave plants used to make tequila is irrelevant.

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

About Those Stolen Agave

For several years, now, growers in Oaxaca had reported that truckloads of stolen (or purchased) espadin used to make mezcal were headed for tequila distilleries in Jalisco.

Now, a reported 15,000 blue agave plants have been hijacked from blue agave growers supplying the Big Boys.  That’s triple the amount reported in 2016.

It is presumed that these pilfered plants were going to los mieleros (Big Pharma) since they pay bigger bucks for blue weber agave.

So, there is some poetic justice during this Agave Crisis.

 The Blame Game

As much as major metropolitan areas would like to believe that they carry this much clout, cities like New York are NOT to blame.

On the other hand, brands like Houston based Pura Vida blames the Big Guys, too.

Austin based Dulce Vida tequila agrees.

And, one more for good measure from this small brand owner via LinkedIn on February 5, 2018:

[“The sad reality for small producers that depend on purchasing ripe agave that results in extraordinary 100% blue agave tequila is that the Large Makers are the ones who have stockpiled huge quantities of premature agave.  But the 4 year old plants don’t yield good tequila.  Moreover, it requires double the amount of prime material [agave] for the production of tequila.  In short, the very same Large Producers have aggravated the problem and devastated the cultivation of blue agave.”]

While we’re pointing fingers, let’s accuse the real culprit of this economic and agricultural mess, shall we?

Greed

In October 2017, we spoke to Master Distiller of G4, Terralta, and Pasote–and agave grower–Felipe Camarena.

Minutes before the VIP Hour of El Cholo’s yearly Tequila Tour began, he briefly outlined to me in simple mathematical terms, how much per kilo he’d require to make a nice, honest living growing agave.

The amount was not unreasonable.  In fact, it was in the single digit range.

By waiting at the last minute, and selling to the highest bidder, Camarena blamed the greed of amateur agave growers for the skyrocketing maguey prices.

How Long?

How long will this agave crisis last?

In January 29, 2018, Master Distiller of Tapatio and Tequila Villa Lobos, Carlos Camarena, gave this gloomy prediction:

What… Me Worry?

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

Not everyone is worried, however.  Pernod isn’t

And neither are George and Rande.  Having pocketed their nearly $1 billion, they’re venturing into mezcal, now.

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

Be afraid–

Be VERY afraid!

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57qNow that the first quarter of 2017 is in the books and we are well into spring and summer margarita season, here’s what were noticing at Tequila Aficionado Media Headquarters.

The Hits Just Keep on Coming!

As we pointed out in The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thought, we are smack in the middle of a shortage with no end in sight.

Yet, here at HQ, since January 2017, we’ve solicited, and been solicited by, no less than 50 brands of tequila, mezcal and sotol for our widely viewed Sipping Off the Cuff© series.

Some are labels that have been around for awhile, or re-launched with extended expressions to their core lines, and presumably, flush with cash from investors (we’ll circle back to this subject a bit later).

But, most are start ups in the agave spirits arena.

At press time, agave prices have skyrocketed from 1.7 Mexican pesos ($0.089) per kilo in 2013 to 10 pesos at the end of 2016, according to this recent article in Barron’s.

Our own sources claim that agave prices in May 2017 have hit a high of 14 pesos per kilo.  During the crisis of the late 1990s, agave prices reached an unprecedented 18 pesos per kilo!Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

The price hike has even taken a bite out of Jose Cuervo’s profits.  They more than made up for it, though, with their successful IPO this past February.

You may ask, “Don’t these new brands know we’re in the midst of another agave crisis?”

Bear in mind that many of these labels have been in the works for at least 3 years or more, well before a shortage was predicted, and well before this happened…

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

The timing of an agave spirit’s launch is, more often than not, dependent on its financial forecasts.

If you’re one of these newcomers, just take a deep breath and jump in.

Don’t forget to send us samples, too!

The Resurgence of the Reposado

I once asked Christopher Zarus, the innovator of the world’s only take home tequila tasting kit, TequilaRack®, why he chose to showcase only small batch, micro-distilled reposados from esteemed tequila making families in his collections.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

He explained that a well made reposado was one of the most difficult tasks in creating a dynamic line of tequilas.  He felt that it could literally make or break a brand.

When rocker Roger Clyne first entered the market with Mexican Moonshine tequila, he insisted on doing so with a reposado, even though he admitted, “…at the time, this was considered commercial suicide.”

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

Traditionally acknowledged as the ideal half-way point between a brilliant blanco and an elegant anejo, the reposado, for at least the past few years, seemed to have been treated by some brands as an afterthought, at best.

Not so in 2017.

Check out the reposado episodes of this season’s Sipping Off The Cuff© to see what we mean.

Especially take note of:  Tequila 512, 4 Copas, Azunia, Amorada, Armero, El Consuelo, Pasote, Alderete and Don Pilar.

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers

Infused tequila is the new black.

But not just any infusions.

These are well crafted tequilas or agave spirits, sometimes laced with exotic spices, and simmering in off-the-charts heat from the Scoville scale.
Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

We first encountered this trend with 2016’s lively Brand Of Promise© Infused Tequila winner, Soltado.  A versatile and balanced anejo injected with Serrano peppers and cinnamon, it blew taste buds away.

With the popularity of pepper infused spirits like Fireball Whisky, and subsequent copycats, it seems only natural that agave spirits companies take notice.

Of the upcoming crop of pepper saturated agave is…

Spider Monkey Agave Spirit (Serrano pepper and ginger); Get Hot Tequila, a reposado imbued with Habanero peppers; and, speaking of Fireball, the man responsible for its immense popularity, Richard Alexander Pomes, presents Ghost Tequila, enlivened by the infamous, India-born ghost pepper.

Just remember that when you’re basking in the endorphins from having your salsa and drinking it, too, that the addition of alcohol on your tongue reactivates the oils inherent in the pepper’s capsaicin.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

It’s like Groundhog Day for your palate!

