Tequila Bargains

Tequila bargainsBy Alexander Perez | 07.19.10

Being a spirit connoisseur you will always find me gravitate to the liquor department wherever I go. Like a little kid, I’ll go missing while shopping with my wife and she will know where to find me.

Recently I have been amazed at all the tequila bargains at my local super market stores. Some with $2 and $3 off instant coupons! Now I’m not talking about mixto’s but 100 percent agave tequila under $ 20.00. Now some of these are actually decent tequilas for sipping and even better for mixing and margaritas.

Here are some of the bargain tequilas I have found on my local store shelves:

El Jimador Reposado $ 14.99

Sauza Hornitos $ 13.99 (after $3 coupon)

El Rey Silver Tequila $ 14.99

Milagro Silver $ 12.99

Familia Camarena Silver and Reposado $ 13.99 (after $3 coupon)

Tevado Reposado $ 13.99

El Bracero $ 12.99

Puerto Vallarta Repo $ 13.99

El Ultimo Agave Blanco $ 14.99

El Ultimo Agave Repo $ 15.99

Haciendo Vieja $ 18.99
So next time you are at your local supermarket, check out the bargains in the liquor department. I am sure you will come home with a couple of bottles. You can’t beat a 100 percent agave tequila for under $ 20.00.

Alexander Perez is the founder of Tequila Aficionado.com having thought of the idea of a premium tequila and mezcal online magazine back in the early 1999. With an extensive background in wine and spirits, having been in the industries for many years, Alex fell in love with the under appreciated spirits of Mexico, Tequila and Mezcal. His mission: to educate the public on these fine spirits.

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Margarita Anyone? Of Course!

margarita, tequila, alexander perezBy Alexander Perez | 06.02.10

Aahh… the so enticing Margarita. Just pronouncing it – mar-ga-rita – brings a smile to your face. It conjures thoughts of chips and salsa, fresh home made tortillas, mariachis and good times. It is, after all Americas most popular cocktail. So much so that we even have a National Margarita Day. Now you don’t need to wait for a special holiday or occasion to mix one up. Why not bring out the bartender in you and try making one at home. Its easier then you think.

Yes there are quite a few Margarita recipes out there. You have your Blue, Golden, Frozen, Strawberry, Banana and Mango Margarita. But nothing beats an original Margarita from scratch. I guarantee your guests will come back for more.

crystal light, margarita, mix, tequila, tequila aficionado, sugar free, dietI always use fresh ingredients and serve it on the rocks never blended. Just fresh squeezed key limes (2 oz), simple syrup (1oz), Triple Sec (1/2oz), and of course a 100 percent blue agave blanco tequila (1 ½ – 2 oz). Shake it in a shaker with ice and pour it in a salt rimmed glass over ice. Make it a Cadillac Margarita with a splash of Grand Marnier or Patron Citronage. Never use mix or sweet and sour. Once you try it fresh I promise you’ll never go back to mix. I rather get cramps in my hands from squeezing a hundred limes for my guests then using bottled mix. Believe me I’ve broken a few lime squeezers in my Liquid Lab (my kitchen).

To make simple syrup just boil 2 cups of sugar with 2 cups of water. Mix the sugar until the water is clear. Let it cool down, pour it in a bottle and place it in the fridge for your next Margarita. It will keep in your fridge for a month or more.

Here are some conversation pieces to share on your next Margarita party:

  • jose cuervo, tequila, margarita, mix, original, limeThe Margarita was the most popularly ordered drink in 2008, representing 18 percent of all mixed drink sales in the U.S., followed by the Martini, Rum and Coke, Vodka and Tonic, and the Cosmopolitan (Cheers On-Premise Handbook 2008)
  • On average, Americans consume 185,000 Margaritas per hour (Brown-Forman, 2008)
  • Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis and Nashville are among the best major metro cities for the Margarita (Cheers On-Premise Handbook 2008)The first frozen margarita machine was invented in 1971 and it was based off a soft-serve ice cream machine
  • The U.S. is the number one tequila market – larger and more important than Mexico (Cheers On-Premise Handbook 2008)
  • The only “officially recognized” margarita by the International Bartender’s Association is the version served on the rocks with a salt rim.
  • The South (Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, etc.) accounts for 34.9 percent of margarita sales. (Cheers On-Premise Handbook 2008)
  • There’s debate over who invented the margarita, but a popular story has it invented in 1948 by socialite Margarita Sames. According to the legend it was during a party at her cliff side hacienda in Acapulco, that Margarita began looking for something cool to cut the dust of a hot afternoon. So she experimented by mixing Tequila Herradura, Cointreau and fresh lime juice.

