The Tequila 3 Ring Circus

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Nm

The End of an Era

Inspired by this poignant and heartfelt Facebook post by Tom Nall, the gregarious co-founder of Republic Tequila, and Empresario LLC:

 The Tequila 3 Ring Circus is in Town

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4NmA new circus has replaced “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Imagine the spotlighted and off kilter Ringmaster who, in a booming Michael Buffer-eske voice announces–

Ladies and gentlemen, turn your attention to Ring Number One!”

Unless, you’ve been living under a rock since January 2017 (we wouldn’t blame you if you are!), you’ve no doubt heard of POTUS’ proposed 20% import tax on Mexican goods to fund the building of “The Great Border Wall” with Mexico to prevent illegal immigration.

Further, POTUS has promised that Mexico itself would pay for the wall.

Anyone with an iota of understanding of economics knows that this tariff would simply be passed onto consumers by the manufacturers of these goods.

And that includes tequila producers and mezcaleros.

According to this recent article, the collateral damage to other peripheral industries would be devastating.

Moreover, the archaic Three Tier System that was established in the United States after Prohibition, and on which alcohol distribution is based, demands that each level of the tier also pass along this 20% tax.

“Clowns are the pegs on which the circus is hung,” P.T. Barnum

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Nm

Once POTUS bullied Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in late January 2017 into cancelling his visit to the US if Mexico refused to pay for the 2,000 mile border wall, his strategy backfired.

Each leader took the war to Twitter.

While POTUS berated the Mexican President and screamed about the lopsidedness of the NAFTA agreement, Peña Nieto vehemently argued that Mexico would never pay for such a wall and managed to rally a divided country to his side.

It almost made us nostalgic to watch reruns of Destilando Amor, again.

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Nm

Meanwhile, under the Big Top, the Center Ring was where everyone clamored to sit near because only the most prestigious routines happened inside.

Ladies and gentlemen, we direct you to the Center Ring!”

In early February, an interesting thing happened in court.  A precedential ruling was handed down in the case Luxco, Inc. v. Consejo Regulador del Tequila, A.C.

The decision allowed the CRT (Tequila’s governing body in Mexico) to register the word TEQUILA as a certification mark and control its use.

Wait!  What?

Isn’t that the CRT’s job, anyway?

What changed?

The CRT aggressively protects Tequila like Disney or Levi’s conserve their trademarks.

When you read this article explaining the timeline and judgment of the case, you’re amazed at the depth of Luxco’s arrogance to file the lawsuit in the first place and to completely ignore Tequila’s geographic indication.

Surprising, too, since Luxco imports and distributes El Mayor tequila, and re-bottles Exotico and Juarez tequilas that are certified by the CRT as authentic, all at Destiladora González González (NOM 1143).

Makes you shake your head and wonder what Luxco was thinking.

 Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on Ring Number Two!”

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4NmRock & Roll Hall of Famer Sammy Hagar has found a way around his alleged Cabo Wabo Tequila non-compete clause, and recruited his friend and fellow rock star, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 to develop–

Santo Mezquila?

According to its marketing copy, it’s a blend of 100 percent blue agave and espadín agave to “create a smooth and rich tequila flavor with the sweet and smoky taste of mezcal.”

But, what is it?

It’s not completely tequila, even though the 100% blue agave tequila portion is being distilled at Sammy’s original maquiladora, El Viejito (NOM 1107).

It is still unknown, however, at which palenque the mezcal portion is being distilled, and whether it comes from an industrial producer or not.

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Nm

One thing for sure, the label will NOT have a NOM number on it.

The Shell Game

As an adult, you realize now that the three ring circus was nothing more than an elaborate con.  An enormous shell game dressed up in glittering sequined costumes and face paint to keep you guessing where the action would take place next.

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Nm

The thrills and chills of trapeze artists, lion tamers, high wire stunts, acrobats, jugglers and clowns performing all at once.

Slight of hand and misdirection at its very best.

A View From the Cheap Seats

Unlike today’s stadiums and auditoriums, there was always a bad seat in the house underneath the Big Top, and chances were, you were sitting in it.

There was always a feeling of missing something–a triple somersault, or dancing stallions, or roaring big cats jumping through flaming hoops.