Millennials are Stealing Your Cocktail Recipes

Cocktail recipe photos are hugely popular on just about any social media platform that they are shared on.  The follower engagement is off the chain, in particular with Millennials.

It’s a well known fact that the prevailing cocktail culture around the world is driving the Spirits Industry.  But, once these concoctions and their ingredients are made public, they are being pilfered by these young people and served to friends and family at their cribs.

It’s apparent that Millennials seek to drink better than their older relatives.  Given that, signature cocktails are still a valuable commodity to agave spirits brands, but not necessarily for bars and restaurants.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

So, you mixologists—carry on.

Millennials are stealing your cocktail recipes!

Tequila has Outgrown Riedel Glassware

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57qIt’s official…

Tequila–and most all agave spirits, for that matter–has outgrown the Riedel Ouverture tequila tasting glass.

Don’t get us wrong.  It’s still a viable tool.  But…

The level of quality craft agave spirits flooding liquor store shelves, and the emphasis on single estate and organic tequilas and mezcals, now demands a better sipping glass in order to enjoy their unique, regional properties.

This fact had not been lost to oak heads.

For several years, whisky and scotch drinkers had opted to use the Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57qGlencairn glasses to not only enjoy anejos and extra anejos, but blancos and reposados, as well.

It can also be argued that the use of inadequate tasting and nosing glasses in the past few years has influenced–and possibly skewed–the results for valuable medals awarded by some of the most respected tasting competitions around the country.  So much so, that the judges’ final decisions are laughable.

To that end, we’re excited to be working with Romeo Hristov, proprietor of Chisholm Trail Craft Glassware, testing glasses produced by Stolzle, Luigi Bormioli, and his own more historically accurate vessel prototypes for tequila and mezcal.

You’ll be seeing a lot of these new glasses throughout the 2017 season of Sipping Off The Cuff©.

Watch for a future Open Bar where we’ll visit with Mr. Hristov, in depth.

Tequila Brands:  It’s a Buyer’s Market Out There

Earlier, we hinted about some dormant tequila brands that have suddenly been revived by wads of money.

It seems that every other day, family-run investment firms contact us at HQ looking for hot tips on where to park their cash that’s burning holes into their conservative, yet very deep, pockets.

We were also recently offered a fee by a well known celebrity to taste test the newest version of his tequila, versus the Usual Suspects.  We gracefully declined.

But it got us thinking.  Whether you’re a megastar or a moneybags…

Why go through all the trouble of launching, or relaunching, a tequila from scratch when there are so many labels out there for sale?

As predicted by Patrón tequila’s Chief Marketing Officer, Lee Applbaum in this  article, the Great Agave Shakeout has begun.

The road to Tequila Nirvana is currently littered with brands that could not sustain the required 5 year threshold of longevity, let alone a 10 year marketing plan.

Many have withered away consumed by mismanagement, overwhelm, lack of distribution support, or simply investment underestimation.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

Instead of going through all the trouble of conceptualizing and heavily funding a whole new agave spirits marque with a least a dozen other investors, why not take a page from Jim Driscoll, owner of Ekeko Wines and Spirits, and importer of Demetrio tequila?

Seek a distressed brand that had something going for it, and that you can make better.

You may find, after some thorough due diligence, that before hitting the skids the brand showed considerable promise and can be purchased—lock, stock, and barrels—for a song.

Or, you may discover that the concept for the juice was designed exclusively for the international Duty Free market, completely escaping the drudgery of the Three Tier System.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

The road to the Kingdom of Agave Heaven won’t be any easier, but at least some of the requisite start up costs could be minimized.

Warning:  The Quality of Your Mass Produced Tequila is about to get Worse

Word on the streets of the Highlands of Jalisco is that the Big Boys have bought up all the 3 year old agave in the region.  Younger plants simply do not contain the minimum amount of agave sugars (measured in brix) required by the normas to make tequila.

As soon as 2 year old agaves turn 3, they are sure to be snatched up by coyotes (agave middlemen).

Coyotes for the Usual Suspects are desperately seeking magueys from reputable growers who are now sitting in the catbird seat, ready to hike agave prices even further.

Those boutique agaveros who are holding 4 and 5 year old plants are poised to make a killing in the agave market in the following few months and years.

Meanwhile, back at The Lab…

Analyzed samples of these mass produced tequilas are being rejected because they reportedly contain too little alcohol from blue weber agave, and too much from added sugars.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

Watch for increased use of diffuser technology to extract maximum agave juices and sugars in order to fulfill worldwide demand, and—

Tequila quality to plummet.

The BIG Business of Kosher Tequila, Part III

[An urgent text message about Kosher tequila from an agave beverage manager at a thriving new bar in New York City, and the resulting questions raised from research into this misunderstood market from all points–tequila and mezcal brand owners, consumers, and rabbinical representatives of the Jewish faith–prompted me to finally discuss the positive, often flawed, and vastly under served kosher tequila and mezcal segments of the market.]

Still confused about the Kosher dietary laws and how it could affect your favorite agave spirits?  Then, check out Part 1.

Interested to learn more about how these agave spirits brands came to be certified kosher?  See Part 2.

If you’re a…

Tequila and Mezcal Consumer–

Arm yourself.

Both KMD and KA-Kosher supply lists of kosher certified alcoholic beverages.  As we mentioned in Part 1, so does the Chicago Rabbinical Council.  In each instance, be aware that when it comes to tequilas and mezcals…

All Lists Are Flawed!

kosher tequilaUnlike the CRT’s NOM Lists that are updated roughly each month, these kosher lists seemed not to have been touched in years.  And of the brands that were listed, more often than not, were now, sadly, extinct.

Upon closer examination of the KA-Kosher list, many of the certified tequilas are brands distributed in Mexico only.  The American kosher consumer is left out in cold (unless you’re on vacation in Mexico during the holidays!).