Alexander Perez is the founder of Tequila Aficionado.com having thought of the idea of a premium tequila and mezcal online magazine back in the early 1999. With an extensive background in wine and spirits, having been in the industries for many years, Alex fell in love with the under appreciated spirits of Mexico, Tequila and Mezcal. His mission: to educate the public on these fine spirits.

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My Adventures in Tequila – Part 1

By Ryan Kelley | 06.02.10

I am a little winded as a group of us walk up a trail that leads to the highest point on Guillermo Sauza’s property in Tequila. I only had to look up at the ancient volcano that dominates the Southern sky to explain my shortness of breath. The town of Tequila is 4,000 feet above sea level, with mineral-rich volcanic soil that contributes to the growth and flavor of the blue agave, the plant tequila is made from.

Ollie, one of Sauza’s dogs, seems to lead the way. She runs several feet in front of us, then stops and turns around to make sure we are still following her, and then continues down the path. We pass “La Mexicana,” the Orendain distillery founded in 1926, to our right. We climb higher and, on the left, see trees with huge, twisted roots that seem to be crawling out of the ground. Finally, there’s just one more steep flight of stairs.

The overlook offers a gorgeous panoramic view of all of Tequila, a small town outside Guadalajara of about 50,000 people surrounded by fields that glow with the turquoise hue of blue agave. The wind blows toward us, and we catch a whiff of the honey-like scent of baked agave. It’s a smell that doesn’t quit while in Tequila; some of the big distilleries, like Cuervo and Sauza, work around the clock. For tequila aficionados – whether you’ve just started sipping or if you’ve sipped for decades – a visit to this magical place is a must.

Having written about tequila for nearly an entire year, it was high time I made the trip. I’m not a fan of planning trips – especially to other countries – so I chose Experience Tequila’s 10-Day Total Jalisco Experience, which includes hotels, most meals, and all travel costs (except airfare) for four days in Tequila, two in Guadalajara (Mexico’s second-largest city) and four days at Costa Alegre on the coast of the state of Jalisco. The itinerary is well-organized with plenty of room to breathe, and our guide, Clayton Szczech, was extremely knowledgeable, thorough, and fluent in Spanish.

We are a small group of six. Clayton likes to keep his tours relatively small so he can give each person attention without being overbearing. I am joined by Lauren and Bill, a well-traveled couple from Portland who recently toured Bourbon country, and Cody and Betsey, a technology librarian and lawyer, respectively, from Minnesota.

It’s not just the smell of agave that screams “tequila;” the hills are marked with large stones that form “Sauza” on one hillside and “La Cofradia” on another. In the middle of the town is a large smokestack that rises as high as the cathedral in the plaza. It is part of La Rojeña, the Cuervo distillery that’s both a tourist attraction but still a working factory. The colorful walls of Cuervo sit in stark contrast to the neighboring Sauza factory, with its bright white walls and high iron gates. Tequila has managed to retain a small-town charm, with family owned and operated shops, restaurants and hotels.

After taking in the view, we hike back down to the Fortaleza distillery, which we had toured earlier, to taste their tequila with the proprietor, Guillermo Erikson Sauza. Guillermo is a fifth-generation member of the Sauza family and honors his family’s tequila heritage by making Tequila Los Abuelos (known as Tequila Fortaleza in the United States) using traditional techniques. Agave grows and matures for seven to eight years (mostly on the estate), after which it is harvested by a jimador who removes the plant from the ground and slices off the leaves. The heart of the agave (piña) looks like a large, green pineapple and is taken back to the distillery and baked in a brick oven (horno). After 33 hours, the piñas are put into a pit where they are crushed by a large stone (tahona) that is hooked up to a tractor. Around it goes, pressing out the juices of the baked agave. The woody fibers (bagazo) are removed from the pit, and the juice is pumped into small wood vats where it ferments naturally for three to four days and then distilled twice in small copper pot stills. Following the second distillation it is either moved into stainless steel tanks for bottling as white (blanco) tequila, or into oak barrels where it rests for six to nine months (reposado, or rested) or just under three years (añejo, or aged). It takes the hard work of eight people to produce Tequila Fortaleza, a stark contrast to the hundreds of people employed by the big-name distilleries.

