Most of the requests we receive from tequila brand owners and importers here at Tequila Aficionado Media are for our current ad rates and special promotions.
Their goal is to achieve maximum coverage over several of our powerful social media networks in order to gain worldwide exposure for their agave spirits, whether it’s tequila, mezcal, sotol, raicilla or bacanora.
It’s not often that we’re confronted with a reverse situation, however.
In a rare turn of events, one particular tequila brand owner has asked us to help peddle one of the most exclusive tequilas we’ve ever encountered.
Exclusivity Breeds Demand
Following the path of one of the infamous co-creators of Patrón tequila, and brazenly emulated by such standard brands like Partida, the Black Swan of Tequilas has it all and more.
Adorned with a wearable engraved symbol, this beveled sleek and sexy bottle is crowned with a unique and patented locking cap.
Extensively photographed by a Grammy award winning art director, its image exudes elegance, naughtiness, high fashion and luxury all at once.
This platinum blanco tequila comes equipped with a cult following among the elite. Sipped and lauded by a who’s-who of economic, political, financial, and international leaders and celebrities.
Hell, it even has its own sultry theme song!
A statistical anomaly in the spirits industry, every minute detail was carefully crafted and painstakingly devised to entice the global traveler.
[Between seminars during the Fourth Annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to the Ambhar Tequila Relaxation Lounge inside the historic Sheraton Gunter Hotel where we finally sampled each expression of this elusive brand with a jaded past.
The following day, we caught up with the new Ambhar CEO, Jaime Celorio, at the acclaimed Bohanan’s Restaurant while the staff prepared for the busy dinner shift.]
The Deceptive Dragonfly
In the spirits realm, and in particular, the tequila segment, brands come and go for a variety of reasons–
Either the juice is not up to par, or the ineptitude of the brand owners or importers causes a rift between them, or the marketing is all wrong. You name it, it happens.
Every once in a while, a brand gets lucky and all the elements click and a star is born.
Partida’s Gary Shansby, a self-proclaimed student of one of Patrón‘s founders, Martin Crowley, once declared that a tequila brand needed three things to be successful–
Good juice, a pretty bottle, and a symbol with a story.
Ambhar appeared to have all three.
On the other hand, a tequila label could experience the worst
case scenario, but for some reason, it just doesn’t go away.
The latter may be the perfect example of what happened to Ambhar tequila.
All That Glitters…
Launched in 2009, Ambhar was originally based in Austin, Texas, but made its big splash on the Las Vegas Strip.
Owing to key friendships among the principals, Ambhar became a part of the Tropicana Hotel’s facelift in 2010 and established the Ambhar Lounge.
More key relationships allowed the brand to have a very visible presence, especially among the MGM properties. Ambhar soon became Las Vegas’ go-to tequila for many events including several outdoor pool parties during the warmer months.
Then, things began to unravel.
After unbridled spending, Ambhar accrued a rumored debt of up to $2 million. Another round of funding gave it a much needed infusion of $2.7 million from investors in 2011, but still, rumblings of unpaid bills and payrolls persisted.
To make matters worse, a series of ho-hum reviews, including this scathing blog by the OC Weekly, made Ambhar the butt of jokes among the tequila cognoscente who took particular issue with the label’s claims of being distilled five times.
It seemed that the powers behind Ambhar at that time had been blinded by the glitz and glam of Las Vegas, and paid a hefty price.
Saving A Broken Brand
Coming from a solid financial background, Jaime Celerio, CEO of the newly formed Ambhar Global Spirits, LLC., explains what attracted him to purchase the troubled label in 2013.
Here, Jaime explains the dilemmas of taking over a broken brand and what is being done now to revive it.
Further, he illustrates the problems in dealing with the Nevada market, and which states Ambhar will target, instead.
Overhauling the former sales and marketing division, Jaime Celorio has surrounded himself with both a young, enthusiastic crew along with some premier seasoned veterans to reestablish a foothold in Ambhar’s home state of Texas.
Damage control, and distancing itself from the past, also requires making some improvements to the packaging.
No tinkering will be done to the substantial and elegant bottle, but the corks will be changed from real to synthetic, and the stoppers, as well as the wearable dragonfly charm around the bottlenecks, will be made of a much lighter alloy.
To continue to win back customer loyalty and regain goodwill,
Celorio insists on concentrating on Ambhar’s strong points by demanding complete honesty and transparency on the website, subsequent point of sales (POS) materials, and from his sales team.
The More Things Change
When we met with the Ambhar Texas unit, they admitted that Jaime Celorio felt the brand itself would not have survived its tumultuous circumstances had the juice not been favorable in the first place.
Celorio next discloses the reason why Ambhar’s flavor profile, especially that of its añejo, remains intact even though it’s more labor intensive than the reposado expression.
In this snippet, Celorio recounts the improvements since rebooting the brand, and its focus for the future which includes sales in Mexico and exporting to China.
Here, Celorio discusses the focus on the dragonfly logo and what it means in China.
It’s Not All About Tequila
Like a good portfolio manager, Jaime Celorio has diversified by establishing a sister company to compete in the vodka sector of the spirits market.
The Texas Vodka Trail
In this clip, Celorio reveals plans for Cinco Vodka’s distillery based in San Antonio, Texas.
