Gary Shansby and Partida Tequila – Part 3

By Ryan Kelley | 04.19.10

With all the accolades, praise, and taste test data, how come Partida isn’t taking the country by storm and trying to dethrone Patrón’s grasp on the premium tequila market? Shansby retorts, “let Patrón be Patrón, and Patrón is what they are. It’s probably the most brilliantly marketed spirit brand, certainly tequila, in the world today [but] it doesn’t win any taste tests, and doesn’t even enter them anymore.” So even though other tequilas are obviously vying for Patrón’s market, Shansby prefers to remain above the fray. “Nobody should get ahead by beating someone else up,” he says.

Shansby made a name for himself by building popular brands in a variety of industries, and part of success in marketing products is to know about the people who consume or use (or, who should consume or use) one brand over another.

“People today are interested in exploring and discovering on their own,” he says. “They’re not interested in copying anymore. That’s kind of passé. They’ll trade up to good brands which they discover on their own and they love telling their friends about it.”

This moment of “discovery” is important to Shansby, and it is paramount to Partida’s marketing strategy. “Don’t try to talk them into it,” he advises, “just entice them into exploring. If they explore and discover it [on their own], they’ll like it more!” He does his part, too. Shansby lectures about tequila in the U.S. and Mexico, “with no commercials” – although it often ends with a tasting. He strives to educate (or in many cases, re-educate) people so they can have a better understanding of tequila. “Once a year we do a ‘tequila immersion day,’ where we bring in 40-50 up-and-coming bartenders from an area and start from the basics.” They are taught everything about tequila, and given information they can pass on to their customers – and managers.

Shansby is proud of his tequila, (why not – it’s delicious!) and is fond of sharing it with others. On a vacation in Oregon with Partida investor, and hugely successful winemaker, Michael Mondavi, Shansby brought a case of Partida with them and held a tequila tasting. He noticed four gentlemen who were ignoring the tequila. Upon asking, they told him they “did not drink tequila” and preferred to sip their single malt scotch. Shansby tasted their scotch and “praised them for how good it was.” They were very proud, and so he asked that they humor him, and have a “tiny taste of añejo – knowing that they drank single malt scotch. They reluctantly agreed. So I went over and got four champagne glasses, which kind of blew their minds, and I put about half an inch in the bottom and they tasted it. The first comment to come out was: ‘that’s not tequila!’ I told them it was very fine, estate-bottled tequila. The next comment to come out was: ‘you know, I can drink that!’”

When not enjoying Partida (“reposado – neat – in a stem glass”), Shansby does enjoy other tequilas. His “second favorite tequila is El Tesoro. It’s a very different tequila than ours. It’s cooked differently. It’s from a different region. It’s a highlands product, and not a big brand, but it’s a high-quality brand.” Shansby also likes Don Julio reposado, Gran Centenario añejo, Chinaco, Siete Leguas, and “Cabo Wabo has a fairly decent reposado.”

All the effort in developing and producing Partida has paid off. Shansby has a solid product and it’s validated every day by tequila and spirit enthusiasts around the world. He has, indeed, met his goal of developing “a really fine tequila, [and] it’s delivered beyond my best dreams. Now it’s my job to make sure it stays as good as it can be – and consistently good. The awards we have received have been gratifying, and the mixology community loves us, and I don’t dare let anyone down.”

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