A Sotol By Any Other Name

[On a sweltering August afternoon, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited by Mike Groener, CEO and President of Genius Liquids to sip and savor the latest addition to their Desert Spirit line, Texas Sotol, at their distillery in Austin, TX .]

Here Comes the Rain Again

MonsoonDay

Ask anyone who has spent any significant amount of time living in the Desert Southwest during Monsoon Season, and they will tell you that they can smell rain.  At those times, your part of town may be sunny and bone dry, but a strong breeze will carry the scent of falling raindrops for miles.  Sooner or later, the skies darken, thunder rolls, lightning strikes and the floodgates open.

Similarly, those who have sampled significant amounts of tequila or mezcal wet-cement-signduring their lifetimes will admit to the elusive “wet cement” flavor profile evocative of rain hitting a hot, dry sidewalk.

The latter is so rare these days with tequilas attempting to become smoother and more neutralized, and mezcals being distilled at the more accepting entry level 80 proof (40% ABV) than traditional higher strengths.

But try to describe true sotol such as Don Cuco as I meekly attempted to in Tom Barry’s insightful article, A Sotol Story , and you can fumble to find the words.

“To me, Don Cuco Sotol carries the best of all worlds.  It opens up — blooms — so much that it demands to be treated like a fine wine.  It has the smokiness of some of the best mezcals, but the flavor is simultaneously reminiscent of the best tequilas and then, not at all.”

Tumbando_sotolThe best descriptor that one can come up with is that sotol made in Chihuahua, Mexico smells and tastes like desert rain falling in that region.  It is arguably the truest illustration of the term terroir.

But what does Texas Sotol represent?  That’s what we came to Genius Liquids’ headquarters to find out.

Humble Beginnings

Mike Groener describes Genius Liquids’ humble beginnings and explains the process and challenges in producing Genius Gins and their new Texas Sotol.

The use of champagne yeast was at the suggestion of tequila Siembra Azul’s maker, David Suro, whom Mike met through John Garrett, a friend and spirits supervisor at distributor Victory Wine Group based in Dallas.

Here, Mike discusses more about the inspiration to use champagne yeast in his spirits.

Conscientious Objector to Vodka

Genius Liquids distills three types of gin (standard strength, navy strength, oaked), and Texas sotol, but no vodka.  Distilling something “odorless and tasteless doesn’t represent any piece of art” according to Groener.

Why Sotol?

2015-08-15 13.05.20To learn more about Chihuahua’s native spirit, Groener did his homework.  Through his relationship with Garrett, he has met Judah Kuper, co-founder of Mezcal Vago and spent time at Judah’s family mezcal palenque.

He has also sought advice on his Texas Sotol from Jacob Jacquez, fifth generation distiller of the legendary Don Cuco Sotol, and creator of newcomers, Ocho Cientos and Por Siempre sotol brands.  He has also communicated with representatives of the globally available Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol.

Groener admits that Genius Liquids is a bit egotistical when it comes to deciding what to distill, and prefers a challenge instead of the easy way out.

Sotol By Any Other Name

das_texanum(3)
Dasylirion texanum.

This lovely spirit of Mexico is not without its controversy.

Sotol from Chihuahua, Mexico is distilled using the dasylirion wheeleri plant, more commonly known as desert spoon or sereque in Spanish.

Genius Gin’s Desert Spirit Texas Sotol, however, uses North American sotol or Dasylirion texanum grown, wild harvested, cooked, fermented, and distilled in Texas.  This variety has evolved into a more compacted and hardier plant, designed to survive the harsh Texas summers.

All dasylirions were at one time considered distant relatives of the agave (agavaceae), but it is actually more akin to asparagus.

Mike furthers the debate and recounts the labeling issues concerning the word sotol, and why Genius Liquids prefers to brand it through their Desert Spirit line.

Texas Hill Country in A Bottle

Mike Groener pours a sample of Texas Sotol into my three types of glassware.  Unlike tequila, and to some degree, mezcal, sotol still does not have an official tasting glass.  Lisa Pietsch, Tequila Aficionado Media’s COO, describes it as “Texas Hill Country in a bottle.”

Beam Me Up, Scotty!

Like Master Distiller,  German González elaborating on how he came to create his opus, Tears of Llorona, Mike expounds on how, through their process, Genius Liquids has composed a transportive spirit in a “non-Auto-Tune way.”

 Tails of The Funk

Much like Montelobo’s Dr. Ivan Saldaña’s love affair with mezcal’s funkiness, Mike demonstrates how he carefully uses the colas (tails) after distillation to enhance Genius Liquids’ Desert Spirit Sotol.

The Magic Ingredient

Careful not to get too technical with his method of distillation, but with the same umph of Carlos Camarena’s (Tequila Tapatío) passion, Groener breaks down the love involved in producing a Genius Liquids spirit.

