The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila

Bloodshed

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mAOn Jan. 22, 2018, a particularly savvy tequila brand owner announced in a private message to this office:

“Agave prices out of control.  $22/kilo.  Industry getting destroyed!”

Coincidentally, earlier that same day, another brand owner/ambassador admitted to us that the current cost had blown up to $24/kilo.

That savvy brand owner then added to his message–

“…but Cuervo started it.  Bought up a ton of [agave] before their IPO.  Increase balance sheet.  That’s, at least, the word on the street.”

But, shit got REAL for Jose Cuervo when…

Cuervo Cries Wolf

In this El Financiero article dated December 21, 2017, Francisco Beckmann Vidal, owner of Tierra de Agaves and Jose Cuervo, warned of a looming agave shortage.  He…

“…urged agave producers to increase plantings because whether in tons or in number of agaves, the industry requires more of your prime material.  Planting must begin now.  Eyes have to be opened and decisions need to be made.  Only the industry can provoke the necessary changes.”

[“…instó a los productores agaveros a que incrementen los plantíos porque tanto en toneladas o en número de agaves la industria cada vez requiere de más de sus materia prima, “hay que empezar a plantar desde ahorita. Hay que abrir los ojos y tomar decisiones. Solamente la industria es la que va a provocar estos cambios que se necesitan hacer.”]

Like Shaggy said–

It wasn’t me!

 Here’s Your Sign

All the signs of an impending shortage were there.  Major spirits distributors, tequila and even mezcal brands jockeyed for position in the Agave Triple Crown race.

In 2015, Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits, swapped its Bushmills Irish The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mAwhiskey brand for Don Julio, previously owned by José Cuervo.

After Cuervo’s early February 2017 initial public offering, Davos Brands acquired a controlling interest in Master Sommelier Richard Betts’ Sombra Mezcal and Astral Tequila brands, in March.

Then, in early June 2017, spirits and wine behemoth, Pernod Ricard, purchased a significant stake in founder Ron Cooper’s beloved Del Maguey Single Village Mezcals amid uproar from long time fans claiming “sell out.”

Later that June, in a surprising move, Diageo bought Casamigos tequila, co-founded by celebs George Clooney and Rande Gerber, for up to $1 billion.

All this time, Bacardi, lurking like a shark in the water, in January 2018, bared its jaws and swallowed up Patron for a reported $5.1 billion.

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

Pernod Ricard, in an attempt to get the last word in January 2018, shelled out the big bucks to purchase the remaining 16% of Ken Austin’s Avion tequila that it had invested $100 million in back in 2014.

M & A was the name of the game in the spirits distribution sector, too.

Late November 2017 brought the news that distributor Breakthru Beverage was set to combine with Texas based Republic National Distribution Company to match 2016’s mega-merger of Southern Wine and Spirits with Glazer’s, Inc.

Real, or Fake?

Some skeptics still don’t believe that an agave shortage exists.

Unlike the more seasoned, and–dare I say–older sippers, this may be the first time Millennials and Gen Xers have ever experienced a truly severe Agave Crisis.

Others completely ignore the fact declaring an upcoming tequila boom, instead, instigated by the Big Three named above.

Even in this article in the Spirits Business, Vinexpo, the leading wine and spirits trade show, and IWSR (International Wine & Spirits Research) predict that:

“The fastest-growing spirit category in terms of volume will be Tequila, which is predicted to increase by 118% between 2016 and 2021 to 35m cases.”

Seriously?

 Thank You, Captain Obvious

We told you last year this was coming.The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

Weren’t you paying attention?

In the article The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thought we outlined the reasons for the then looming crisis.

Still, you bought ALL the tequila and mezcal you could drink, didn’t you?

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to DISCUS, 17.2 million cases of tequila were sold in 2017.  3.2 million of those cases were in the pricey Super Premium category, alone.

Must have been a good year for some of you.

On the Mexico side of the border, things aren’t so rosy.

Freak Out

According to these articles in Joe  , Telam , and Reuters

“This year [2018], a total of 42 million agave plants were projected to supply 140 registered companies.  However, only 17.7 million of those planted in 2011 are ready to be harvested, the Tequila Regulatory Council and National Tequila Industry Chamber have said.”

That’s assuming producers are using full grown agave.  As explained in the above articles–including our own–2 to 4 year old immature agaves are being sold, as well.

