Women In The Tequila Industry: Melly Barajas

SinoMellyWhen Judy Rivera sought to make her own brand of tequila, she was determined to find a master distiller whose views and outlook were similar to hers.  It wasn’t long before she found Carmen Lucia Barajas Cárdenas–“Melly” to her friends–and Sino Tequila was born.

Melly Barajas always intended to be a Tequila Boss Lady.  After years of apprenticeship in the male dominated Tequila Industry, she purchased land in the highlands of Jalisco called Valle de Guadalupe and constructed her own distillery, Vinos y Licores Azteca (NOM 1533).

She resolved to hire only women from the rural area and to teach them all she knew, from operating fermentation tanks to bottling and more.  She also established a learning center and living quarters at the distillery for her all female staff.

SinoDistillery outer

Melly has become a force to be reckoned with, tackling the Tequila Industry on her own terms.  Here’s what she had to say in response to our customary questions.

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

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TA:  How would you describe your experiences as a woman in a primarily male dominated industry?  (What are the challenges you face when dealing with the male dominated Tequila Industry?)

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

MB:  Fascinating!

It’s a world filled with constant challenges, where you have to work a lot and assert yourself.  Where you have to demonstrate that your sex doesn’t matter, Sino_pinas 2and instead, do things right and always move forward to improve yourself every day.

It’s a place where you find many helpful circumstances and others that are difficult obstacles that force you to struggle each day and to not give up.

It’s work that changes your life.  There’s always new things, new people, new experiences, new challenges.  The key is to wake up each day ready to relish whatever comes up.

(Facinante!

Es un mundo lleno de retos constantes, donde tienes que trabajar mucho y hacerte valer, donde debes demostrar que el sexo no importa sino hacer las cosas bien y siempre estar en movimiento y superarte tratando de ser cada dia mejor.

Es un espacio donde encuentras muchas manos amigas y otras manos duras que te retan y así te obligan a estar luchando cada dia  y no darte por vencida.

Es un trabajo que conviertes en tu vida. Siempre hay cosas nuevas, gente nueva, experiencias nuevas, retos nuevos, la clave es levantarte todos los días lista para disfrutar lo que venga)

TA:  How have you been able to change things within the Tequila Industry?

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

SinoSMB:   Hmmm.  Realistically, I’m not sure I’ve changed anything in the industry.

What I can say is that we’ve changed the lives of many women in the town where the distillery is located in Valle de Guadalupe, Jalisco.

Well, in the factory, besides teaching them how to make very good tequila, we’ve taught them that because we’re women, we are limited by NOTHING.

On the contrary!

In the factory, we do all types of jobs that perhaps have been labeled men’s work because it requires more physical strength than what we ladies have, but, by our astuteness that defines us, we develop skills and invent things to do our jobs equally as well as gentlemen.

Besides, when they demonstrate [to themselves] that they can do things that they’ve never even dreamed of, and that they can do so wondrously, they take that lesson into their daily lives and it changes their manner of thinking and they begin to forget their physical restrictions because women’s limitations exist only in their minds.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but the difficulty makes all the difference and the fun.

(Mmmm, realmente no se si he cambiado algo de la industria.

Lo que si te puedo decir que hemos cambiado la vida de muchas mujeres en el pueblo donde esta la tequilera en Valle de Guadalupe Jalisco.

SinoCrusher 2

Pues en la fabrica ademas de enseñarles hacer muy buen tequila, se les ha enseñado de no por “ser mujeres” estamos limitadas a NADA,

Al contrario !!!

En la fabrica se hacen todo tipo de trabajo, que tal vez se etiquetan como trabajo de hombres por que requieren de mas fuerza que las que tenemos las damas, pero con la astucia que nos distingue hacemos mañas e inventamos cosas para hacerlas igual de bien que los caballeros.

Ademas cuando les demuestras que pueden hacer cosas que ni en sueños pensaron que pudieran hacer, y lo pueden hacer de maravilla, este aprendizaje lo llevan a su vida diaria y cambia su modo de pensar y empiezan a olvidar sus ” disque limitaciones ” por que las limitaciones de las mujeres solo están en su cabeza.

No digo que sea fácil, pero lo difícil hace la diferencia y lo divertido.)

TA:  What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila Industry?

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

MB:  The future of women in Tequila has arrived!