The Future

The first batch of Desert Spirit Texas Sotol was so well received that it sold out within two weeks of being launched.  The plan is to move Genius Liquids to larger digs due to the oppressive heat that prevents them from fermenting properly.

Groener spells out what the future holds for Genius Liquids and its expansion.

Off camera, Mike divulged that he’d like to wrestle with the challenge of producing a traditionally made Texas mezcal agave spirit, and has already sourced maguey for that project.  There are also plans for a blended agricole rum.

2015-08-15 13.06.27

In whatever direction Groener takes Genius Liquids, one can be sure that it will continue to seek, define and express the true meaning of Texas terroir–one small batch at a time.

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!

Women in The Tequila Industry: Jaclyn Jacquez by M.A. “Mike” Morales

jaclyn jacquez

Jaclyn Jacquez considers herself an adelita, of sorts.

Soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution.
Soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution.

Adelitas were female solders (soldaderas) who were a vital force during the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s, fighting alongside men.  As President of Don Cuco Sotol, she spearheads a sixth generation  company producing a spirit steeped in 800 years of history.

The Don Cuco Sotol line up., jaclyn jacquez
The Don Cuco Sotol line up.

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised in El Paso, Texas and Chihuahua, Mexico, this charming but fierce warrior woman is more than armed with a masters degree in International Business from the American College of Switzerland.  Under her leadership, the company trademarked its brand name, exported it first into New Mexico, and now, into New Zealand where it is gaining the attention of bars and restaurants specializing in serving handcrafted Mexican spirits-based cocktails.

Jaclyn Jacquez, President of Don Cuco Sotol.
Jaclyn Jacquez, President of Don Cuco Sotol.

In an industry where the image and story behind a spirit is crucial for its marketing success, Jaclyn and the entire Jacquez family, staunchly refuse to stray from their artisanal roots.  Opting instead to concentrate on honoring their culture and way of life in the Sonoran Desert, they have managed to capture its essence inside every bottle of Don Cuco Sotol.

As I related to author, Tom Barry, in his stellar article “A Sotol Story” (it may be bad form to quote oneself, but I’ll do so here), “There is no mistaking that Don Cuco Sotol is produced–handcrafted, micro-distilled–and lovingly brought into the market by the Jacquez family.”

A revolutionary spirit fronted by a soldadera, Jaclyn Jacquez most certainly belongs among the ranks of Tequila Boss Ladies.

To repeat, we asked a short list of five questions to prominent women leading the charge for change in the Tequila Industry and beyond.

Interview with Don Cuco Sotol’s President, Jaclyn Jacquez.

TA:  How would you describe your experiences as a high ranking woman in your position in a primarily male dominated industry?

JJ:  To be in a male dominated industry has been an empowering feeling.  The liquor industry is starting to realize the great power of influence women have in this business.  Not only do we have influence in advertisement and marketing but we are playing a major role in strategic business decisions at an international level.

Label.
Label.

TA:  How have you been able to change things within your industry?

JJ:  The sotol industry had played a major role during Mexico’s revolutionary times just as the women called ” Adelitas” did during that period.  Now its challenge, and my challenge, is to revolutionize everyone’s cocktail with this spirit.

My heritage is from Chihuahua and I, too, carry that northern revolutionary spirit within me.  I don’t think I’ve made a change in this industry, yet, but Sotol is a revolutionary drink and I’m just part of its heritage.

I just happen to be the “Adelita.”

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

Adelitas of the Mexican Revolution.
Adelitas of the Mexican Revolution.

JJ:  I see huge potential for women and the liquor industry itself.

I see women not only in the marketing aspect of it, but in the agriculture, business, social conscious awareness of it and education.  I see women taking this challenging industry to a much higher level where people will not only be asking for just well drinks but for a cocktail with a specific brand of sotol or tequila.

TA:  What things would you like to see changed?

JJ:  Awareness.

I want people to understand that tequila and sotol are not just another alcoholic beverage to drink.  It is more than that.  It is culture, art, and a spirit that has to be treated with respect.  That’s why the Ancestors called it spirits.  Consumers need to research and know what they are consuming and demand it.

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

JJ:  Yes.  It’s just like any other goal.  You’ve got to have passion and embrace every challenging aspect of this industry.

***

A soldadera relaxes.
A soldadera relaxes.

 

Find Don Cuco Sotol Online:

Don Cuco Website

Follow Don Cuco Sotol on Facebook

And on Twitter @SotolDonCuco

 

 

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Tequila Boss Ladies by M.A. “Mike” Morales

Carmen Villareal, san matias

Tequila Boss Ladies

 “The world will be saved by the western woman.”

The Dalai Lama, Vancouver Peace Summit, September 2009

We’re pretty sure His Holiness had no idea that his proclamation would also include this Who’s Who of women in the Tequila Industry and beyond.