With the use of diffusers by the large producers like Sauza and Bacardi (Cazadores), the age of agave plants used to make tequila is irrelevant.

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

About Those Stolen Agave

For several years, now, growers in Oaxaca had reported that truckloads of stolen (or purchased) espadin used to make mezcal were headed for tequila distilleries in Jalisco.

Now, a reported 15,000 blue agave plants have been hijacked from blue agave growers supplying the Big Boys.  That’s triple the amount reported in 2016.

It is presumed that these pilfered plants were going to los mieleros (Big Pharma) since they pay bigger bucks for blue weber agave.

So, there is some poetic justice during this Agave Crisis.

 The Blame Game

As much as major metropolitan areas would like to believe that they carry this much clout, cities like New York are NOT to blame.

On the other hand, brands like Houston based Pura Vida blames the Big Guys, too.

Austin based Dulce Vida tequila agrees.

And, one more for good measure from this small brand owner via LinkedIn on February 5, 2018:

[“The sad reality for small producers that depend on purchasing ripe agave that results in extraordinary 100% blue agave tequila is that the Large Makers are the ones who have stockpiled huge quantities of premature agave.  But the 4 year old plants don’t yield good tequila.  Moreover, it requires double the amount of prime material [agave] for the production of tequila.  In short, the very same Large Producers have aggravated the problem and devastated the cultivation of blue agave.”]

While we’re pointing fingers, let’s accuse the real culprit of this economic and agricultural mess, shall we?

Greed

In October 2017, we spoke to Master Distiller of G4, Terralta, and Pasote–and agave grower–Felipe Camarena.

Minutes before the VIP Hour of El Cholo’s yearly Tequila Tour began, he briefly outlined to me in simple mathematical terms, how much per kilo he’d require to make a nice, honest living growing agave.

The amount was not unreasonable.  In fact, it was in the single digit range.

By waiting at the last minute, and selling to the highest bidder, Camarena blamed the greed of amateur agave growers for the skyrocketing maguey prices.

How Long?

How long will this agave crisis last?

In January 29, 2018, Master Distiller of Tapatio and Tequila Villa Lobos, Carlos Camarena, gave this gloomy prediction:

What… Me Worry?

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

Not everyone is worried, however.  Pernod isn’t

And neither are George and Rande.  Having pocketed their nearly $1 billion, they’re venturing into mezcal, now.

The Agave Panic of 2018: Bloodshed on the Streets of Tequila https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5mA

Be afraid–

Be VERY afraid!

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!

Margaritas in Ireland

[Editor’s Note:  On this day after 2018’s International Margarita Day festivities, Tequila Jockey, Jim Johnston, shares his fond recollections of margarita making inside Ireland’s renowned Dick Mack’s Pub & Brewhouse, while visiting relatives in 2017.]

No Country for Cocktails

Ireland is not a cocktail country.

Don’t get me wrong, I had several well made drinks during my visit, but, in most pubs you’re going to find a diverse tap and a shelf stocked with whiskey.

Margaritas in Ireland https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5wy

Such was the case at Dick Mack’s Pub & Brewhouse in Dingle, County Kerry, a wonderful coastal town on the far west of Ireland.

Historic Dick Mack’s has been serving up liquid refreshments since 1899.  It has been in the same family and built a reputation as the classic example of an Irish pub.  Besides a pristine tap, a brass fixture, polished daily with the pub’s name engraved on the front, there is a shelf from bar to ceiling full of Irish whiskeys.

In recent years, Dick Mack’s also has been awarded Munster province and Overall Irish whiskey bar of the year for 2014, 2015, and 2016.  The pub also serves a fair amount of Dingle Gin from the distillery up the road.

Margaritas in Ireland https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5wy

I was told that most Americans drink the traditional Guinness draft, one of the light American lagers available, or they choose to taste some whiskeys from the impressive collection.

When I asked if there was any tequila in the house, Finn, grandson of Dick Mack himself, produced a bottle of what I typically keep on hand at home, Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado.

Ireland’s Cocktail Culture

What followed was a great discussion about the cocktail culture of Ireland, including the failed attempts of previous spirits brands to promote tequila on the island.  Patron’s The Patronic (Patron tequila, tonic and lime) did not take off here.

Finn’s hope is that the acquisition of Bushmills by Cuervo flagship Proximo in 2014,Margaritas in Ireland https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5wy would lead to a more modern, consumer savvy, tequila-esque promotion of the Irish whiskey label.