To keep track of the drama from one ring to another, you craned your neck, unless…

You sat in the cheap seats, high above in the nosebleed section.

 Ladies and gentlemen, back to Ring Number One!”

At first, there was some question as to whether tequila and mezcal would fall under the proposed tariff.

Being the largest consumer of tequila in the world, America’s agave lovers were hoping that their favorite spirits would be spared.

Since 100% de agave tequila, and other agave spirits with an appellation of origin, can only be made in Mexico, it seems that the additional tax is almost a certainty.

Newsflash!

We knew the price of tequila was going up, anyway.

We covered this in The Agave Shortage of 2017 is Worse Than We Thought.

Due to an unexpected snowstorm in Arandas in March 2016 that damaged agave crops; subsequent substantial contracts with medium sized maquiladoras (distilleries that produce tequila for various other brands) by transnational corporations tying up enormous quantities of tequila to be bottled under their labels; and aggressive competition for ripe agave by los mieleros (pharmaceutical companies), tequila prices were scaling up.

Whether Mexican spirits are affected by a tariff or not, or due to the scarcity of blue agave, look for prices to increase across the board.

 Ladies and gentlemen, let’s return to Ring Number Two!”

Speaking of the blue agave shortage…The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Nm

Accusations persist that truckloads of espadin agave, generally used to make mezcal, are still being sent by the truckload from Oaxaca to Jalisco headed for tequila distilleries to fulfill pending orders.

Rather than hide this clandestine fact any longer, Sammy and friends have perhaps decided to take the practice public and spin it into Santo Mezquila.

As a result, long time mezcaleros like Doug French of legacy brand Scorpion, have taken to distilling whiskies from heirloom corn to ride out the storm of the espadin shortage.

Also, to conserve wild agave species, as well as to ensure future supplies for his wildly popular mezcal expressions, Doug has planted small plots of agave instead of trying to compete with deeper celebrity pockets.

“To the Center Ring for the Grand Finale!”

While we still scratch our heads about the Luxco court decision, and if, in fact, POTUS does levy a 20% tax on all Mexican imports, including Mexican beer and spirits, here’s a few possible scenarios to consider.

The Human Cannonball

If the above cited article is correct, beer and tequila companies are using NAFTA only 8% of the time, and tequila comes in free for all World Trade Organization (WTO) members, anyway.

The proposed tariff would, in essence, tear up NAFTA, regardless of whether POTUS decides to renegotiate it or not, and fire a message across to Mexico that he’s not kidding around.  But…

Mexican President Peña Nieto has an ace up his sleeve.

More Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4NmRemember this flash from the past from 2003?

POTUS’ blatant disdain for Mexicans could lead to the CRT and Mexico retaliating by requiring that all tequila shipped in bulk to the United States be bottled in Mexico to insure the quality of the juice.

The consequences of this move, as described in the above cited DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the United States) press release could be cataclysmic, particularly for those bottling plants in the Southern US.

Surely, this tactic would be fully endorsed by former Mexican President, Vicente Fox, who has no love loss with POTUS, and under whose term the ban was originally proposed.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Enraged, POTUS might completely disregard Appellations of Origin, in general, and not just Mexico’s.

He could allow micro and craft distillers across the country to make American tequila, mezcal, sotol, champagne, Bordeaux, and anything else that is protected by geographic indicators, triggering international incidents.

Pernod Ricard, maker of Avión and Olmeca Altos tequila, has already expressed its concern about this possibility.

51-49% cognac, anyone?

Don’t look now.  It’s already happening.

Products like Three Wells from Tucson, Arizona, and the controversial Besado

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Nm

calling itself “tequila” are already capturing the public’s attention, and commanding shelf space.

And, for the second or third time (we’ve lost count), South Africa is throwing its hat in the ring with its version of “tequila.”

Here’s a thought:

Maybe THIS is what Luxco was going for, after all?

This Way to the Egress

The way we see it, the CRT will have its hands full policing impostors on this side of the wall and abroad.  But…

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Nm

As Master Marketer, and P.T. Barnum expert, Joe Vitale says, “people will spend their last dime to be entertained,” and that includes their favorite agave spirits.

The Tequila 3 Ring Circus http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Nm

By the way, P.T. Barnum never said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  Instead, he professed that, “There’s a customer born every minute.”