Our tasting takes place in the cave (cava). This is an actual cave right next to the distillery. It is dimly lit, and it takes a few moments for my eyes to adjust, but I find the rest of my group sitting at a table close to the bar. The only sources of light are from candles and a computer hooked up to a projector. Behind the bar is Guillermo Sauza in a white cowboy hat. His deep voice is gravelly from a sore throat, and he speaks slowly, enunciating each syllable. He reminds me of a Mexican John Wayne. After a brief toast to his guests, which also includes a group of restauranteurs and bartenders from California, Guillermo presents a slideshow of the distillery and family history.

The tequila is excellent. The blanco has a wonderfully sweet and floral bouquet, with a taste that’s fresh and a body full of flavor. The reposado is perfectly balanced and gets a sort of rustic flavor from the barrel – notes of wood, honey, and just a hint of caramel. The añejo is sweet, a great after-dinner choice with strong flavors from the barrel (leather, wood, caramel) and soft notes of smoky, floral agave. Maybe it is the context and romance of tequila done the old way, but we all agree that it has a very authentic flavor. When touring distilleries, we tasted a lot of baked agave, and Fortaleza maintains this flavor throughout the ages – from blanco to añejo.

There is a break in the program and the cave is momentarily silent. I remember that only a few hours earlier I met another patriarch of a tequila producing family. Things are much more modern at the Tres Mujeres distillery, located in Amatitan just outside of Tequila (about 15 minutes by bus). It sits in the center of the valley amidst several acres of agave fields owned by the Partida family, who have been farming and harvesting agave for three generations. Tres Mujeres, like La Fortaleza and many others, uses brick adobe ovens, but they also have an autoclave – a stainless steel steam oven that cooks agave in a short amount of time. The Tres Mujeres brand never uses agave cooked in an autoclave but, like many distilleries, it has contracts to produce other tequila brands and can use it as requested. Stainless steel tanks are used for fermentation as are stainless steel stills for distillation, allowing for a well-controlled environment. La Fortaleza, in contrast, is happy in its inconsistency, as fans battle over which lote (lot or batch) is better than another.

After our tour and tasting are complete, Clayton and I wander over to a room used for bottling. An older man sits at a table separating fabric labels for a Tres Mujeres bottle that comes encased in leather. We come to discover that it is Jesus Partida Melendrez, founder of Tres Mujeres Tequila.

Jesus started Tres Mujeres in the mid ‘90s, having taken an interest in learning more than just the farming of agave. His goal was to produce high quality, 100% blue agave tequila that was available at an affordable price. It took time and effort, but he was successful, and after a decade of production, Tres Mujeres opened their new glass-front facility in 2006. The newer digs include a second-floor patio restaurant, and the family has plans to open a small hotel on the property within the next few years.

Jesus introduced us to his son, Sergio, who manages the distillery’s operations. I was curious to see the old distillery. Bill and Lauren, acting as my photographer (I had made a rookie mistake of forgetting to charge my battery), and I stepped up into his truck, and we were soon at the original Tres Mujeres plant, just a quarter of a mile away. The original distillery is only partially operable, as it suffered a major fire in the summer of 2009 which resulted in a loss of over 80,000 liters of tequila and even caused a temporary shortage in some areas (including Southern California).

Sergio showed us the damage, but it did not seem to concern him much. Instead, he whisked us into a building adjacent to the bottling area and had us taste something he was very proud of. It was a sweet, agave-rich, tequila-flavored liqueur called Teky Ladies. It’s available in Mexico, and he thinks it would do well in the American market. It was a bit sweet but surprisingly full-flavored – something in between agave nectar and tequila. Is there a market for it? I don’t know – maybe in the mixology community – but Lauren and I enjoyed the tasting and the clear passion that Sergio had for his innovative product.

Tres Mujeres and La Fortaleza tell similar, but different, stories. Both exist in a world dominated by large conglomerates, where the bottom line sometimes overshadows the quality of the product. Guillermo Sauza and Jesus Partida Melendrez are still out to make a dollar, but Guillermo has chosen to honor and maintain a traditional, albeit antiquated process (that isn’t cheap for him or the consumer), while Jesus chooses to maintain a quality product at a quality price, employing more modern methods but trying hard to maintain a product of high quality.