Cinco Vodka–Imported All the Way From Texas
Jaime further reviews plans for the Texas Vodka Trail Tour and its similarities to tequila distillery tours in Mexico in aiding to educate consumers.
In this portion, Celorio considers how competitive the vodka market is in Mexico, and where you can find Cinco Vodka.
Jaime Celorio, gives his explanation as to why he chose to sell tequila in the first place.
Same Old Friend, Whole New Character
Described as his “elevator pitch,” Jaime Celorio, gives us the one thing he wants people to know about Ambhar, and shares his vision for its future.
Whether in the US, Mexico, or even China, look for the recalibrated Ambhar tequila to continue to make splashes, but in a much more precise, targeted and cost effective way.
Described as a “deeply personal business narrative,” the story centers around the development from the ground up of Patrón tequila, a “brand that single-handedly changed the face of the liquor industry,” by its co-founder, Martin Crowley, and as told by his then young and lively life partner, Ilana Edelstein.
Tequila is by far my spirit of choice. I’ve loved it for decades, and I still love learning by tasting more tequilas and by researching its fascinating history. That’s why when the offer to preview Ilana Edelstein’s new book, The Patron Way, came across my desk, I jumped at the opportunity.
I wasn’t fooled by the above description, however. In fact, I’m not even a fan of Patron Tequila.
Drinking it is an unsettling experience for me, though I do understand the big batch Patron Tequila available today is a different product than the one the partners Martin Crowley and Jon Paul DeJoria fell in love with years ago. I simply wanted to learn about the early days of one of the biggest brands ever.
A Lifestyle Business
Yes, business is a key player in this story. At a time when the term “Lifestyle Business” had yet to be coined, Patron was just that. Ilana Edelstein and Martin Crowley, along with J.P. and Eloise DeJoria, lived that lifestyle and created the Patron brand around it.
The DeJorias had money and plenty of Hollywood connections. Martin Crowley had hustle and Ilana had an instinctive, albeit racy, style. The combination was magic.
Great juice, sexy presentation of the distinctive bottle with the green ribbon, and even sexier presenters in a time when using gorgeous women to promote liquor was a novel idea.
Today, products and celebrities are branded intentionally and strategically. By contrast, the Patron brand grew organically through the millionaire lifestyle lived by J.P. and his gorgeous wife, Eloise, and guided by the hustle and determination of the rough-around-the edges Martin Crowley and his bombshell lover, Ilana Edelstein, who softened his brash approach to business.
Having a background in branding and marketing, I understood all that. I’m a novelist with a degree in business who pays her rent with marketing work.
It made perfect sense – top end lifestyle and top shelf tequila. But, what captivated me was the love story.
The Patron Way is the tragic story of a thirteen-year love affair between Martin Crowley and Ilana Edelstein that ended when ego, greed, and lawyers got in the way.
Ilana was making a great living as a financial advisor to school teachers. When Martin asked her to give it all up and work with him full-time on Patron, she didn’t hesitate to accept. He didn’t offer her shares, a paycheck or a wedding ring, only the opportunity to continue their love affair living the glamorous lifestyle they both enjoyed.
She was madly in love with him and, by all accounts, he with her. What more could two lovers want than a business they could build together? Why wouldn’t she accept?
It all went well for a loving couple that seemed to complement each other perfectly. A beautiful home, parties, A-list social circles, yachts and island vacations. Until Patron became so in-demand that it caught the attention of Big Liquor.
The book blurb describes it as an “astonishingly competitive and sometimes cutthroat industry.” Cutthroat it was.
Lawyers swooped in and worked on Martin’s insecurities. His health was failing due to advanced heart disease and he and Ilana weren’t married. It doesn’t take a genius to see how lawyers could play that to their advantage.
What if she broke up with him and filed a palimony lawsuit? If he’d known the history of Marvin vs. Marvin, Martin Crowley wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but lawyers can make persuasive arguments.
What if she tried to take half of his half of the company? What if she sued for unpaid wages? Did she have a contract? Did they have an agreement?
Martin follows the questionable advice of lawyers, enacted by an even more questionable court system. This is where the glitter fades and the story turns ugly.
He breaks up with the woman he loves, the woman he can’t bear to sleep without at night. Hearts break. There is a long drawn out trial, her reputation is smeared and yet, he continues to watch her, to stalk her, to love her, and she still loves him.
He moves to a house on Antigua and shelters his money. A new will is drawn up. Though he assures her she’ll be fine, he promises her nothing.
At the end of the story, Ilana is rebuilding her life. All those years of love for Martin and Patron earned her nothing in the way of financial security. Though she is still loyal to the Patron brand and loves Martin dearly, she realizes she must press on. Martin’s story doesn’t end as well.
His financial future is secure with Patron, but when he has a heart attack at the top of the stairs in his beautiful home in Antigua, the lawyers that he depended upon to protect his interests were nowhere to be found. He died alone, at the bottom of the stairs, surrounded by his wealth. His body was found the next day by his staff.
My heart ached for Ilana, for her hard work, love and devotion, for what she’d gone through with the breakup and then what she must have felt when she learned how the love of her life had died.
Though I may never be a fan of Patron Tequila, I can honestly say The Patron Way by Ilana Edelstein was a delicious cocktail of innovation and inspiration with a twist of tragedy for a bittersweet finish.