In another instance, tequila Embajador is listed as kosher.  When contacted, neither the importer nor the owners of the distillery was aware that the brand was certified.  When they contacted KA-Kosher about the discrepancy, a rabbinical coordinator admitted that Embajador’s certification had lapsed, likely years ago, but whose name still appeared on the list.

In KMD’s case, a quick search reveals that many of the popular global brands listed are suspect and known to process tequilas with diffusers.

In light of new industrial processes like diffusers and their use of sulfuric acid in catalyzed hydrolysis of agave, how can these tequilas be kosher–or even organic–for that matter?

We recently reached out to the cRc and confirmed in a phone conversation with a Rabbinical Coordinator that (at press time) it is taking steps to update its list of kosher tequilas, and, hopefully, adding mezcals.

In the meantime…

How Do I Tell If The Tequila Or Mezcal I Purchase

Is Kosher?

Glad you asked.  First, let’s dispel a few “kosher myths.”

Aren’t All Blanco Tequilas Kosher?

At one time, that was the general point of view by kashut authorities, until the use of glycerin became widely known as an approved additive in the tequila normas.

Here is an article on the OU’s (Union of Orthodox Rabbis) stance on “blenders” such as glycerin in the case of alcoholic beverages.

A Word About Barrels

Another rumor going around is that aged tequilas aren’t considered kosher.

Dulce_VidaNot so when you consider that one of the most popular kosher brewers on the planet, Shmaltz Brewing Company, ages all their lines, including their recent 2015 holiday offering,  Chanukah in Kentucky, in used Jim Beam and Heaven Hill barrels.

Dulce Vida’s 5 year Extra Añejo is also kosher, aged in used red wine barrels from Napa Valley.  (And, yes, there are kosher wineries in Napa.  Google it!)

Richard Sorenson, founder of Dulce Vida writes, “The barrels are Rombauer Merlot and Cabernet barrels.  They are gorgeous barrels and all have the Rombauer logo emblazoned in the wood.”

Without going into too much detail, in a phone conversation with the Rabbinical Coordinator for the cRc, he informed that if a particular barrel was first used to house kosher wine, then generally speaking, that barrel could be used in aging spirits.  He also mentioned that there was a way to kosher-ize (referred to as koshered) barrels for aging wines and spirits.

Research shows that some cooking utensils can be boiled or blowtorched to be spiritually cleansed.

In a follow up email with this cRc Rabbinical Coordinator, he wrote:  “Kosherizing a barrel which was used to store wine is a complicated and detailed process.  One method involves thoroughly cleaning the barrel, followed by a series of fresh water rinsings.”

The rabbi cautions, however, that, “Due to the complex nature of this process, it should only be undertaken by a recognized and reputable kosher agency.”

It goes without saying that each instance should be judged by that kosher agency on a case-by-case, or barrel-by-barrel, basis to ensure proper koshered rules were followed.

To learn more about the beliefs behind kosher wines, click here.

Isn’t Pareve Enough?

pareve-370x260-300x212This one’s tricky.

A food or drink item labeled pareve means that it can be used together with either a dairy product or a meat product and will not lead to the mixing of meat and dairy as per Jewish dietary instructions.  If you’ve perused the aforementioned lists above, you’ll see that term used after each brand.

Keep in mind that all agave spirits are fermented products.  Depending on the distillery’s fermentation process, they could be using enzymes and yeast accelerators that could come from animal sources that are prohibited by the Jewish dietary laws, and hense, not pareve.

To investigate pareve further, click here.

So, circling back to your original question–

Kosher Tequila, Or Not Kosher Tequila? 

Given the unreliability of the existing kosher lists in circulation, and the lack of transparency on behalf of multinational corporations that mass produce tequila and mezcal, proceed like any other tequila aficionado and–

Check The Label!

Similar to NOM numbers, and organically certified products, search for the seal of a trusted and well-known kosher certifying agency.  Familiarize yourself with their seals and logos shown in Part 1.

Any reputable agave spirit brand that claims to be kosher will proudly display the kosher seal they qualified for–and paid for the privilege of using–somewhere on the bottle or label.

Bottom line…

Santera_K

If it’s not there, it ain’t kosher.

***

In Part 4, discover why certain tequila and mezcal brands decided to “go Kosher.”

Judging at The Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine

In mid-August of 2014, the organizers of the 6th Annual Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine, which took place on October 11, 2014, graciously asked Tequila Aficionado Media CEO, Mike Morales, to participate as a judge.  Their unique, take-at-home blind tequila tasting competition used the Tequila Matchmaker smartphone application to score and bestow awards.  You can review the results of the tasting competition here.

Take-Home Test

I dreaded tests and pop quizzes in school.  I never did well on them no matter how long I studied.  The only answer for someone like me to improve his grade was to do extra credit work.  Often, that meant the blessing of the occasional take-home test.

The entire text book, notes and other related materials was at my disposal.  In addition, the stress of competing against my smarter classmates was lifted, as well as any pressure about time limits.

Really, it was a license to cheat!  How could I go wrong?

That’s why the concept of the take-home cata made the Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine’s tasting competition so intriguing for me.

 Matchmaker, Matchmaker,

Make Me A Match…

Grover Sanschagrin, co-founder of TasteTequila.com, is the designer of Tequila Matchmaker, the only smartphone application to date that aids tequila

TasteTequila
TasteTequila

aficionados in finding tequilas that are suitable to their taste preferences.  It also allows enthusiasts to rate and grade brands on a sliding numerical scale.

Grover has introduced Tequila Matchmaker in some of the leading and trending tequila bars in the US.  The Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine is the first event to exclusively use the Tequila Matchmaker app for its blind tasting competition.

Grover Sanschagrin of TasteTequila.com.
Grover Sanschagrin of TasteTequila.com.

In this Facebook interview, Grover shares some of his thoughts on the aftermath of the competition.

TA:  So…did the results amaze you?

GS:  Not really.  I wish there were more brands involved so we could get a better comparison.