Our tequilas say it all:  The feminine touch on tequila is its magic, its heart, and its soul.

In tequilas made by women, or with women’s help, a little piece of their hearts travels to all parts of the world.

SinoDistilleryCrew2

Since every day more women are working, it is this medium that has begun to be an important source of employment in the tequila [making/growing] regions.

(El futuro de las mujeres en el Tequila ha llegado!!!

Nuestros tequilas lo dicen todo, el toque femenino en el tequila es la magia, es el corazon, es su alma.

En los tequilas que hacen las mujeres, o con ayuda de mujeres se va un pedacito de su corazon a todas partes del mundo.

Ya que cada dia mas mujeres trabajan es este medio que ha empezado hacer una fuente de trabajo importante en las zonas tequileras.)

TA:  What facets of the Tequila Industry would you like to see change?elcondeazul-blanco_6237_r2

(Qué cosas gustaría cambiado?)

MB:  Everything has its time and takes its course.

I believe that doing things right and demonstrating to the world the value of women in our beverage [tequila] industry is on a sure path.

(Todo lleva su tiempo y su curso.

Creo que el hacer las cosas bien y demostrarle al mundo el valor de las mujeres en nuestra bebida va por buen camino.)

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

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

MB:  That’s an interesting question.

I’d like all tequila to be [made of] 100% Agave Azul Tequilana Weber so that it could only be from the juice of this miraculous plant with all its properties.

There is a reason that the ancient Aztecs made offerings of this elixir to the gods and it was only imbibed by priests.

(Es interesante tu pregunta.

Yo quisiera que todo el tequila fuera solo 100% de Agave Azul Tequilana Weber, para que fuera solo jugo de esta planta maravillosa con todas sus propiedades.

No por nada los Aztecas ofrecían este elixir a los Dioses y solo era bebido en la antigüedad por los sacerdotes.)

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

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

ToroAzulMellyMB:  Of course.

I’d like to tell them that to sell tequila isn’t just selling a beverage, it’s giving the client an opportunity to get acquainted with this delicious and ancient beverage that was offered to the gods.  It’s giving them the chance to savor a beautiful history, a lovely dream, a small piece of Mexico.

To remember that inside every bottle go the thrills, the efforts and the hopes of a town that is proudly Mexican.

The sky’s the limit.

Salúd!

(Claro.

Yo quisiera decirles que el vender tequila no solo es vender una bebida, es darle al cliente la oportunidad de conocer la deliciosa bebida milenaria que era ofrecida a los Dioses, darles la experiencia de paladear una bella historia, un bello sueño, un pedacito de Mexico.

Que recuerden que en cada botella va la ilusión, el esfuerzo y la esperanza de todo un pueblo orgullosos de ser Mexicanos.

Que su limite sea el cielo.

Salúd!)

The Sabor Latino Food Show

 

[The second annual Sabor Latino Food Show took place on May 12-13, 2015 at the Pasadena Convention Center.  Tequila Aficionado Media was asked to tag along with Embajador tequila as its importer/brand owner attempts to break into the competitive Southern California spirits market.]

Show Prep

emb1It’s no secret that trying to jockey for position into the competitive California spirits market is as tough as winning the Triple Crown in horseracing.  This is doubly true if you’re a fledging tequila brand trying to distinguish yourself from the rest of the field.

That’s where trade shows like Sabor Latino can help.

Opening Ceremonies

Lilly Rocha, founder of Sabor Latino Food Show.
Lilly Rocha, founder of Sabor Latino Food Show.

Created and organized by CEO, Lilly Rocha, a well connected and solidly certified event planner with 17 years of experience and with both national and international clients.

The Sabor Latino Food show recognizes the growing power of the Latino consumer in the US by helping to “Define the Tastes of the New Majority,” which also happened to be this year’s show theme.

After graciously introducing her team, and acknowledging troops of culinary students whom she affords the opportunity for internships with companies that prepare them for college or careers, Lilly cuts the ribbon and unleashes the mariachis.

 

 

Workin’ It

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As with most trade shows, an intense 5 or 6 hours is usually spent educating potential customers on the virtues of your product.

Here, Andres Garcia, regional sales manager and family member of Embajador, samples his tequila to approving Spanish speaking attendees.

 

 


In this cut, Andres explains the differences of Embajador reposado and añejo to an employee of the LA Times.

