[From September 11 to October 2, 2016, Tequila Aficionado Media, sponsored by 34 expressions representing 21 brands, embarked on a monumental RV road show dubbed, The Heartland Tour. In these next passages, we recount the historic–and epic–highlights. *FTC Disclosure: Brands appearing on the Tequila Aficionado Dia de Los Muertos & Heartland Tour had to be vetted as Brand of Promise Nominees and paid a nominal fee to be on the tour.]
Jim of All Trades
Jim Driscoll bubbles with excitement at the anticipation of talking about his newly retooled Demetrio tequila (NOM 1459) expressions.
A self-proclaimed type-A kind of guy, this dynamo has accomplished more than most of us will in our lifetimes–
When the call came from Andres Garcia, Embajador Tequila’s sales manager, to accompany him to the state’s largest tradeshow at the Texas Restaurant Association in Dallas, we jumped at the chance for another road trip.
The Texas Restaurant Association serves, educates and supports the restaurant industry in Texas. Alternating trade shows between Houston and Dallas, this year’s event was held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center next to the luxurious Omni Hotel in the heart of downtown Dallas.
Embajador would be participating in conjunction with ProMexico, a government entity that promotes Mexican companies in order to contribute to its economic and social development and strengthens the country’s image as a strategic global business partner.
Witness the brief ribbon cutting ceremony of the ProMexico section of the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place on June 28, 2015 in Dallas.
Aside from classic travel slogans (“We do things bigger in Texas,” and “It’s like a whole other country”), my only exposure to the city of Dallas was like everybody else’s who didn’t hail from Texas–the beloved Dallas TV show.
Overlooking the sweeping downtown skyline from the window of our room on the 19th floor of the Omni Hotel, you could almost hear the show’s theme song. The Ewing saga kept us glued to the set every Friday night.
The bigness of the city was certainly reflected in the size and scope of the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place.
Inside the section reserved for venders involved with ProMexico, Embajador was awarded a commanding corner booth that Andres decorated with bottles of his tequila.
Resembling a duty free perfume counter at an international airport, Embajador wowed fellow venders and attendees for the two straight days of the Market Place.
Above, Andres Garcia samples Embajador Tequila to attendees at the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place.
Hectic as most popular trade shows are, we did manage to check out a few of the dozens of participating businesses and products. Among other venders at the Market Place were…
Texas Specialty Beverage–carrying an array of products like Tropics Natural Infusions, a 100% natural fruit infusions with a slew of tempting flavors as wild as 4 Berry and Ice Cream. Catering to specialty foodservice for premium cocktails and smoothies, as well as culinary and savory applications, they even concocted a signature margarita using Embajador reposado.
Zodiac Vodka–an American-made craft potato vodka. Produced from farm to bottle using 100% locally sourced ingredients, based in Idaho (of course!).
New Mexico Green Chile Company–a family owned company of brokers and distributors of the state’s prime crop (and a personal favorite of mine!), Hatch green chile, direct to distributors and restaurants throughout Texas.
Every product or service one could think of, from coffee service to professional barbecue grills, was featured in the Market Place. Similar to the Sabor Latino Food Show that we had attended in California earlier this spring, the organizers also provided a separate location for all Texas-based spirits that participated in the event.
It was no surprise to run into Empresario, a merged entity made up of Austin-based liquor companies who aim to give global distillers like Brown-Forman a run for their money. Among the partners are Pepe Z and Republic tequilas.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home
Rather than make the long drive home from Dallas to San Antonio in rush hour traffic, Andres Garcia and I decided to visit one of the city’s favorite places for tacos and tequila–Tacos And Tequila!
Earlier in the day, several members of the chain’s management and ownership had stopped by Embajador’s booth seeking new tequilas and mezcals to add to their already extensive selection. We decided to return the favor and visit the Routh Street location for dinner.
Emphasizing fresh ingredients in all their menu items at Tacos And Tequila, we were treated to tableside guacamole.
Manager Zak Baron explains the chain’s freshness philosophy.
What’s Up With the Rebar?