After Guillermo’s slideshow in the cave, we return outdoors. It’s dark now, but the dim lights of the distillery and a large, roaring fire illuminate a fiesta complete with tacos, grilled corn, churros, and a guitarist who plays and sings romantic Mexican ballads. With a plate full of food, I sit by the warm fire with Bill and Lauren, stuffing myself with the wonderful flavors of Tequila. The tacos al pastor melt on my tongue and are followed by the best churro I have ever eaten – hot and crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft and fluffy inside – paired wonderfully with Tequila Fortaleza añejo. It is a more than satisfying end to our second day.

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Fermentations

mike morales, tequila journalist, tequila aficionado, tequila, fermentationsBy Mike Morales | 06.02.10

Tequila aficionados the world over know that smell.  It’s familiar to every tequila distillery from the Lowlands to Los Altos.  That sour, acrid, almost other-worldly smell that is compelling and revolting, alluring and repulsive, all at the same time.

Once you find the source of the stench, the distillery’s fermentation tanks, and look inside, you are even more astonished by what looks like a giant science project gone terribly awry.

Resembling the monster from the cult classic B-movie The Blob, the brown liquid inside bubbles, breathes, and pops as if it has a life of its own.  And literally, it does.

The foam slithers from one end of the tank to the other, consuming itself, and leaving a rancid vapor trail.

Like a bad car accident on the freeway on your way to work, you can’t help but stare at the frightening froth formations and bursting bulges.  Then, you do the unthinkable…

You stick your finger into the hot, slimy soup, and hoping nobody notices, you lick it off of your finger like a dog eats its vomit!

That’s exactly what this blog is all about.

Tequila Tabloid?

While all the articles on TequilaAficionado.com, The Magazine are thoroughly fact checked, this blog contains…

Buzz…innuendo…rumor…scuttlebutt…scandals…gossip…insider information…off-the-cuff remarks…musings…brash statements, and careless whispers.

Think of it as a tequila tabloid cleverly placed at the check stand as an impulse buy.

But as with all tabloids (somewhere between the two-headed alien baby, and Angelina Jolie’s Photo Shopped cellulite-ladened thighs), a few of the stories actually turn out to be true.

Some of the facts may have become muddled, but others emerged crystal clear.  And just like double distillation, the details may not have shown themselves as originally intended, but the outcome was either fairly accurate or right on target.

It’s sort of like licking the mosto off of your finger—

The taste doesn’t resemble tequila, yet, but it’s not half bad.

So, inhale deeply and enjoy the putrid aroma of Fermentations.

You know you want to!

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Explore Something New

tequila, tasting, alexander perezBy Alexander Perez | 05.22.10

It’s interesting to stand by and watch how people gravitate to the same tequila brands over and over again. The “big” brands have the marketing dollars to place ads in magazines, sponsor car races and take out huge billboard ads throughout the city. So when people think “tequila” these are the first that come to mind. Unfortunately, the same happens with uninformed retail “advisors” and believe it or not, untrained or uninterested waiters and bartenders – the ones that should be encouraging us to try something different and explore new and un-heard of brands.  When someone asks for a tequila, instead of recommending something different they reach for the “standard”.

Its time to break the monotony and stop being a creature of habit! Today there are so many good tequilas (and not to forget mezcal and sotol) out in the market it would be a sin not to try something different. Many are afraid to take that chance and venture into a new bottle since the chance might mean spending some good money on something you may not like.

The answer? Do a little research and find the local bar or Mexican restaurant with a good tequila selection or even a tequila menu. These places offer an opportunity to try a few brands, try a few types (blanco, reposado, anejo) and discover what you like. Local restaurants and bars also conduct regular tequila tasting events throughout the year. These are great opportunities to taste many different brands and hear the stories behind them. Once you know what you like you can invest in a bottle or two. And if you are a true Tequila Aficionado and Ambassador, pass on your knowledge and discovery to others, even your local bartender. Maybe next time they will have a good recommendation for you. So get out there and explore something new!

Feel free to comment on your favorite bar, restaurant or retailer and how they have introduced you to new treasures.

Alexander Perez is the founder of Tequila Aficionado.com having thought of the idea of a premium tequila and mezcal online magazine back in the early 1999. With an extensive background in wine and spirits, having been in the industries for many years, Alex fell in love with the under appreciated spirits of Mexico, Tequila and Mezcal. His mission: to educate the public on these fine spirits.

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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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Gary Shansby and Partida Tequila – Part 2

Gary Shansby
By Ryan Kelley | 04.14.10

After a thorough study of the tequila market, Gary Shansby, the founder and chairman of Partida Tequila, had the knowledge he needed to succeed, but didn’t yet have any tequila to market.