Last year, when we announced the results, several brands were in the room.  They immediately asked questions about the judges.  This gave me the idea to “test” the judges as a way of giving the brands an idea of who they were dealing with.
So, duplicating a tequila as a way to “judge the judges” was my answer.  A total experiment.  Not totally scientific, but definitely interesting.

TA:  Did they know who the judges were this time around?

GS:  No, we didn’t disclose which judges gave which scores.  Also, all of the judges, except for one, did well.

TA:  Did they know the names of the judges on the roster?
GS:  I believe so.

Also, rating these tequilas from home is a totally different method than rating them with all of the judges in the same room.  Not that any one is better than the other, just

Freddy the Cat judging añejos.
Freddy the Cat judging añejos.

that they are different.

I would actually like to try an experiment where the same judges rate things at home, and then again, together (like the SOM [Spirits of Mexico competition] format) and then see the differences.
Grover continues…
GS:  I also want to experiment with the order of the selection.  We can actually use our app to create a random order for each person, so nobody will have the same [order].
Ready to judge for Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine.
Ready to judge for Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine.

TA:  That would be a cool variable.

GS:  For me at SOM [Grover was a judge at 2014’s contest], palate fatigue is an issue, so it would be interesting to see if tequilas at the end of the line tend to do better.  I am fascinated by blind ratings, so I’m having a blast trying all these new experiments.
TA:  I think [for me] tequilas at the beginning of the line may also suffer from palate “under work.”

GS:  In our blind tasting tour, we found just the opposite.  The tequilas in slots 1 and 2 tended to score higher that 3-6.  No idea why, really – but it was clear in the comparison of the events.

Beginning of the line for blanco category.
Beginning of the line for blanco category.
TA:  Did the time of day also make a difference?
GS:  It was mid afternoon for all of the events.
TA:  So time of day was pretty consistent?
GS:  I know that the SOM guys insist that spirits must be evaluated in the morning, but that seems a little odd to me.  I think the judge needs to be consistent, but should be able to choose when they drink.  I don’t usually drink in the morning. usually. :-).  There’s an element of “real life” that isn’t present when you drink Tapatio 110 at 9am.

TA:  Did the certified catador do better than was expected?

GS:  Nope.

Rant Alert!

Before I go into my pros and cons of rating tequilas using the Tequila Matchmaker app for the Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine, let me get a few pet peeves off my chest.

Judging Competitions–What A Concept!

In all my time studying, analyzing and observing the Tequila Industry, not once have I ever known any tequila enthusiast, purist, newbie, connoisseur, collector or consumer (let alone brand owner and/or importer) to be happy with the results of any spirits judging competition.

Whether it’s the venerable San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the respected Beverage Testing Institute, the famed Spirits of Mexico, or any of the smaller, regional tasting events throughout the country, no one has ever been completely happy or agreed entirely with the outcomes.

The older the judging tournaments are, the more importance their annual medal counts are given by an unsuspecting public who only purchase award winning beers, wines and spirits based on their perceived value, instead of trusting its own taste buds.

Those long running competitions become more expensive to enter, forcing smaller more deserving brands out and leaving the larger, transnational corporations with deeper portfolios and bigger budgets to duke it out.

Accusations of alleged backroom negotiations for awards has also been an issue, of late.

And let’s not forget the most lucrative part of the tasting event–

Licensing

Paying for the rights to use the competition’s branded medals and seals in addition to the entry fees per spirits expression submitted.

Yet, spirits brands in general, and tequila brands in particular, continue to allocate hard-earned marketing dollars toward entering these yearly competitions for the privilege of hanging neck tags from their bottles or affixing stickers onto their labels named for precious metals or gemstones.

Double Vibranium, anyone?

Collecting medals and awards have gone the way of tattoos and piercings–

Everyone has them, and the novelty and mystique have worn off.

At the end of the day, it seems like everyone who participated in the competitions scored some sort of hardware and the rest of us are left shaking our heads in dismay or agreement.

Lastly…

Scoring

Monterey Bay blanco category and glassware.
Monterey Bay blanco category and glassware.

I was once told by a very respected spirits writer that a unified scoring system was good for an event should the organizers decide to hold other branded spirits competitions.

Puh-leez!

Whoever said that a templated numerical  scoring method used to grade different kinds of spirits was appropriate for tequila tastings?  Diffusers aside, tequila itself is so unique, it doesn’t compare with the flavor profiles of all other spirits, so why rate them that way?

How about a rating system that’s good for the juice instead of one that’s good for the show?  (BTW…one already exists.)

Pros And Cons

Pro–scoring on the Tequila Matchmaker app is amazingly simple.

Con–There’s no numerical rating for the tequilas’ appearance on the Tequila Matchmaker app.  Takes the whole sensorial feeling out of tequila tasting.  Only your nose and mouth get to have all the fun.

Pro–Shipping two ounce samples is neat and cost effective for the organizers of the show.

Con–See what happens when minis are compromised.  (Warning:  It’s not pretty.)

I particularly found that my sealed reposado samples were extremely alcohol-y even after sitting at room temperature for a couple of days.

Pro–It’s lovely to take your time judging samples at your leisure.  I agree with

You never know who might stop by to help judge tequila.
You never know who might stop by to help judge tequila.

 

Grover that it saves on palate fatigue, too.

 

Con–I miss the camaraderie of other expert judges and learning from them.  It ups your game like playing one-on-one with LeBron James or batting against Clayton Kershaw.

 

Pro–Depending on my schedule, I chose what time of day to judge my samples.

 

Con–According to the guidelines set forth by the original Mexican Tequila Academy, tastings should begin by 11 AM when a catador’s (tequila taster’s) palate is freshest.  [See also their tequila scoring sheet and criteria.]  This article here explains where this custom began.

 

Pro–I knew which glassware and other tips and tools to use to make me, as a judge, more effective.

 

Con–The lack of uniformity and protocol among the judges could have affected the final results.

 

Pro–It was exciting to use Tequila Matchmaker’s breakthrough scoring system.