Be an informed customer.

Demand authenticity and transparency from your favorite agave spirit producer.

Don’t be a sucker.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pSI’ve finally gotten around to binge watching Mad Men on Netflix.

In case you haven’t joined the Streaming Generation, or lived without cable TV for awhile, Mad Men is a series set in the 1960’s about a fictional ad agency called Sterling Cooper based in New York City’s famed Madison Avenue.

[Editor’s note: I still can’t believe I was born during the Eisenhower administration!]

Tequila marketing being my thing, naturally, I’m drawn to the product placement of distilled spirits on the historically accurate show.

Along with adverts concocted by admen for cigarettes, bras, and washing

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Vintage Cuervo ad

machine manufacturers, spirits companies like Seagram’s, Jack Daniels, and Jose Cuervo were also a part of the advertising renaissance, and not just on American soil.  These early Behemoths of Booze also took the fight offshore.

And nobody can tell you more about those challenges better than José Zevada.

The Mad Man of The Caribbean

Jose “Pepe” Zevada and the story of the Z Tequila Brand from Z Tequila on Vimeo.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Iron Cactus menu.

I finally met the charismatic Pepe Zevada, the maker of Pepe Z Tequila, accompanied by Glynn Bloomquist, (CEO and Chairman), and Guy England (South Texas Market Manager), of Empresario LLC, the first Texas company to create, brand, distill, import, and market spirits.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Fernando Lamas

With the elegance and charm suggestive of silver screen Latino Hollywood hunks like Ricardo Montalbán or Fernando Lamas, and peppered with jokes and anecdotes of the “glory days,” you get the sense that you’re reliving spirits industry history, Mad Men style.

Over a delicious lunch at the Iron Cactus Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar on San Antonio’s renowned Riverwalk, Pepe regaled us with episodes of his life as the vice president of Brown-Forman in Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean.  During that time, he traveled to 106 countries (Pepe speaks 5 or 6 languages fluently) introducing Jack Daniels to those parts of the world.

After 30 years with Brown-Forman, he went on to work as vice president for the classic spirits distiller Hiram Walker (Sauza, Kahlúa, Courvasier, Beefeater), until the merger of Allied Domecq.

To Make a Long Story Short

After persistent encouragement from friends in Mexico, Pepe Z Tequila was Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pSborn shortly after José retired from 35 years in the liquor industry.

But, in the tradition of the three generations of Sauzas, Don Julio González, José Cuervo and Don Eduardo Orendáin, Pepe was determined to only put his name on a quality tequila.

To create a batch of Pepe Z takes over three weeks.  He calls the blanco tequila the “mother” of the line, and claims that the selected agave is the key to a sterling product.

Pepe Z Tequila uses only lightly toasted virgin American Oak barrels (not charred) for its reposado and añejo expressions, and it is one of the lowest in methanol after distillation.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Pepe, Guy and Glynn of Empresario.

These time tested techniques have not only achieved an authentic, “old world” flavor profile, but it has also garnered Pepe Z some serious hardware in the form of medals and awards.

 Flavor, Friendship and Family

Raised in Mexico of Spanish parents, José (Pepe is a common nickname for Josés) was brought up with strict moral values that have guided him throughout his life.

In his words, “I don’t do business without being friends, first.”  He asserts, “The liquor business is a people business, not a laptop business.”

In the era dominated by contracted brands with glamorous images and no backstory, Zevada prefers to take a page from those legendary patriarchs of tequila and make every effort to meet and greet each of his customers, personally.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Pepe Zevada and Mike Morales.

Part of the brand’s strategy is to nurture its relationship with its hometown of Austin, and then to solidify its embrace on the rest of Texas before conquering other states.  This tactic has worked wonders as evidenced by the glowing testimonials given by his customers.

While his clients enthusiastically preserve their friendship with Pepe, Zevada gratefully acknowledges that, “My customers are part of the Z family.”

And, in a time where spirits are judged on perceived value, Pepe demands that his tequilas remain affordable, believing that luxury shouldn’t be so hard to come by.

Distinguished flavor, devoted friendship and defined family values is the method to Pepe Zevada’s effective–and infectious–“madness.”