Tacos and Tequila has a unique way of expanding their bar and displaying even more agave spirits. Zak explains…
The Secret to A Successful Menu
Pinning down the secret to Tacos and Tequilas’ agave forward menu.
Zak and bartender Nadine reveal the one thing you should know about Tacos and Tequila.
Into The Sunset
All in all, a more than worthy trade show in the Texas Restaurant Association Market Place, topped off with a memorable celebratory dinner at Tacos And Tequila–
high strength, is generally too expensive and unattainable for most consumers.
Outside of being manufactured as components in high end products like performance race cars, lightweight motorcycles and competition bicycles, about two thirds of all titanium metal produced is used in aircraft engines and frames.
So when Robert Tijerina, owner of Houston based spirits importer, Premium Spirits, and the founder of Priority 1 Aviation, a worldwide business jet aircraft sales and brokerage firm, decided on a name for his tequila, Titanium fit perfectly.
Here, Casey Hartle gives us more background on Titanium’s origin.
Ready For Take Off
Casey comes from a wine and spirits background having served time with Republic National Distributing Company in sales, and then successfully helping another tequila brand gain a firm foothold in the tough-to-maneuver Texas market.
Hartle explains the particular challenges that exist for a start-up brand in expanding from the competitive city of Houston to Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
Casey’s goal is to take Titanium, an up-and-coming tequila brand in Premium Spirits’ portfolio, to new heights.
Old Skool Methods vs. Modern Technology
Produced at the famed Hacienda La Capilla distillery (NOM 1479), the tequila itself is the brainchild of their artistic and secretive master distiller (known only as Eduardo) who decided to perfect his own recipe after years of making tequilas for others.
Casey explains Titanium’s process that combines old skool methods and modern technology to achieve a specific flavor and aroma.
Hartle shares his vision for Titanium in the next five years.
Casey informs where Titanium can be found in Texas.
Casey Hartle expresses the one thing he’d like everyone to know about Titanium tequila.
Cleared For Landing
Most commonly found in the working parts of private planes and palatial yachts, titanium has also been perceived as a symbol of luxury.
While the name fits quite well with Tijerina’s aviation background and jet-setting career, Casey Hartle advises that the luxury lifestyle can be affordably obtained simply by sipping Titanium tequila, whether at your favorite watering hole, nightclub, or with friends on a fishing boat or yacht.
That makes Titanium tequila as versatile as its alloy namesake and luxury easily attained.
Feeling lucky? Enjoy this fun video from Titanium tequila.
On the wall of The Pastry War, a world renowned mezcalería and restaurant in the heart of Houston, TX, this chalkboard message proudly explains why owners, outspoken agave advocates Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta, staunchly refuse to serve tequilas and mezcals produced with a diffuser.
In their view, it’s a battle between traditional methods of tequila [and mezcal] production which yields “delicious tequila [or mezcal],” versus more cost-conscious methods adopted by distilleries that produce “a shitty version of tequila [or mezcal].”
Let’s look more closely at this cursed contraption.
Using only hot water and sulfuric acid to extract up to 98%-99% of the sugars from raw, uncooked agave, the resultant tequila, as described by noted agave lover, Fortaleza tequila brand ambassador and blogger, Khyrs Maxwell, in his detailed instructional post, There May Be Too Much Agave in Your Tequila or Mezcal tastes like…
“…what I would consider to have a chemical/medicinal taste–sometimes slight, sometimes overbearing flavor profile that always seems to overshadow the beauty of the agave.”
He further states that it “tastes very much like vodka” and has coined the term “AgaVodka.”
“So if you come across a tequila or mezcal made with a difusor, the only way that there can be “notes of cooked agave” is by adding that flavor during the finishing process. They can add “notes of cooked agave?” Why, yes. Yes they can…I’ve seen and smelled the additive. It does exist.”
Maxwell’s statement above excludes the use of authorized additives to blanco (unaged) tequila, of course.
As of December 2012, such practices have been outlawed by the CRT in its normas (rules and regulations governing the production of tequila). It remains to be seen how well it will be enforced, however, so your pricey, Fruit Loop scented blanco may still be safe for a year or two until inventories are depleted.