 

Con–I can’t, in all honesty, say that I was pleased with the awarded outcomes or my graded performance.

 

See!  What did I tell you?  I hate tests. 

 

Dazed & Diffused: More on the Diffuser in Tequila Production

We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? and in Craft Tequila–WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 2  where we featured our Craft Tequila Gauntlet to help you make better buying decisions when seeking quality craft tequilas.

 Here, Tequila Aficionado Media delves deeper…

What’s Not on The Menu

The Pastry War's stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal., We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating?, diffuser, diffusor, difuser, difusor
The Pastry War’s stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal.

On the wall of The Pastry War, a world renowned mezcalería and restaurant in the heart of Houston, TX, this chalkboard message proudly explains why owners, outspoken agave advocates Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta, staunchly refuse to serve tequilas and mezcals produced with a diffuser.

In their view, it’s a battle between traditional methods of tequila [and mezcal] production which yields “delicious tequila [or mezcal],” versus more cost-conscious methods adopted by distilleries that produce “a shitty version of tequila [or mezcal].”

Let’s look more closely at this cursed contraption.

WTH Is It?

Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary diffuser definition–

“a device for reducing the velocity and increasing the static pressure of a fluid passing through a system.”

Diffuser, by its own definition, denotes watering, stripping, deflecting or softening down the finished product, whether it be light, air, or agua miel, what will eventually be distilled into tequila.

Using only hot water and sulfuric acid to extract up to 98%-99% of the sugars from raw, uncooked agave, the resultant tequila, as described by noted agave lover, Fortaleza tequila brand ambassador and blogger, Khyrs Maxwell, in his detailed instructional post, There May Be Too Much Agave in Your Tequila or Mezcal  tastes like…

“…what I would consider to have a chemical/medicinal taste–sometimes slight, sometimes overbearing flavor profile that always seems to overshadow the beauty of the agave.”  

He further states that it “tastes very much like vodka” and has coined the term “AgaVodka.”

Lastly, Maxwell warns…

“So if you come across a tequila or mezcal made with a difusor, the only way that there can be “notes of cooked agave” is by adding that flavor during the finishing process.  They can add “notes of cooked agave?”  Why, yes.  Yes they can…I’ve seen and smelled the additive.  It does exist.”

Maxwell’s statement above excludes the use of authorized additives to blanco (unaged) tequila, of course.

As of December 2012, such practices have been outlawed by the CRT in its normas (rules and regulations governing the production of tequila).  It remains to be seen how well it will be enforced, however, so your pricey, Fruit Loop scented blanco may still be safe for a year or two until inventories are depleted.

Spanish diffuser manufacturer, Tomsa Destil, offers a closer look at the mega-masher and its process, which seem to go hand-in-hand with column distillation.

The site mentions that they have installed 12 diffusers for use in agave processing, but makes no mention of their clients, nor if sulfuric acid to extract sugars from agave is also needed.

Tomsa Destil diffuser., Diffusor in Tequila
Tomsa Destil diffuser.

The Stigma

While controversy swirls around the use of a diffuser, most educated tequila aficionados understand that it is not illegal to do so.  In fact, its application was accepted by the CRT some time ago.

As we mentioned in item #5 of our Craft Tequila Gauntlet, diffuser use by a distillery is a closely guarded secret even though it is a fairly large piece of machinery to try to hide.  There is a stigma attached to it, with most distilleries that have one completely denying that any of their star brands are processed with it.

While most of the Tequila Industry’s heavy hitters are known to possess diffusers, many also own regular shredders, autoclaves and even stone ovens.  Ask any major brand owner whose tequila is produced at these maquiladoras (large production facilities that churn out juice for contracted brands) whether they are a by-product of a diffuser, and they vehemently deny it.

#AskRuben

Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura, Diffusor in Tequila
Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura.

 

In the Twitter thread attached to The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? it was revealed that Casa Herradura had used a diffuser from 2001-2010.

The historic tequila maker initially implemented the super shredder during the last great agave crisis of the late 90s.  Years later, it was taken to task by an organized group of key concerned mixologists and tequila supporters who refused to use Herradura in their cocktails or to include it in their bar menus due to a drastic change in its original flavor profile and quality.  Herradura finally succumbed and stopped using it for that label.

Vintage Casa Herradura, logo, Diffusor in Tequila

In the following screen captures of a Twitter chat from May 1, 2014, Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura’s Director of International Brand Development, admits that the diffuser is now only used for their Antiguo, El Jimador, and Pepe Lopez brands.

 

Twitter chat #AskRuben.

More Twitter chat. #AskRuben

 

Aceves had previously come clean to spirits writer, Emma Janzen in her article for The Statesman here.

In Khrys Maxwell’s aforementioned blog, he lists tequila producers known to employ diffusers.  Tequila Aficionado also includes this list on every updated NOM List for your convenience.

Nevertheless, one of those distilleries mentioned in Maxwell’s list boldly refuses to hide behind a veil of secrecy–

Destilería Leyros (NOM 1489).

In Defense Of Diffusers

Destilería Leyros, producers of their flagship brand, Tequila Don Fermin and many others, bills itself as a model for modern and efficient tequila making.

It was proudly represented that way even in the wildly popular Spanish language telenovela Destilando Amor, where it stood in for the then fictional Destilería Montalvo.

 

Enrique Legorreta Carranco, one of the owners of Leyros, agreed to answer some of our questions and to try to help dispel the myths and mysteries surrounding the diffuser.

Controversy

“I am aware about the controversy of using difusor [Spanish spelling] in the tequila process.  Here are some key factors and benefits of the process in order to be firm with the press:

“In fact, there is nothing to hide and we are willing to receive tequila bloggers, media or people from Tequila Aficionado in order to know first hand this innovative and ecological process.”