 What’s New

At the Sabor Latino Food Show, Tequila Aficionado got to try new products, old favorites, and get surprising scoops, for instance…

NewOrendain
New from Orendain. What’s NOT on the label?

Maricela Martinez of Frank-Lin Distillers showcased her tequilas Puerto Vallarta, Ollitas, and Gran Orendain.

188Pulque

Brand Manager, Daniel Del Razo carries the only canned pulque in the US, Hacienda 1881.


For tequila aficionados interested in exploring the roots of tequila and mezcal, you certainly need to try it.

Guest Stars

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Several importers and brand owners stopped by to tell Tequila Aficionado about their upcoming offerings for Summer 2015.

Ernesto Aguirre of Aguirre Imports discusses his brands and his strategic alliance with Alvaro Molina’s Dos Artes tequila, a 2014 Brand Of Promise(TM) winner.

 


Another 2014 Brand Of Promise(TM) winner in the ready-to-drink category (RTD), Jean-Paul Rojo of JLP Craft Margaritas visited with us and gave us a rundown of its new packaging and project for Costco.

Not everyone who came by was exhibiting at the Sabor Latino Food Show.  Some, like Miguel De Los Rios and Tatiana Vallejo, owners of Aguila Real tequila, just came to size up the field of newcomers.

Look for Aguila Real, one of the hottest brands to hit the tequila market in a long time, all over SoCal.

Even our founder, Alex Perez, stopped in to say hello.

AlexP
Alexander Perez, Founder of Tequila Aficionado Media

 

What’s New, Day 2

On day two, we met Daniel Villaneda of Global Spirits Imports who sampled a full array of  Pochteca Liqueurs along with an upcoming tequila from Chef Martín San Román whose own restaurant, La Terrasse, is in the heart of Baja California’s burgeoning wine country, the Valle de Guadalupe.

Speaking of the Valle de Guadalupe, Volubilis Imports displayed a series of wines from that emerging region.  Vice President of Sales, Marcus Salvemini, gives us some background on his company.

Hugo D'Acosta, the Mondavi of Baja CA.
Hugo D’Acosta, the Mondavi of Baja CA.

 

 

Marcus explained that vintner, Hugo D’Acosta, is considered the Mexican Robert Mondavi and primarily responsible for the region’s current wine boom.

In this snippet, he imparts the area’s history and the varietals that are carried by Volubilis Imports.

 

 

 

Dessert Pairing with Embajador Tequila

Mama Cheesecake story.
Mama Cheesecake story.

 

One of the more exciting vendors at the Sabor Latino Food Show, was Marian Lopez, owner of Mama Cheesecake in Pasadena, CA.

A one time single mom, Marian began baking her original cheesecake recipes about twenty-five years ago as a way to raise money for her children’s extra-curricular school activities.

Marian explains more about her background and baking methods.


After discovering what her baking methods had in common with some tequila producers, Marian approached the Embajador tequila booth to try all three expressions and to select the ones she wanted to pair with her latest creation, the Spicy Mama chocolate cheesecake.

Marian reveals what her inspiration was for her Spicy Mama chocolate cheesecake recipe.

SpicyMama

Marian and her business partner, Acacia, pair their Spicy Mama chocolate cheesecake with Embajador Premium Reposado and Supreme Añejo.


These, and many other exciting Latino based food and beverage products premiered at the second annual Sabor Latino Food Show.

Embajador Body Slams Latino Taste Buds!

SL_Takedown

An estimated 900-1000 attendees passed through the doors of the Pasadena Convention Center and several hundred were floored by Embajador tequila’s aromas and flavors.

A few days after the show, Embajador was notified that it had won the Sabor Latino Tequila Take Down competition held among the tequila brands participating in the event, as the crowd favorite.

The Southern California Latino community has taken serious notice of Embajador tequila as a promising brand worthy of their attention.

A Brand Of Promise

187TAWith the tortilla chip–and arguably, Mexican wine and spirits–among other Latin influenced foods becoming a staple of the American culinary experience, there’s no reason to believe that Lilly Rocha and the Sabor Latino Food Show won’t become a major player to look up to for all Latino food and beverage products eager to debut in the challenging Southern California market.

Watch for The Sabor Latino Food Show coming to Chicago, June 8-11, 2015.