Spanish diffuser manufacturer, Tomsa Destil, offers a closer look at the mega-masher and its process, which seem to go hand-in-hand with column distillation.
The site mentions that they have installed 12 diffusers for use in agave processing, but makes no mention of their clients, nor if sulfuric acid to extract sugars from agave is also needed.
While controversy swirls around the use of a diffuser, most educated tequila aficionados understand that it is not illegal to do so. In fact, its application was accepted by the CRT some time ago.
As we mentioned in item #5 of our Craft Tequila Gauntlet, diffuser use by a distillery is a closely guarded secret even though it is a fairly large piece of machinery to try to hide. There is a stigma attached to it, with most distilleries that have one completely denying that any of their star brands are processed with it.
While most of the Tequila Industry’s heavy hitters are known to possess diffusers, many also own regular shredders, autoclaves and even stone ovens. Ask any major brand owner whose tequila is produced at these maquiladoras (large production facilities that churn out juice for contracted brands) whether they are a by-product of a diffuser, and they vehemently deny it.
The historic tequila maker initially implemented the super shredder during the last great agave crisis of the late 90s. Years later, it was taken to task by an organized group of key concerned mixologists and tequila supporters who refused to use Herradura in their cocktails or to include it in their bar menus due to a drastic change in its original flavor profile and quality. Herradura finally succumbed and stopped using it for that label.
In the following screen captures of a Twitter chat from May 1, 2014, Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura’s Director of International Brand Development, admits that the diffuser is now only used for their Antiguo, El Jimador, and Pepe Lopez brands.
Destilería Leyros, producers of their flagship brand, Tequila Don Fermin and many others, bills itself as a model for modern and efficient tequila making.
It was proudly represented that way even in the wildly popular Spanish language telenovelaDestilando Amor, where it stood in for the then fictional Destilería Montalvo.
Enrique Legorreta Carranco, one of the owners of Leyros, agreed to answer some of our questions and to try to help dispel the myths and mysteries surrounding the diffuser.
“I am aware about the controversy of using difusor [Spanish spelling] in the tequila process. Here are some key factors and benefits of the process in order to be firm with the press:
“In fact, there is nothing to hide and we are willing to receive tequila bloggers, media or people from Tequila Aficionado in order to know first hand this innovative and ecological process.”
“The difusor extracts the agave juice first of all, followed by the cooking of the agave juice to extract the agave sugars. This cooked agave juice is called the agua miel. In traditional process they first cooked the agave followed by the agave juice extraction. We obviously need to cook the agave juice in order to get its sugars in order to be able to be fermentated (biological process where sugar turns into alcohol).”
[We’ll note that Sr. Legorreta took issue with the portrayal of the tastes and essences of tequilas produced with a diffuser as described by some bloggers, believing them to be too subjective.]
“This process gives to the taster a more herbal, clean and citric experience. Also this process is more efficient and as a result gives a tequila with better standards in methanol, aldehydes and other compounds not desired because at high levels produces hangovers.”
Traditional Process vs. Modern Technology
“We respect a lot [the] traditional process. The only thing we believe is that the consumer has the last word to choose between one tequila flavor from another.
“There are people that prefer the traditional strong flavor from tequila. Other people are preferring tequilas [that are] more pure, citric with subtle notes of fresh agave like if you are smelling [the] agave and [the] land.”
Reiterating what was demonstrated in the videos above, Sr. Legorreta explains…
“A difusor process uses less than 50% of energy, and less than 60% of water used in traditional processes to produce same quantities of liters. Additional to this [at the] Leyros Distillery we recycle the bagasse that we get in the last phase of the difusor. All this with our completely self-sufficient green boiler is fueled with bagasse from our own mill.”
About That Stigma…
“About why many distilleries denied they have a difusor, I can guess without knowing a reason from first hand–that is because traditional process with ovens sounds more romantic than the technology of a difusor.”
“In fact, a lot of distilleries focus their marketing efforts around traditional processes. I guess this is working. If not, I [suppose] they would be focusing more in the tasting notes of the final product.”
