[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.
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.