Mary ClementeJurado Tequila…

Mary Clemente gets her close-up.Exclusivity breeds demand and Clemente’s Jurado Tequila, nicknamed the Black Swan (a metaphor used to describe hard-to-predict, high-impact and far-reaching events), is so rare that you’ll have to travel to Asia or the Middle East to find it.

Jurado Tequila (photo by Ian Cuttler).
Jurado Tequila (photo by Ian Cuttler).

Solely at Duty Free stores winter 2013, with rock star celebrity chef Grant MacPherson supplying added culinary deliciousness for the tequila connoisseur and world traveler.

Paula TorresNobleza Azúl tequila…

Nobleza Azul Tequila.
Nobleza Azul Tequila.

Not only does Paula own her own brand, but she comes from a family of Highlands agave growers.  Fiercely protective of her family’s land, heritage and tradition, Paula is involved in every aspect of Nobleza’s growth.

Paula Torres
Paula Torres

Find award winning Nobleza Azúl throughout Southern California and parts of Chicago, Las Vegas and Utah.

Watch our Sipping off the Cuff episode for Nobleza Azul here.

Maribel Garcia CanoTequilas del Señor

The mysterious Ingeniera García craftily flies under the tequila radar.

Quietly going about her business supervising the quality of the tequilas churned out at the famed Tequilas del Señor distillery, she has also managed to develop the critically acclaimed Don Diego Santa Tequila.

Don Diego Santa Tequila
Don Diego Santa Tequila

 

 

“…women would become the ‘saviors of the global economy.'”

  CNN, October 2012

Carmen Alicia Villarreal TreviñoTequila San Matías de Jalisco

Carmen Villareal
Carmen Villarreal

 

 

CEO Villarreal is the only female distillery owner to date.

Launching the legendary brand Carmessí in 1999, created with the essence of today’s women in mind, its website declares, “At Casa San Matías we’ve developed different tequilas to suit all of our clients, from daring women to experienced consumers.”

Available in major markets in the US and Europe.

Dr. Ana Valenzuela-Zapata

La Diosa Mayahuel (Photo by Alberto Ramirez)
La Diosa Mayahuel (Photo by Alberto Ramirez)

Known by some as “La Diosa Mayahuel” (the Goddess Mayahuel), Ana is the final word on agave ethno-botanics and the conservation of all native species of agaves in Mexico.

This published author frequently consults to agave growers and tequila brand owners.

An outspoken advocate for agave biodiversity and defending tequila’s Appellation of Origin, her next book, The Geographic Indication of Tequila, will cover just that.

Ana Maria Romero Mena

Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero Mena.
Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero Mena.

The only woman to be given the title of “Maestra Tequilera” by the powerful National Chamber of the Tequila Industry (CNIT), Ana Maria has consulted and taught seminars for every major tequila producer in the business, as well as developed several signature tequila brands for others.

She’s even designed a kit to help describe tequila aromas and written an award-winning book on the subject.

Sophie DecobecqCalle 23 Tequila

How does a nice French biochemist/engineer become a tequila brand owner?   Simple…

Sophie Decobecq (Photo by Chris Mac)
Sophie Decobecq (Photo by Chris Mac)

She falls in love with the fermentation process, develops three different yeast cultures and produces three very different tasting tequilas.

Infusing them with her wacky sense of humor (“Tequila drives a Cadillac” is a favorite t-shirt slogan), Calle 23 is an award winner in both the US and the UK.

Calle 23.
Calle 23.

 

 

Jaclyn JacquezPresident, Don Cuco Sotol

The next hottest Mexican spirit to hit the market is not exactly tequila or mezcal.  Don Cuco Sotol has been described as the best of both worlds.

Outside of its own Denomination of Origin in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila, sotol has been a mystery for over 800 years.

Jaclyn Jacquez, President of Don Cuco Sotol.
Jaclyn Jacquez, President of Don Cuco Sotol.

Jacquez, the great-granddaughter of Don Cuco, trademarked the name in both Mexico and the US and then began exporting this sixth generation distillate into New Mexico, Texas, California, and New Zealand.

Bertha González NievesCEO, Casa Dragones tequila…

Bertha González Nieves, CEO of Casa Dragones.
Bertha González Nieves, CEO of Casa Dragones.

Along with co-founder and Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman, Bertha has managed to craft a highly sought after joven tequila, an often overlooked expression in the industry.

With a flavor profile that’s perfect for pairing with a myriad of cuisines, it has been praised by celebrity boss ladies Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.

(For more with Bertha González Nieves click here  and Casa Dragones, here.)

“…women need to be comfortable seeing themselves as qualified leaders and risk takers.”

Arianna Huffington

With these female front runners leading the charge for change, the Dalai Lama, CNN and Arianna Huffington might not be too far off the mark.

If you enjoyed this article, look for more articles, video, and interviews on women & tequila coming soon from Tequila Aficionado Media.

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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!

How to Get Paid to Drink Tequila:

How you can turn your passion into profits and get paid to drink tequila as a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or author

 

Salud!!