Then, he met an agave farmer (a jimador) named Enrique Partida. Partida had “thousands of acres” as a tequila farmer, and “he was selling agave to whoever would buy it” (Cuervo, Herradura, etc.).

During my telephone interview with Shansby he noted,

“[Enrique] had a burnt face from the sun, an old cowboy hat, and a twinkle in his eye. I thought: he’s central casting! I can’t call this tequila “Gringo Gary’s,” so I might as well see about calling it Partida.”

Shansby checked, and “Partida” had never been used or trademarked anywhere in the world. “Without telling Enrique, I trademarked him, and basically took ownership of his name…He was not a happy camper at first, but since then he’s delighted, and we’ve become friends. He’s not an investor, but he is the farmer and does manage the farms.”

But, how does Partida Tequila get its award-winning flavor? Shansby explains that “by using an older, more mature and sweeter agave; and by cooking it in a stainless steel autoclave versus a stone oven” he would be able to produce “a more pure, agave-tasting product.” Unlike many tequila, premium or not, Partida is completely estate-grown and bottled. This means that the agave all comes from the Partida farm and it is cooked, distilled, and bottled on the estate. (Shansby rebuilt Enrique Partida’s “hobby distillery” into a fully functional tequila distillery that is capable of producing all of the Partida tequilas.)

Once Shansby had his tequila, he took it to the Mexico CRT (Consejo Regulado de Tequila, or Tequila Regulatory Council) where he “won all the taste tests.” A similar taste testing was done with Julio Bermejo, the US Ambassador of Tequila, at the San Francisco Wine and Spirit festival, where it also blew everyone away.

The product was ready for consumption. In his meticulous way, Shansby went through 600 variations of a bottle before it was finalized. The bottle is truly a work of art – slightly larger than Patrón and easily handled by bartenders. The bottle is mostly clear, exploiting the beautiful color of Partida, except for the branding, which includes the Partida spirit bird.

I had never heard the legend of the spirit bird before and Shansby revealed that it “is a tale I developed, and now Enrique [Partida] tells me it has been in the family for a hundred years! The story…has believability to it because we made it believable.” Most tequilas don’t have a logo (except Herradura’s upside-down horseshoe) and Shansby, an experienced brand-builder feels strongly that to build a brand “you need a Nike swoosh, and so my Nike swoosh is the Partida spirit bird.”

The tequila is purposely priced just a little higher than Patrón. People often ask Shansby how he can do that, especially as a newcomer to the tequila market, but he dismisses skepticism with a challenge: “Just taste the product and tell me if you agree. Nobody has ever said it wasn’t better, or at least just as good [as Patrón]. I don’t claim it’s the best, my job is to keep it among the very best.”

Quality and consistency is how Shansby plans to maintain Partida’s success. “Everything is done to perfection. We age reposado precisely, to the day, six months in the barrel. We rotate our barrels for 36 months, 3 at reposado and 1 at añejo, which is [aged for] 18 months, and then we destroy it.” The barrels are all purchased from Jack Daniel’s. “They’ve been used once for Jack Daniel’s. We then hot distill wash them twice, dry them, and use them ourselves.” Shansby claims that if you go into other distilleries (which he has done), very few people will be as consistent. “If they get a good buy on Bordeaux barrels that have been used five or six times, they’ll buy them. I won’t do that.”

Consistency is so important that Shansby has everything done on site. “We’re managed in Mexico – totally by Mexican employees. I go down there about every month for 5 or 6 weeks and stay there for 4 or 5 days and talk to the workers.” From the farming and distilling, right into the bottle; everything is done on the Partida estate. “It gives us full control, which I find enormously important.”

Shansby and Partida’s other investors have invested over $30 million into the product, which they also distribute. It’s easy to tell that he really has a passion for his product, but would he ever sell the brand and retire? No way, he says, “I’m doing this as a hobby and it’s not for sale. And I’m going to retire when they carry me out feet first.”

More about how the word spreads about Partida Tequila in the third, and final, part of my interview with Gary Shansby.

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Gary Shansby and Partida Tequila – Part 1

Gary Shansby
Gary Shansby
Gary Shansby of Partida Tequila

Tequila is one of the fastest growing spirits in the U.S., and Partida Tequila, one of the newest entries into the premium tequila market, is one of the most celebrated. Partida has won multiple accolades, and was the only line of tequilas to be awarded with 96-100 points for all three types of tequila in Wine Enthusiast’s 2008 Tequila Report.