As we spoke I noticed a bottle of Cointreau hiding behind some whiskey, as well as some fresh lemon juice and quite a few limes waiting to be sliced.

We were staying with my two cousins in Dingle and it was they who, when they lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, introduced me to tequila and the simple art of the margarita.

The Simple Art of The Margarita

It was a particularly warm day for Ireland in late May, about 75 degrees.  Perfect for enjoying margaritas.

I offered to give the Irish crew behind the bar a quick lesson in margarita making and they went about putting together the Irish version of the first really good margarita that I had ever had, the House Traditional, at the famed Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen in Santa Fe, where lemon juice is the citrus of choice.

We made margaritas, and the boys behind the bar agreed that they were a far better effort than the last attempt at tequila marketing that they had been exposed to.

Slainte!

Margaritas in Ireland https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5wy

I would venture back to Dick Mack’s several times that week but, knowing that I had a steady stream of tequila to taste when I came home, I stuck to the perfectly poured Guinness and local whiskey.

Who knows?

When I go back to Ireland, I may have a margarita waiting for me.

Slainte!

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!

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57qNow that the first quarter of 2017 is in the books and we are well into spring and summer margarita season, here’s what were noticing at Tequila Aficionado Media Headquarters.

The Hits Just Keep on Coming!

As we pointed out in The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thought, we are smack in the middle of a shortage with no end in sight.

Yet, here at HQ, since January 2017, we’ve solicited, and been solicited by, no less than 50 brands of tequila, mezcal and sotol for our widely viewed Sipping Off the Cuff© series.

Some are labels that have been around for awhile, or re-launched with extended expressions to their core lines, and presumably, flush with cash from investors (we’ll circle back to this subject a bit later).

But, most are start ups in the agave spirits arena.

At press time, agave prices have skyrocketed from 1.7 Mexican pesos ($0.089) per kilo in 2013 to 10 pesos at the end of 2016, according to this recent article in Barron’s.

Our own sources claim that agave prices in May 2017 have hit a high of 14 pesos per kilo.  During the crisis of the late 1990s, agave prices reached an unprecedented 18 pesos per kilo!Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

The price hike has even taken a bite out of Jose Cuervo’s profits.  They more than made up for it, though, with their successful IPO this past February.

You may ask, “Don’t these new brands know we’re in the midst of another agave crisis?”

Bear in mind that many of these labels have been in the works for at least 3 years or more, well before a shortage was predicted, and well before this happened…

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

The timing of an agave spirit’s launch is, more often than not, dependent on its financial forecasts.

If you’re one of these newcomers, just take a deep breath and jump in.

Don’t forget to send us samples, too!

The Resurgence of the Reposado

I once asked Christopher Zarus, the innovator of the world’s only take home tequila tasting kit, TequilaRack®, why he chose to showcase only small batch, micro-distilled reposados from esteemed tequila making families in his collections.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

He explained that a well made reposado was one of the most difficult tasks in creating a dynamic line of tequilas.  He felt that it could literally make or break a brand.

When rocker Roger Clyne first entered the market with Mexican Moonshine tequila, he insisted on doing so with a reposado, even though he admitted, “…at the time, this was considered commercial suicide.”

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

Traditionally acknowledged as the ideal half-way point between a brilliant blanco and an elegant anejo, the reposado, for at least the past few years, seemed to have been treated by some brands as an afterthought, at best.

Not so in 2017.

Check out the reposado episodes of this season’s Sipping Off The Cuff© to see what we mean.

Especially take note of:  Tequila 512, 4 Copas, Azunia, Amorada, Armero, El Consuelo, Pasote, Alderete and Don Pilar.

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers

Infused tequila is the new black.

But not just any infusions.

These are well crafted tequilas or agave spirits, sometimes laced with exotic spices, and simmering in off-the-charts heat from the Scoville scale.
Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

We first encountered this trend with 2016’s lively Brand Of Promise© Infused Tequila winner, Soltado.  A versatile and balanced anejo injected with Serrano peppers and cinnamon, it blew taste buds away.

With the popularity of pepper infused spirits like Fireball Whisky, and subsequent copycats, it seems only natural that agave spirits companies take notice.

Of the upcoming crop of pepper saturated agave is…

Spider Monkey Agave Spirit (Serrano pepper and ginger); Get Hot Tequila, a reposado imbued with Habanero peppers; and, speaking of Fireball, the man responsible for its immense popularity, Richard Alexander Pomes, presents Ghost Tequila, enlivened by the infamous, India-born ghost pepper.