Process

“The difusor extracts the agave juice first of all, followed by the cooking of the agave juice to extract the agave sugars.  This cooked agave juice is called the agua miel.  In traditional process they first cooked the agave followed by the agave juice extraction.  We obviously need to cook the agave juice in order to get its sugars in order to be able to be fermentated (biological process where sugar turns into alcohol).”

Flavor

[We’ll note that Sr. Legorreta took issue with the portrayal of the tastes and essences of tequilas produced with a diffuser as described by some bloggers, believing them to be too subjective.]

“This process gives to the taster a more herbal, clean and citric experience.  Also this process is more efficient and as a result gives a tequila with better standards in methanol, aldehydes and other compounds not desired because at high levels produces hangovers.”

 

Traditional Process vs. Modern Technology

“We respect a lot [the] traditional process.  The only thing we believe is that the consumer has the last word to choose between one tequila flavor from another.
“There are people that prefer the traditional strong flavor from tequila.  Other people are preferring tequilas [that are] more pure, citric with subtle notes of fresh agave like if you are smelling [the] agave and [the] land.”

 

Environment

Reiterating what was demonstrated in the videos above, Sr. Legorreta explains…
“A difusor process uses less than 50% of energy, and less than 60% of water used in traditional processes to produce same quantities of liters.  Additional to this [at the] Leyros Distillery we recycle the bagasse that we get in the last phase of the difusor.  All this with our completely self-sufficient green boiler is fueled with bagasse from our own mill.”

 

About That Stigma…

“About why many distilleries denied they have a difusor, I can guess without knowing a reason from first hand–that is because traditional process with ovens sounds more romantic than the technology of a difusor.”
“In fact, a lot of distilleries focus their marketing efforts around traditional processes.  I guess this is working.  If not, I [suppose] they would be focusing more in the tasting notes of the final product.”
Indeed, Destilería Leyros’ website and videos play on the romance using a smattering of phrases as, “It tastes like countryside, like fire in your blood,” and “Like a passionate kiss, the Taste of Mexico.”

A New Style

In much the same manner as importers, brand owners, and maestro tequileros defend

Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.
Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.

(and advertise in their marketing materials!) the use of additives in their aged tequilas (“finished and polished”), Sr. Legorreta asserts that juice made with a diffuser is simply another style of tequila.

“The essence of tequila is the agave, and both processes distill agave, just in different ways.  There are some people that love traditions [and] there are others that like to innovate and improve things.”
Just as Leyros’ website and videos “invites you to taste and compare, and then let your palate decide which tequila you’d rather raise in a toast,” Sr. Legorreta concludes:
“At the end of the day, or the end of the history, [it] is the consumer [who] chooses their tequila without a bias in the information.”
Some Truths to Consider

The Leyros videos above claim to use machinery as a way to “considerably reduce the risk of injury” to the people on their workforce.  Yet, as Maxwell points out…

“Not only is the difusor a way to pump out product, it also uses a very small labor force.  As more distilleries use the difusor, there will be less jobs available to those, who for hundreds of years,  have built towns and created families by working in the agave distillate industry.  So what happens to the unemployed?  …do they leave for the US to become illegal immigrants?  Or do they work for the narcos?”

At the risk of being redundant, it bears repeating what noted agave ethno-botanist, Ana Valenzuela said about the diffuser here

Shredder.
Shredder.

 

“…to prohibit the use of diffusers (in hydrolysis of agave juices) that takes the “soul” (the flavor of baked agave) out of our native distillates, singular in the world for its complexities of aromas and flavors.”

In conclusion, if current figures are correct, exports of tequila rose 16% to US$568 million in the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period last year.  It is expected that China will import 10 million liters of tequila in the next 5 years.

Where will Mexico find enough agave to serve their thirsty customers?

Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.
Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.

These guys know where.

Turning A Blind Eye

On September 4, 2014, dozens of mezcaleros (mezcal producers) dumped 200 liters of mezcal onto the streets of Oaxaca City in protest for their government’s lack of support against tequileros from Jalisco who are allegedly raiding tons of espadín and other maguey (agave), the prime ingredient in mezcal, to produce tequila.

In the process, say Maestros del Mezcal Tradiciónal del Estado de Oaxaca (a trade association) 15 of the 32 varieties of maguey native to Oaxaca are in danger of becoming extinct.

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.
Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.

Thanks to these transnational maguey marauders, the burgeoning mezcal industry’s days are numbered, it seems.

If indeed a diffuser strips away the agave’s regional characteristics leaving behind a more citric, vodka-like, cookie cutter flavor profile that easily lends itself to clandestine adulteration, over distillation and multiple barrel blendings, then what’s to keep these pirate tequileros from pilfering agave from outside the requisite growing states and using a diffuser to crank out “tequila?”

These days, filling orders to emerging world markets is more important than the blatant disregard for the Denomination of Origin.

Craft Tequila–WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 2

Blurred Lines

Throughout Part 1, we employed the use of more adjectives and descriptors to define, describe and distinguish one booze from another in the same category, as well as to give the illusion that it is actually closer to another booze in the leading categories.

Words like award-winning, artisanal, small-run, limited-production, hand-crafted, and boutique are reused over and over.  So are micro-distilled, limited edition, small batch, small lot, organic (which we’ll cover in-depth in a future article), single village, homespun, authentic, small-lot, prestige, signature, high end and reserve.

They all have real core meanings, but because we see them repeatedly in ads, billboards, packaging, shelf talkers and point of sale (POS) materials, the lines between meaning and true definitions get blurred.

Has anyone actually ever been to Los Camachines, where Gran Centenario is made?
Has anyone actually ever been to Los Camachines, where Gran Centenario is made?]

For instance, the definition of the word premium as defined by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) is actually a pricing term.  To the average consumer, however, it has come to mean quality.  And when consumers’ buying habits change and trade up, it has become known as premiumization.

There’s no chance of spirits marketers discontinuing the use of the Tequila Marketing Myth of borrowing benefits any time soon.  How, then, do we really define and measure a craft tequila?