Tequila Adventures at The Texas Restaurant Association Market Place

[On June 28 and 29, 2015, San Antonio-based Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to participate with Embajador Tequila at the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place in Dallas.]

Texas Restaurant Association Market Place

When the call came from Andres Garcia, Embajador Tequila’s sales manager, to accompany him to the state’s largest tradeshow at the Texas Restaurant Association in Dallas, we jumped at the chance for another road trip.

The Texas Restaurant Association serves, educates and supports the restaurant 0628150946bindustry in Texas.  Alternating trade shows between Houston and Dallas, this year’s event was held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center next to the luxurious Omni Hotel in the heart of downtown Dallas.

Embajador would be participating in conjunction with ProMexico, a government entity that promotes Mexican companies in order to contribute to its economic and social development and strengthens the country’s image as a strategic global business partner.

Witness the brief ribbon cutting ceremony of the ProMexico section of the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place on June 28, 2015 in Dallas.

Big D

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Aside from classic travel slogans (“We do things bigger in Texas,” and “It’s like a whole other country”), my only exposure to the city of Dallas was like everybody else’s who didn’t hail from Texas–the beloved Dallas TV show.

0629150925a~2Overlooking the sweeping downtown skyline from the window of our room on the 19th floor of the Omni Hotel, you could almost hear the show’s theme song.  The Ewing saga kept us glued to the set every Friday night.

The bigness of the city was certainly reflected in the size and scope of the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place.

 The Highlights

Inside the section reserved for venders involved with ProMexico, Embajador was awarded a commanding corner booth that Andres decorated with bottles of his tequila.

Resembling a duty free perfume counter at an international airport, Embajador wowed fellow venders and attendees for the two straight days of the Market Place.

Above, Andres Garcia samples Embajador Tequila to attendees at the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place.

Hectic as most popular trade shows are, we did manage to check out a few of the 0629151507dozens of participating businesses and products.  Among other venders at the Market Place were…

Texas Specialty Beverage–carrying an array of products like Tropics Natural Infusions, a 100% natural fruit infusions with a slew of tempting flavors as wild as 4 Berry and Ice Cream.  Catering to specialty foodservice for premium cocktails and smoothies, as well as culinary and savory applications, they even concocted a signature margarita using Embajador reposado.

Zodiac Vodka–an American-made craft potato vodka. Produced from farm to bottle using 100% locally sourced ingredients, based in Idaho (of course!).

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New Mexico Green Chile Company–a family owned company of brokers and distributors of the state’s prime crop (and a personal favorite of mine!), Hatch green chile, direct to distributors and restaurants throughout Texas.

Every product or service one could think of, from coffee service to professional barbecue grills, was featured in the Market Place.  Similar to the Sabor Latino Food Show that we had attended in California earlier this spring, the organizers also provided a separate location for all Texas-based spirits that participated in the event.

0629151104aIt was no surprise to run into Empresario, a merged entity made up of Austin-based liquor companies who aim to give global distillers like Brown-Forman a run for their money.  Among the partners are Pepe Z and Republic tequilas.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home 

Rather than make the long drive home from Dallas to San Antonio in rush hour traffic, Andres Garcia and I decided to visit one of the city’s favorite places for tacos and tequila–Tacos And Tequila!

Earlier in the day, several members of the chain’s management and 0629151912ownership had stopped by Embajador’s booth seeking new tequilas and mezcals to add to their already extensive selection.  We decided to return the favor and visit the Routh Street location for dinner.

Tableside Guacamole

Emphasizing fresh ingredients in all their menu items at Tacos And Tequila, we were treated to tableside guacamole.

Freshness Philosophy

Manager Zak Baron explains the chain’s freshness philosophy.

What’s Up With the Rebar?

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Tacos and Tequila has a unique way of expanding their bar and displaying even more agave spirits.  Zak explains…

The Secret to A Successful Menu

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Pinning down the secret to Tacos and Tequilas’ agave forward menu.

One Thing

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Zak and bartender Nadine reveal the one thing you should know about Tacos and Tequila.

 Into The Sunset

All in all, a more than worthy trade show in the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place, topped off with a memorable celebratory dinner at Tacos And Tequila–

Dallas really does do things bigger and better!