Just remember that when you’re basking in the endorphins from having your salsa and drinking it, too, that the addition of alcohol on your tongue reactivates the oils inherent in the pepper’s capsaicin.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

It’s like Groundhog Day for your palate!

Millennials are Stealing Your Cocktail Recipes

Cocktail recipe photos are hugely popular on just about any social media platform that they are shared on.  The follower engagement is off the chain, in particular with Millennials.

It’s a well known fact that the prevailing cocktail culture around the world is driving the Spirits Industry.  But, once these concoctions and their ingredients are made public, they are being pilfered by these young people and served to friends and family at their cribs.

It’s apparent that Millennials seek to drink better than their older relatives.  Given that, signature cocktails are still a valuable commodity to agave spirits brands, but not necessarily for bars and restaurants.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

So, you mixologists—carry on.

Millennials are stealing your cocktail recipes!

Tequila has Outgrown Riedel Glassware

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57qIt’s official…

Tequila–and most all agave spirits, for that matter–has outgrown the Riedel Ouverture tequila tasting glass.

Don’t get us wrong.  It’s still a viable tool.  But…

The level of quality craft agave spirits flooding liquor store shelves, and the emphasis on single estate and organic tequilas and mezcals, now demands a better sipping glass in order to enjoy their unique, regional properties.

This fact had not been lost to oak heads.

For several years, whisky and scotch drinkers had opted to use the Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57qGlencairn glasses to not only enjoy anejos and extra anejos, but blancos and reposados, as well.

It can also be argued that the use of inadequate tasting and nosing glasses in the past few years has influenced–and possibly skewed–the results for valuable medals awarded by some of the most respected tasting competitions around the country.  So much so, that the judges’ final decisions are laughable.

To that end, we’re excited to be working with Romeo Hristov, proprietor of Chisholm Trail Craft Glassware, testing glasses produced by Stolzle, Luigi Bormioli, and his own more historically accurate vessel prototypes for tequila and mezcal.

You’ll be seeing a lot of these new glasses throughout the 2017 season of Sipping Off The Cuff©.

Watch for a future Open Bar where we’ll visit with Mr. Hristov, in depth.

Tequila Brands:  It’s a Buyer’s Market Out There

Earlier, we hinted about some dormant tequila brands that have suddenly been revived by wads of money.

It seems that every other day, family-run investment firms contact us at HQ looking for hot tips on where to park their cash that’s burning holes into their conservative, yet very deep, pockets.

We were also recently offered a fee by a well known celebrity to taste test the newest version of his tequila, versus the Usual Suspects.  We gracefully declined.

But it got us thinking.  Whether you’re a megastar or a moneybags…

Why go through all the trouble of launching, or relaunching, a tequila from scratch when there are so many labels out there for sale?

As predicted by Patrón tequila’s Chief Marketing Officer, Lee Applbaum in this  article, the Great Agave Shakeout has begun.

The road to Tequila Nirvana is currently littered with brands that could not sustain the required 5 year threshold of longevity, let alone a 10 year marketing plan.

Many have withered away consumed by mismanagement, overwhelm, lack of distribution support, or simply investment underestimation.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

Instead of going through all the trouble of conceptualizing and heavily funding a whole new agave spirits marque with a least a dozen other investors, why not take a page from Jim Driscoll, owner of Ekeko Wines and Spirits, and importer of Demetrio tequila?

Seek a distressed brand that had something going for it, and that you can make better.

You may find, after some thorough due diligence, that before hitting the skids the brand showed considerable promise and can be purchased—lock, stock, and barrels—for a song.

Or, you may discover that the concept for the juice was designed exclusively for the international Duty Free market, completely escaping the drudgery of the Three Tier System.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

The road to the Kingdom of Agave Heaven won’t be any easier, but at least some of the requisite start up costs could be minimized.

Warning:  The Quality of Your Mass Produced Tequila is about to get Worse

Word on the streets of the Highlands of Jalisco is that the Big Boys have bought up all the 3 year old agave in the region.  Younger plants simply do not contain the minimum amount of agave sugars (measured in brix) required by the normas to make tequila.

As soon as 2 year old agaves turn 3, they are sure to be snatched up by coyotes (agave middlemen).

Coyotes for the Usual Suspects are desperately seeking magueys from reputable growers who are now sitting in the catbird seat, ready to hike agave prices even further.