We’ll show you how in a moment, but let’s get two things straight right here–

Remember Fact #1?  Tequila belongs in Mexico.

Though some American micro-distilleries have attempted to distill small batches of agave spirits, it has proven difficult and labor intensive due to it being produced from a plant that takes years to mature as opposed to grains, hops, and grapes that yield more frequent harvests.

It would be silly to define and measure craft tequila in ways that relate to wine, beer and other spirits created in the United States and abroad.  There may be no boundaries in spirits marketing, but to impose limits on the number of barrels, bottles and cases manufactured and sold by a tequila distillery in order to measure a craft product would have no jurisdiction whatsoever in Mexico.  Secondly–

There Is No Backpedaling

The Beer Wench, Ashley Routson said it best when interviewed for this article:

“No one wants to fault the big guys for being successful–that is not what this argument is about.  My main question is–how big is too big?  And as long as a company stays independently-owned, does that mean it will always be craft?”

Indeed, both the craft beer and spirits segments are growing at such a fast rate, that the Brewer’s Association has changed its definition multiple times.   This has allowed the burgeoning brewers more room to expand.  And as spirits writer, Wayne Curtis, discusses in this article from The Atlantic, the alarming growth rate of small distilleries is having an effect on the quality of the finished craft product due to a shortage of experienced distillers.

As a consequence of this exponential growth, in both the craft beer and craft spirits categories, the process–the art form itself–is getting watered down.

*Rant Alert!*

Let’s face it–

No backpedaling!
No backpedaling!

No one gets into the tequila business to be a failure.  Everyone wants to be on top.  And once you get there, the challenge is to stay on top.  We know how arduous the tequila hero’s journey is.

No one with a business plan ever said, “I’m going to mass produce my lousy tequila and once I’ve flooded the shelves with my swill and lost market share, I’m going to distill a tequila the old fashioned way.”

Don’t pretend to continue to still make your tequila like you have over the past 250 years, either.  You are not that home based family operation still harvesting agaves by mule and macerating piñas with a tahona, any more.  That family’s history was forgotten when the brand was sold.

And just because you build a separate, smaller facility on your distillery property to produce a more labor intensive line (and even petition to do so under another NOM number!) when you have never attempted to do so in the first place, does not make your more expensive line a craft tequila.

Moreover, just because you happen to be a colossal consumer of agave, still being emulated for your unique style of 80’s spirits marketing, and prefer to see things differently, don’t expect the rest of us to swallow your slant.

The Craft Tequila Gauntlet

El Tesoro handmade tequila.
El Tesoro handmade tequila.

Following are some tips and suggestions that may help guide you in making more informed decisions when selecting, defining and measuring a craft tequila.

#1:  NOM list

By Mexican law, every tequila must display a number that corresponds to the legal representative, tequila producer or distillery in which it was produced.  Tracing that number to the CRT’s list of distilleries, you can discover what other brands are manufactured under that specific number, and presumably, in that specific factory.

Logic dictates that the fewer labels a fabrica (factory) produces means more care should be taken with its one or two flagship brands.  Logic also dictates the opposite when you see many different brands appearing under a particular NOM number.

Whether the distillery produces only a few lines, or many contract brands for others, is not necessarily a sign of the tequila’s craftiness or quality, but it’s a start.

You can view and download the most recent NOM lists from our website here.

#2:  Pedigree

Don Felipe Camarena
Don Felipe Camarena

Taking a pointer from panel expert, Chriz Zarus’ now industry classic article, “Change is at Hand for the Tequila Market, Part II,” a craft brand with a good chance of survival in the market will be one that “You, your distillery, and your brand have generations of lineage.”

Meet-the-Maker dinner pairings, industry meetings and on-premise tastings showcasing a craft tequila will more than likely feature the brand owner or the master distiller behind the brand.

In some cases, a well respected Brand Ambassador (not the gal or guy with the tight t-shirt!) will stand in for the owner if there is a scheduling conflict.

Again, this is not a guarantee of craftiness or quality, but most family owned brands will stand behind (or in front) of their tequila with pride.

#3:  Distillery ownership/partnership/co-op

Another tip from Zarus’ treatise that could be useful in determining whether a craft tequila will be successful or not is, “Your company does…own at least a portion of the distillery that produces your product.”

This was successfully accomplished by the owners of Suerte Tequila, one of the few still produced with a tahona (milling stone).  In order to ensure the quality of their tequila and to regulate the brand’s eventual growth, Lance Sokol and Laurence Spiewak purchased the distillery.

Does your craft tequila have some skin in the game?  Most good ones do and will proudly make that information public.

#4:  Agave and land ownership

Similar to #3 above, some craft brands are owned by families with ties to the land and own their own agave.  In some instances, they may or may not own all or a portion of the distillery where they produce their tequila.

In the midst of this current agave shortage, this one asset could make or break a craft brand.  This information should be readily available in POS material, but is also not a guarantee of quality or craftiness.

#5:  Use of a Diffuser

While considered a legitimate tool in tequila production efficiency and has the full blessing of the CRT, it is a dead give away that shortcuts are being taken.

As noted agave ethno-botanist, Ana Valenzuela so succinctly declared in this open letter…

“…prohibir el uso de difusores (hidrólisis de jugos de agave) que les quita “el alma” (el sabor a agave cocido) a nuestros destilados, únicos en el mundo por su complejidad aromatic y de sabores.”

[“…to prohibit the use of diffusers (in hydrolysis of agave juices) that takes the “soul” (the flavor of baked agave) out of our native distillates, singular in the world for its complexities of aromas and flavors.”]

El Tesoro's tahona, still in use.
El Tesoro’s tahona, still in use.

This is also in keeping with Zarus’ definition of preserving the process as the art form or craft outlined in Part 1.

Using a diffuser is a closely guarded secret by most mid-sized to large distilleries and hard to spot.  You can read more about them here.

#6:  Organic

If there are any products that deserve to be described with the aforementioned adjectives that spirits marketers are freely throwing around these days to denote a handcrafted tequila, mezcal, or other agave distillate, they are in the organic segment.