Indeed, Destilería Leyros’ website and videos play on the romance using a smattering of phrases as, “It tastes like countryside, like fire in your blood,” and “Like a passionate kiss, the Taste of Mexico.”
A New Style
In much the same manner as importers, brand owners, and maestro tequileros defend
(and advertise in their marketing materials!) the use of additives in their aged tequilas (“finished and polished”), Sr. Legorreta asserts that juice made with a diffuser is simply another style of tequila.
“The essence of tequila is the agave, and both processes distill agave, just in different ways. There are some people that love traditions [and] there are others that like to innovate and improve things.”
Just as Leyros’ website and videos “invites you to taste and compare, and then let your palate decide which tequila you’d rather raise in a toast,” Sr. Legorreta concludes:
“At the end of the day, or the end of the history, [it] is the consumer [who] chooses their tequila without a bias in the information.”
Some Truths to Consider
The Leyros videos above claim to use machinery as a way to “considerably reduce the risk of injury” to the people on their workforce. Yet, as Maxwell points out…
“Not only is the difusor a way to pump out product, it also uses a very small labor force. As more distilleries use the difusor, there will be less jobs available to those, who for hundreds of years, have built towns and created families by working in the agave distillate industry. So what happens to the unemployed? …do they leave for the US to become illegal immigrants? Or do they work for the narcos?”
At the risk of being redundant, it bears repeating what noted agave ethno-botanist, Ana Valenzuela said about the diffuser here…
“…to prohibit the use of diffusers (in hydrolysis of agave juices) that takes the “soul” (the flavor of baked agave) out of our native distillates, singular in the world for its complexities of aromas and flavors.”
In conclusion, if current figures are correct, exports of tequila rose 16% to US$568 million in the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period last year. It is expected that China will import 10 million liters of tequila in the next 5 years.
Where will Mexico find enough agave to serve their thirsty customers?
These guys know where.
Turning A Blind Eye
On September 4, 2014, dozens of mezcaleros (mezcal producers) dumped 200 liters of mezcal onto the streets of Oaxaca City in protest for their government’s lack of support against tequileros from Jalisco who are allegedly raiding tons of espadín and other maguey (agave), the prime ingredient in mezcal, to produce tequila.
In the process, say Maestros del Mezcal Tradiciónal del Estado de Oaxaca (a trade association) 15 of the 32 varieties of maguey native to Oaxaca are in danger of becoming extinct.
Thanks to these transnational maguey marauders, the burgeoning mezcal industry’s days are numbered, it seems.
If indeed a diffuser strips away the agave’s regional characteristics leaving behind a more citric, vodka-like, cookie cutter flavor profile that easily lends itself to clandestine adulteration, over distillation and multiple barrel blendings, then what’s to keep these pirate tequileros from pilfering agave from outside the requisite growing states and using a diffuser to crank out “tequila?”
These days, filling orders to emerging world markets is more important than the blatant disregard for the Denomination of Origin.
Primarily a show that serves the spirits industry (or trade) in Texas, for us at Tequila Aficionado Media, it was a chance to visit with new brands, products and services trying to break into the challenging Texas spirits market.
In this clip, Michael E. Klein, a spirits entrepreneur and long-time Austin businessman who spearheaded the formation of the alliance, explains its purpose.
What follows are some of the highlighted products that you should watch out for on Tequila Aficionado Media, in Texas, and beyond.
In the current booming mezcal market, more and more brands are appearing under the traditional higher alcoholic proofs that more established mezcals are known for. Briscas is a refreshing libation that refuses to be confused with other gateway mezcal brands.
Ricardo Gonzales, Sales & Marketing Director for importer Moreno Spirits, gives us a quick rundown of the small batch espadín Briscas Mezcal.
Juan Moreno, President & CEO of Moreno Spirits, explains how bringing Briscas to market was a journey of discovery for himself and his family.
The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention was not without surprises for us at Tequila Aficionado Media.
Austin resident Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the celebrated The 86 Company responsible for a brilliant line of spirits with exacting quality like our Brands Of Promise(TM) Overproof Silver Medal winning Tequila Cabeza, made an appearance in support of the event.
