Women In The Tequila Industry: Kim Brandi

KAH_SOM2012No other Tequila Boss Lady to date inspires more compassion and empathy from women, colleagues, and tequila connoisseurs alike than Kim Brandi.

Although surrounded by swirling controversy from constant legal–and very public–battles over the much sought after juice and painted skulls of her brainchild, KAH–Day of the Dead Tequila, she continues to move forward.

This creative dynamo is responsible for such recognizable brands as Kah’s doppelganger, Sangre de Vida Tequila and Mezcal, Flashbang tequila, Apocalypto tequila, and Deadhead Rum.

Despite litigious low tides and high tides that would dishearten the average agave spirits entrepreneur, Kim’s glass continues to remain half full of tequila, and now, mezcal.

Here’s her take on our standard handful of questions in this series.



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

KB:  While the tequila industry may seem to be very male dominated at first glance, if you look closer, you will see that women are not just a part of its creation, they are a vital component.

As a female CEO, importer and distributor, I work with women at every level of our production.

On the bottling line, I worked shoulder to shoulder with other women to fill and box our tequila.  The list goes on:

[Tweet “Women are not just a part of #tequila’s creation, they are a vital component.”]

From scheduling production runs to quality control, and from printing packaging supplies to supply chain management—even our supervisor at our distribution center in the City of Industry, CA, is a woman.

KB_CreatorDue to the prevalence of ladies in tequila, I am not forced to face the challenges one may associate with a female in a “male dominated” industry; instead, I have the pleasure of working with plenty of incredible and inspiring women everyday.

TA:  How have you been able to change things within the Tequila/Mezcal Industries?

KB:  One of the most important changes that has fueled the tequila and mezcal revolution has been the education of the trade and final consumer.

[Tweet “The most important change that has fueled #tequila and #mezcal is education.”]

Prior to becoming a brand owner, I worked in publishing for the beverage 001trade industry and volunteered with the Spirits of Mexico, whose founder, Dori Bryant, brought tequila out of the dark ages of only drinking it as a shot with a lime and salt.

Through both experiences, I fell in love with tequila and was able to share my knowledge with others.  Specifically, I educated the trade about the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes and the advantages of utilizing sustainable practices.

These lessons were central in the creation of my brands; I sought out suppliers who implemented eco-friendly manufacturing practices, such as waste water treatment facilities and recycling programs.

DeadheadRumTA:  What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila/Mezcal Industries?

KB:  As previously noted, I believe we already have a strong workforce of amazing women in the tequila industry, and this group will only expand.

My dream is for these women to receive the recognition that they deserve.

It seems that we, as women, oftentimes pass on compliments to others.  By doing so, we belittle our own accomplishments.

[Tweet “We already have a strong workforce of amazing women in #tequila.”]

I hope we gain the self-confidence to own our success and become the role models for younger women looking to enter the industry.

TA:  What facets of the Tequila/Mezcal Industries would you like to see change?

 KB:  I believe the tequila industry is traveling on a wonderful and excitingKB_SDVMezcal path.  We need to stick to this route by continuing to elevate the category.

We have to educate the consumer on the nuances of tequila and teach both the trade and consumers about everything from terroir to developing a cocktail that allows the base spirit to shine.

We need to emphasize the importance of sustainability and build on our current practices to make the production of tequila even more environmentally friendly.

But, most importantly, even with its recent evolution and renewed popularity, we cannot forget about the traditions that brought tequila to this point—we need to hold onto this history even as we innovate and lead the consumer into the future.

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

KB:  The internet and social media has enabled the consumer to be more knowledgeable about his or her drink than ever before.

User comments

In a way, it has leveled the playing field between the large multi-national brands and smaller independently-owned brands.

These small brands can now reach the same audience as the giants—they are no longer priced out by expensive advertising.

With this power, comes the temptation to take the easy route and market using slogans, gimmicks or other cheap tricks.

Craft brands have never had to rely on these methods, so it is important for these producers to keep their message simple and focus on their time-honored traditions and passions.

[Tweet “Craft brands must keep their message simple, focused on traditions, passions”]

In the long run, it will cultivate brand trust and loyalty, which are crucial for the health of any product.

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

KB:  Believe in yourself.

You will without a doubt make mistakes when you start out (everyone does!), but those mistakes will build the groundwork for your expertise in this field.

Seek out a mentor that can steer you in the right direction when you feel lost, and remember–

Never, never, never give up!

[Tweet “No other #TequilaBossLady inspires more compassion than @kim_brandi of @SangreDeVida”]



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!

Spirits of Mexico 2013 in Pictures

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy

Tequila Aficionado Media covers North America’s premier agave spirits tasting event – Spirits of Mexico

Since a picture says a thousand words, Rick Thibault Levy, Tequila Aficionado’s correspondent to the 2013 Spirits of Mexico show, took plenty – along with some great video (video coming soon).  For your viewing enjoyment, we present the 2013 Spirits of Mexico in San Diego, through Rick Levy’s lens.  Enjoy!

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
1. The overflow crowd lines up for Spirits of Mexico


– For the First Time in the Festival’s History, Two Tequilas Tie for the Coveted ‘Best in Show’ Award –

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
2. More tequila aficionados queue up for Spirits of Mexico





The 10th-anniversary Spirits of Mexico Festival, North America’s premier agave spirits tasting event, returned to San Diego Sept. 17 to 21 and named the top agave spirits in the world. The week-long celebration attracted more than 2,000 tequila enthusiasts, featured more than 70 brands of tequila and presented more than 200 signature styles of spirits produced in Mexico including tequilas, mezcals and hand-crafted artisanal beers.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
3. Checking out tequila bottles for the silent auction


For the first time in the history of the festival there was a tie for the competition’s highest award, ‘Best in Show’, in which Herradura Anejo Tequila and Desaire Joven Edicion Especial Espadin Mezcal shared the win. The ‘Best in Show’ award for packaging went to Number Juan Tequila.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
4. Carefully placing bids for the silent auction.