Stringent regulations are required in both farm to distillery, and then from factory to bottle, to be given the designation organic and the permission to use the USDA seal that appears prominently on the labels.

By virtue of being organic, the process is considered much more natural and is inherently small batched.

But, not every brand has the budget to become a certified organic tequila.  In addition, some brands may simply not see the value of being certified as organic, especially since some organic certifying agencies have been looked upon distrustfully in recent years.

Still, it could arguably be the most reliable indicator of a craft agave distillate.

#7:  Transparency

This might be the toughest test of all.

As we mentioned above, many brands prefer to play their cards close to the vest.  By the same token, many family owned brands are fiercely proud of their origins and will gladly tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Is your craft tequila brand willing to tell you their story, or just tell you a story?

Many of the more popular craft tequila brands are helmed by creators who are delightfully flamboyant and outspoken, as well.

 Craft by Any Other Name

As our reader in Part 1 stated, the meaning of craft is “all over the place” and then some.

Spirits marketers using their powers for evil.
Spirits marketers using their powers for evil.

With mixology being the leading trend driving the spirits industry and demand for better ingredients on the rise, this means quality tequila is essential for those creating crafted cocktails (there’s that word again!).

But, with  the invention of the wildly popular michelada cocktail, a margarita (which is the favorite way Americans consume tequila) served with a beer bottle upside down in a margarita glass, and chilled tequila on tap, there will surely be more cross pollination between adult beverage categories.

We’ve already seen this with tequila brands selling their used aging barrels to small brewers to create signature craft beers, as well as tequila aged in barrels bought from other brand named spirits.

This will only lead to even more crossovers between categories caused by inspired spirits marketers, PR firms, uninformed spirits journalists, and multinational corporations.  Borrowing benefits has been the norm for some time.

There will always be those who deliberately hide the truth or feed false information to the media and practice opacity.  We can’t control what they will say and do.

The key is to become educated and informed about a tequila’s recipe and process.  Using the Craft Tequila Gauntlet above can certainly help in making the right choices.

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The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating?

The Diffusor in a Recent Twitter Conversation:

A thought provoking question was asked via Twitter about the use of diffusors in tequila production.

For the uninitiated, diffusors are used to efficiently extract the starches from harvested agave piñas that are subsequently cooked and distilled to make mass produced tequila.  To purists, its use is blasphemy because it strips the tequila of character and results in something akin to vodka.

Furthermore, its use is usually kept under wraps by those distilleries who would prefer to let their marketing departments lead you to believe that they still produce tequila the “old fashioned way” without shortcuts.

Case in point is this following Twitter conversation:

 

Click on any of the links within the Twitter stream to follow, favorite, retweet, quote or respond.

More Questions Than Answers

Now, not only are we left to wonder who’s zooming who on whether or not Herradura uses a diffusor, but we feel the need to question the reasons for using a diffusor, who has been known to use it in the past and who may still be using it to eek out the most juice from their agave.

Follow the link below to one of the most thorough crash courses on tequila diffusor technology.

 

muchoagave.com, diffusor, tequila, tequila aficionado

 

 

Link: http://www.muchoagave.com/the-difusor—there-may-be-too-much-agave-in-your-tequila-or-mezcal.html

And this link on revealing tequila trends written in 2012 by freelance spirits writer, Emma Janzen.

 

Additional discussions on Linkedin proved informative:

  • International Business Manager at Jorge Salles Cuervo y Sucesores S.A. de C.V:

    Eventhough I do not like that Diffusers are used, I think that using it is not cheating. It is a new way to produce Tequila, that is approved by law and obviously will do no harm to whom may drik it. Any way the consumer that drink Tequila that has been produced with a Diffuser are aiming at a Low Cost and Low Quality product that cannot be compared to one that has been elaborated in a traditional method, which will give a much better flavour and quality.

  • Owner/CEO at Corazon Azul Spirits, LLC.

    Jorge Antonio Salles is right on his answer, the use of Diffusers in the production of tequila will just yield a lower quality product in very large quantities but it is not cheating, although they are not largely used in the industry, only the big producers due to the cost and operation are able to buy them and put them into production, however they do also produce a product called innulina which is the sugar extracted from the Agave pine and recent studies claim this product as a weight loosing agent and reducer of sugar levels in the human system thus reducing the chances of developing diabetes.

  • Distilled Spirits Head Dragon and Broker / Marketer / Sipper of Artisanal Spirits

    Nice bust on Herradura. LOL! 🙂

  • Tequilero at http://tequilaconnection.com

    While visiting Herradura in 2012, I asked the question. I believe the reply was yes, they were using the diffuser to produce their Pepe Lopez brand. They export a lot of it.

  • Chief Executive Officer at Tequila Aficionado Media

    They have also been known to use it on El Jimador, and have since stopped using it on Herradura.

    Some purists still believe they do, however, when old Herradura is compared to modern (Brown-Forman) Herradura.

  • Gerente General en Luna Spirits SA de CV

    In my opinion when the distillers used diffusers they are Cheating on self, why? One thing is the letter of the law and other is the spirits of the law.
    When the distillers use a difusser, they accomplish the letter of the law despite to be an approved method to distill, but its only proposal is obtain more quantity of alcohol, the quality is secondary and this kind of producer need to “adjust” the flavor with external agents (advocantes), approved method too, but in my opinion, they are not part of the natural process.
    When the distillers use a pot distill, they do it as flavor quest, to obtain the best profile possible with the natural components of the fermented agave juice, adjusting distill conditions, they follow the spirit of the law. And the quality is their first goal.
    In my opinion the secret to do a real tequila is: Work in the process be careful and responsible, like you are the owner of the distillery and obtain a product with a exceptional quality, assuming you the final consumer role.

  • Chief Executive Officer at Tequila Aficionado Media

    Beautifully said, Don Modesto!

 
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