Join us this evening as Mike Morales and Lisa Pietsch talk with the founders of Senor Rio Tequila about their tequila and other products they’re bringing to market from the Senor Rio family.
Jonathan Gach and Debbie Medina, co-founders of Jalisco International Imports, Inc., met in business and they first built a friendship which turned into love. They discovered that they had mutual interests and passions. One that they decided to pursue was their love for tequila, but why Senor Rio tequila?
It all begins with estate grown 100% blue weber agaves cultivated in the ideal conditions of the arid red clay soil from the low lands in Jalisco Mexico, The pinas (the hearts of the agave plants) are harvested by hand after reaching maturity. They are then slowly cooked in traditional stone ovens. After being cooked, they are fermented with the tanks open so that the fragrance from the fruit trees, which surround the distillery, blends into the tequila naturally for a hint of tropical citrus. Finally, the tequila is double distilled by their master distiller to keep the true agave flavor of their premium tequila.
In March, Tequila Aficionado Magazine attended the 28th International Nightclub & Bar/Beverage Retailer Convention and Trade Show
hosted by Restaurant Marketing Magazine. It was an incredible show to say the least.
Among the many tequila companies represented, we had an opportunity to visit with Sammy Hagar from Cabo Wabo tequila.
Tequila Aficionado: How do you feel about the success of Cabo Wabo?
Sammy Hagar: I think it is phenomenal, everyone has dreams and stuff and that is just one of the ones that I had no idea it was going to be such an instant success and I know it was the best tequila I ever made in my life; I mean that I had ever tasted in my life but I had no idea that everyone would get it and I am happy about it.
[Tweet “Alexander Perez visits with Sammy Hagar and talks tequila”]
TA: What are your plans for this year, any major promotions of Cabo Wabo?
SH: Always, the way I live my life is the Cabo Wabo lifestyle so everything I do, it promotes itself because I don’t have to go out and say I am selling this, I am Mr. Cabo Wabo! So I just be there and I don’t have to try to hard sell anything because I am not about that. I am not about holding up a carton and saying “drink this because I say it’s good.” This is what I drink, I drink CaboWabo and that’s why .. , it’s not an endorsement, I own the company if you know what I mean. So, between the club, my stage show, which is built around the CaboWabo, and the tequila – it’s like a snow ball thing, it all promotes itself.
TA: Explain to us what is the Cabo Wabo lifestyle?
SH: Well the Cabo Wabo lifestyle is pretty much, spicy food, margaritas and shots, having fun, a lot of beach time.
TA: You are in your beach wear right now!
SH: Well this is the way I dress. If I can’t dress like this, I go somewhere else where I can. I don’t like wool, you know It’s the Cabo Wabo lifestyle. I don’t like hats, I don’t like socks, I don’t even like shoes, I don’t even like clothes period but you know you gotta wear a t-shirt and some shorts. That’s it – that’s CaboWabo to me.
TA: What got you into the Tequila’s?
[Tweet “The Cabo Wabo lifestyle is spicy food, margaritas & shots, having fun, a lot of beach time.”]
SH: I have been living in Mexico for 18 years off-and-on, part-time I’d say, and went to the town of Tequila about 16, 17 years ago and it blew my mind when I tasted real handmade Tequila. Before then I had been drinking like everyone else the stuff that you go, “I will never drink that as long as I live,” and you have gotten sick in college on rot-gut tequila, but once you taste really good tequila, as good as any fine cognac or armagnac or scotch or anything else so I got turned on to that and I became a new man.
TA: Do you have any mentors that you follow to get into Tequila? Any mentors you can talk about?
SH: Well I would say the first time I went to the town of Tequila and I tasted a little factor called Delahancia, it was about 14 years ago and I was building the Cabo Wabo and I was over there looking for boutique Tequilas that I could have in my club that you could not buy. And it was the best tequila I had ever tasted in my life and since then, they don’t exist anymore, I am sure they got bought out by some big boys or something, and it’s probably some big factory now that it is no longer handmade, but at the time I was on a search to find that kind of tequila and they made me CaboWabo for a long time. They didn’t make it Cabo Wabo, they made me tequila in jugs they would send me for my club and everyone that tasted it flipped out. So when I finally found Miravalle, the factory that makes CaboWabo, and that’s all they make now, but they had a couple other little brands at the time and now they just make CaboWabo. Miravalle said “what do you want it to taste like” and I kept tasting and the chemists there kept making me different tequilas and I would taste them and taste them until I tasted what I thought was close to that, thing it was almost like peanut butter, it was very “caramelly”. I then started liking simpler, less aged tequilas, quite honestly, and I am almost like a blanco guy now.
[Tweet “”It was the best tequila I had ever tasted in my life” ~ Sammy Hagar”]
TA: A purist?
SH: Yes, in a way I am. Because you like the taste of the tequila and I don’t like four-year old aged tequilas, they taste like scotch and I am not a big scotch drinker, I am a tequila drinker. So, that is kind of where my head has gone and in the future, but originally I was going for that one-year aged killing-taste that Delahancia was. So he is my mentor but I don’t know where they are those people.
TA: So do you consider yourself a Tequila Aficionado?
SH: Oh absolutely! Last night I was in a restaurant in Palm Springs and I asked the bartender, (he didn’t know who I was or nothing, and I was with my nephews and my brother, we were out having boys-night-out) and said “hey, do you got any tequila,” and he said “sure man,” I said “you got CaboWabo” and he goes “yeah we do that’s really good tequila, I hear a lot about it. Have you had it?” and I am going “no, never had it.” So I was doing that with the guy and I sat there and I tasted it and I mean, I didn’t see the bottle, he poured it and I thought yeah this guy could be “bulls—–g” right. I smelled it,… instant recognition! I said this is CaboWabo, I could tell you anywhere in the world that this is CaboWabo, then we ordered a Patron and we ordered a Don Julio, we order Porfidio, we ordered all these and smelled them all next to each other and CaboWabo is the best tequila in the world. That is my honest opinion, you know it’s all about taste. It’s what your taste is, well for me that is the kind of tequila I like. You know with wine you might say I am a burgundy guy or I am a Bordeaux, or I like cheval blanc over Latour, it’s all a matter of taste, for me CaboWabo is the best Tequila in the world.
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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.”