The Best Western Hacienda Hotel in Old Town San Diego was the venue for the IWSC Group’s annual Spirits of Mexico Festival Tasting Competition that took place on Sept. 15 and 16.


spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
5. Which one would you bid on?





Entries were judged on five key elements including appearance, aromatics, flavor, mouthfeel and finish, with a rating system totaling a maximum possible score of 100 points. The intensive blind-tasting schedule included more than 100 entries.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
6. Grabbing a bite to eat from the food vendors


Winners of the Tasting Competition’s ‘Best in Class’ awards are as follows:

Tequila Blanco: Excellia

Blanco Overproof: Tapatio 110 proof

Tequila Reposado: Herradura

Tequila Anejo: Herradura

Mezcal: Desaire Joven Edicion Especial Espadin (86 proof)

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
7. Antojitos!



A total of 27 entries received gold medals, 28 received silver medals, and 30 received bronze medals.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
8. Do you love tacos?







The gold award winners in the Tequila Blanco category are Arrogante, Gran Dovejo, Herradura Silver and Viva Los Sanchos.

In the Overproof category, Tarantula 100 proof took home a gold.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
9. Don Adolfo Murillo proudly pours his award winning Alquimia tequila.




In the Tequila Reposado category, golds went to Cava de Oro, Dos Lunas, El Jimador, Gran Dovejo, Mexican Moonshine, Montalvo and Oro Azul.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
10. Alex Viecco, CEO of medal winning, triple distilled Montalvo tequila–with a surprise appearance by the NEAT glass






Gold recipients in the Tequila Anejo category were El Jimador, Gran Dovejo, Mexican Moonshine, Montalvo, Milagro Select Barrel Reserve, Suerte, Rudo, Viva Los Sanchos and Revolucion.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
11. Superstar brand Suerte Tequila explains its tahona process and quality to fans







In the Tequila Extra Anejo category, gold honors went to Crotalo 7 Year, Herradura Selección Suprema, Malinalli and Number Juan.



spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
12. Suerte Sunset






Desaire Joven Tobala took gold in the Mezcal category and Ocho Cientos Reposado took gold honors in the Sotol category.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
13. The noble blue agave






The Tasting Competition was co-hosted by Robert Plotkin of BarMedia and Jack Robertiello of Drinks Ink.

Judges included Alfredo Gama of Wine Warehouse; Founder and Director of Creativa Sensorial Ana Maria Romero Mena; Grover Sanschagrin of Taste Tequila and Tequila Matchmaker; Mixologist and Tequila Expert Jen Queen; Certified Mezcalier Julie Harrington-Giffin of Agave Love; Master Mixologist Junior Merino “The Liquid Chef”; Levi Walker of Young’s Market; Thomas ‘Mac’ McFarland Gregory III of Starwood Hotels, and Zack Romaya of Old Town Liquor.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
14. The sacrificial blue agave



On Friday, Sept. 20, Spirits of Mexico Festival Founder and Director Dori Bryant and Marketing Director Anna Grant hosted the Awards Ceremony and revealed the winners from this year’s competition.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
15. A smile and a sample




“The unprecedented tie for Best in Show, the competition’s highest honor, stunned all,” said Bryant. “This is the first time that a tequila anejo as well as a mezcal took top marks.

“This highest honor recognizes the enduring artistry and craftsmanship of Tequila Herradura, as well as the sophistication and elegance of Mezcal Desaire,” continued Bryant. “We are pleased to congratulate both of these formidable brands.”

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
16. Carlos Camarena’s Excellia displays its gold medal




Comedian Jason Lawhead hosted the live auction benefitting the Sky Ranch Foundation, which featured rare spirits and other items from the private collections of many of the distillers.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
17. Representatives of Karma tequila generate great vibes






The night was also honored by the city and county of San Diego, which provided proclamations naming Sept. 17 through 21, Spirits of Mexico Week in the county and city of San Diego.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
18. Karma tequila takes the stage





Mayor Todd Gloria spoke about the importance of the festival to the region.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
19. Tequila cupcakes for dessert from Harina Dulce





“San Diego is a unique cross-border and cross-cultural region – there is just no other place where two economies and two cultures come together into one critical entity like they do here,” said Mayor Gloria.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
20. Tequila Uno and Fortaleza headline the silent auction at the Spirits of Mexico





“This festival breaks through and tears down cultural walls, fences, barriers in appreciation of one thing: the joy, passion and pride of truly exceptional agave-based spirits.”

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
21. Crotalo, Pura Vida and Suerte tequilas contribute to the silent auction at Spirits of Mexico




On Saturday, Sept. 21, the Main Tasting Event presented more than 200 styles of agave-based spirits. Guests also sampled traditional Mexican cuisine from Casa de Reyes, met with master distillers, mixologists, historians and other agave aficionados, attended educational seminars by Milagro Tequila and Olmeca Altos, and bid on hundreds of bottles at a silent auction.


spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
22. Spirits of Mexico Founder, Dori Bryant, announces the 2013 medal winners



The Spirits of Mexico Festival, North America’s largest event dedicated to agave spirits, is presented by the IWSC Group, a leader in organizing wine and spirit competitions around the globe.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
23. Tequila and mezcal brand owners proudly display their medals







The festival made its 2013 national tour to New York City, Chicago and San Diego. For more information, visit www.thespiritsofmexico.com.

Look for videos from the 2013 Spirits of Mexico coming to Tequila Aficionado soon!


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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!