The man behind Partida’s success is its founder and chairman, Gary Shansby; and I was able to speak with him for about an hour last week to learn more about Partida and the man behind its success.

Shansby is an experienced brand-builder and has spent his career developing and marketing more than 50 household consumer brands – everything from Famous Amos Cookiesto MetRx and Vitamin Water. He has a vineyard in Sonoma – “a tremendous way to lose money but a beautiful hobby;” and it was only 8 years ago that his journey into the spirit business began.

After being asked if he had ever considered the spirit business, Shansby – experienced in food and beverages, but not liquor – studied the industry. He discovered that

“the growth of important premium [spirit] brands was coming from entrepreneurs and not the big companies. Most of the entrepreneurs were mavericks in their industry, or they had no industry experience, and they were defying the logic of the big companies.”

He met with some of these mavericks, like Grey Goose’s Sidney Frank, Patrón’s Martin Crowly, and Skyy’s Maurice Kanbar (who has a minority stake in Partida), and concluded that they were “all passionate about their brands,” and intent on “building a brand and not a company. They were all driven – not for monetary gain – but for their love of what they were doing; and they were all having a great time.”

Shansby’s study of the market revealed that Patrón was the only brand in the tequila category that was poised for success; however, he “also noticed that the tequila industry had pretty much ignored women, yet about ½ the consumption in the United States is by females, mostly driven by the margarita.” With a strong background in branding, Shansby set out to find a tequila that would become successful in the American spirits market.

But, how do you develop the perfect tequila? Shansby began meticulously researching tequila. An MBA student was dispatched to Mexico for a tequila fact-finding assignment, while Shansby surveyed the market. Thorough knowledge about tequila – how it is made, what makes one tequila different from another, etc. – and understanding the tequila consumer were paramount. Shansby concluded that “the American consumer…likes a smoother taste – a product that brings out the natural agave and a little less of the old shot environment that had existed in the earlier years of tequila. I had to find a method to make something much smoother, but has the same alcohol content, but didn’t reek of it. I knew that the age of the agave, how it is cooked, how it’s processed, how it is aged; each little element had a different twist on it and I studied the different things that could be done.”

What made it all come together? Check out part two of the interview

Originally published on Examiner.com

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Masa Azul: Behind the Rock…

Behind the bar on a busy night at Masa Azul in Chicago

Masa Azul has been featured on Thrillist’s spring Must-Dos in Chicago!

What: Put back one of 90 tequilas on Cinco de Mayo
When: May 5th
Where: Masa Azul
The extensive tequila list runs from blancos to single-barrel extra anejos, and includes a selection of mezcal and lesser-known sotol, aka the NEXT mezcal.

Visit Masa Azul

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We are proud to be the first in Illinois to offer Tequila Alquimia! This artisan line is owned by Don Adolfo Murillo, one of the brightest minds in the tequila world! Not to mention one of the nicest people you could ever meet! Come by to taste these amazing tequilas, including the 6 year aged Reserva de Don Adolfo!

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Sipping off the Cuff with Tequila Aficionado

Sipping off the Cuff

What happens when two tequila lovers happen to get together and taste tequila?  Of course they’re going to talk about it!  Here’s what happened when M.A. “Mike” Morales and Alexander Perez got together all those many years ago.

Alex and Mike decided to podcast their tastings.  When video production became a possibility, they moved Sipping off the Cuff to video.  They chose to keep it simple.  Share their tasting experience through an honest discussion.  Sometimes they offer mixing suggestions for tequilas that may be better for mixing than sipping.  Sometimes they disagree on whether a spirit is a good one or not.  Whatever the case, they share it with you openly and honestly and never accept pay-for-play.

Alex Perez and Mike Morales announce their new series of tequila discussions – we don’t rate tequila but we will tell you all about every one we taste!

Look for new episodes coming in 2013!

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Sipping off the Cuff(tm) began as an audio podcast in 2006 and is Tequila Aficionado’s first and longest running tequila review program. Sipping off the Cuff is broadcast every Friday (and occasionally Tuesdays) on YouTube and Tequila Aficionado. If you are a Tequila, Mezcal or Sotol brand owner or representative and would like your product(s) reviewed on an upcoming episode of Sipping off the Cuff, please contact Mike@TequilaAficionado.com.

Catch more of Tequila Aficionado on YouTube HERE.

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Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!