Also exhibiting in grand style was John L. Rivers IV (a.k.a.: Juan Rios), Managing Director of Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila, a new offering from the illustrious former boxing champion.
Not only did he share with us some of this fine sipping tequila and listed its current markets, but also an exclusive photo of a super piña in the champ’s agave fields.
[Spoiler Alert! At press time, we had not notified John about our verdict of Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila’s review on a future Sipping Off The Cuff(TM), but we let the cat out of the bag, here….]
Mixing and Matching
One of the more exciting and refreshing combos we discovered at the Texas Nightclub & Bar Alliance Convention was between Pablo Madrigali, Brand Manager with Mexcor International and Lucy Corona, co-founder of Slim Ritas, the 100 calorie fresh juice margarita mix.
Mexcor, a family owned business based in Houston, TX, has been the importer of crowd pleasing tequilas at reasonable prices from Destiladora del Valle de Tequila (NOM 1438) for several years, including El Reformador, Cava de los Morales and Agavales.
Lucy Corona is a dynamic and spirited mother and business owner whose dream after giving birth to her children was to enjoy a satisfying and natural margarita. So she made them herself!
Here, Rob Corona explains the birth of SlimRitas.
Here, Pablo gives a bit of Mexcor’s and Agavales’ history, and how he and Lucy joined forces.
One To Watch
Michael E. Klein has handed the reigns of planning future conventions to the team at San Antonio based SMC Events, and it looks to expand the tradeshow’s reach even further with more products and services participating.
Judging from the contagious energy coming from the booths of other exhibitors at the first annual Texas Nightclub & Bar Alliance Convention, the promise of bigger yearly events looks to be a sure thing.
For some reason this article Tequila Timeline: From Agave to the Worm was reposted in Fast CompanyMagazine on Friday, November 20, 2009 from an earlier post on October 15, 2009. (Maybe it was because the editors forgot to add the cute tequila graphics the first time?)
Anyway, most of the timeline is historically accurate, except for this factoid:
“1873: Don Cenobio Sauza exports three barrels to El Paso, Texas, the first tequila in the United States. Today, the U.S. is the No. 1 market for tequila. Mexico is second. Third? Greece.”
The reference to Sauza exporting mezcal wine into El Paso in 1873 is incorrect. I’ll explain why momentarily, but first…
Texas’ long history of laying claim to being the home of tequila in the United States can be credited to W. Park Kerr of the El Paso Chile Company fame. Not for anything that he may have said, but for what he did.
Kerr was the first Texas entrepreneur to distill a private label tequila (Tequila Naciónal)in Mexico to his specifications, thus opening the floodgates of recent tequila brands based in Texas such as RiAzúl in Houston, El Grado in Corpus Christi, Republic Tequila in Austin, Buscadores in San Antonio, and Dos Lunas in El Paso, among others.
Sorry to break this to tejanos, but Texas was not the final destination of that first delivery.
The Rest of the Story
In his book La historia del tequila, de sus regiones y sus hombres, author Rogelio Luna Zamora recounts:
“‘…con destino a Nuevo Mexico sale una partida de 3 barriles y 6 botijas….’ El punto fronterizo por donde salió fue el Paso del Norte (hoy Ciudad Juárez) en aquel entonces, paso obligado a las mercaderías exportadas por tierra al mercado estadunidense.”
[“‘…with a destination of New Mexico there is a lot of 3 barrels and 6 jugs….’ The border town point of entry was el Paso del Norte (present day Juárez) that in those days was the required land passage for commodities exported into the American marketplace.”]
In 1873, New Mexico was a territory of the United States, but still considered part of Mexico. The final destination of Sauza’s shipment is believed to have been to the oldest capital city, Santa Fe. Being also the terminus of the legendary Santa Fe Trail, the route that opened the Southwest to trading with the Eastern United States, this conclusion only makes sense.
Thirty-nine years later, New Mexico joined the Union. Flash forward to today, and there is only one New Mexican owned brand of tequila (Silvercoin).
Perhaps now is the time for more New Mexico entrepreneurs to step up with tequila labels of their own?
Originally posted November 22, 2009 by TequilaRack.