Those boutique agaveros who are holding 4 and 5 year old plants are poised to make a killing in the agave market in the following few months and years.

Meanwhile, back at The Lab…

Analyzed samples of these mass produced tequilas are being rejected because they reportedly contain too little alcohol from blue weber agave, and too much from added sugars.

Tequila Trends in the First Half of 2017 https://wp.me/p3u1xi-57q

Watch for increased use of diffuser technology to extract maximum agave juices and sugars in order to fulfill worldwide demand, and—

Tequila quality to plummet.

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 Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas

The Bing Crosby Effect

How to Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas http://wp.me/p3u1xi-50U

Influencer Marketing is a hot social media buzz phrase that can be directly attributed to Bing Crosby.

From the moment the famed crooner, and fellow entertainer and business partner, Phil Harris, imported Herradura, the first 100% agave tequila into the US, celebrity endorsements of alcoholic beverages have influenced American’s buying habits–

And, become an all too common occurrence.

This article traces the history of influencer marketing, from the early days of cinema to a new kind of social media personality, the influencer.

I Wanna be Like Mike

How to Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas http://wp.me/p3u1xi-50U

Continuing that tradition, celebs like Diddy (DeLeon), George Clooney (Casamigos), Sammy Hagar (Cabo Wabo, and now, Mezquila), and Justin Timberlake (Sauza 901) are just a few of the A-listers peddling agave spirits.

It can be argued that desire for a megastar endorsed item is fueled by our emotional attachment to the star himself.

Hence, the more we care about a renowned personality, the more we “want to be like Mike.”

Celebrity Covetousness

Noel Shu is Chief Luxury Officer and Head Sommelier at Prodiguer Brands, Ltd.  The “Prince of Luxury,” and the man responsible for the most expensive champagne in the world, (Goût de Diamants) explains here why celebrity affiliation works for luxury items.

“No matter what, the rest of the world is keeping tabs on the rich and famous.  In order to be more like them, many go out of their way to get what celebrities have,” asserts Shu.

“Beneath the pretense of glam, money and prestige, a purchase boils down to one thing: familiarity.  It is mental association at work.”

Shu determines, “When a person is constantly reminded that their favorite actor is wearing or using a product, they begin gravitating towards the item themselves.”

The danger in promoting celebrity covetousness in agave spirits brand marketing is that it’s shallow, superficial, and unmemorable.

The emotional bond between your label and your customer, like a sample from a tequila girl in a black mini-skirt, is fleeting, at best.

Intimacy Can be Measured

On the flip side, a very enlightening website reveals a brand’s intimacy quotient.How to Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas http://wp.me/p3u1xi-50U

MBLM states that “brand intimacy is a new paradigm that leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand.”

Before I get to how this new level of marketing relates to agave spirits branding, let me point out a couple of Tequila Market growth facts, courtesy of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).

Who Cares About Luxury?

According to DISCUS, the fastest growth in 2016 has been in High End and Super Premium brands.

Virtually a non-existent segment before 2002, volumes of Super Premium tequilas have zoomed 706% to 2.9 million cases.

Intimacy by the Numbers

Taking a look at the Beverages category as a whole on the MBLM site, we discover that its intimacy quotient falls almost 4 points below the cross industry average.

Most notably, though, the Luxury division practically brings up the rear, a full 13 points below the industry median!

How to Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas http://wp.me/p3u1xi-50U

The numbers for Mexico are even more eye-opening (Abreojos?) with both Jose Cuervo and Herradura (Brown-Forman) at the bottom of the Top 10 Mexican Beverage labels of 2017.

Of the last two tequila marks, only Jose Cuervo is still Mexican owned.

Power to the People

“Brands are in the hands of consumers today,” says MBLM.

A true statement since, chances are, you’re reading this on your preferred handheld device.

MBLM goes on to preach,”…people trust one another more than they trust a corporation.”

We’ve heard it said that word-of-mouth—especially in social media–is everything.  (Just ask United Airlines!)

MBLM continues, “…brands are proliferating, saturating our attention, increasing confusion, and often cannibalizing each other.”

How to Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas http://wp.me/p3u1xi-50U

That’s certainly an honest view of the spirits industry.

A simple walk through your neighborhood liquor store’s tequila aisle will more than convince any skeptic of that assessment.

Given the above information on this new form of “emotional marketing,” it raises the question—

What’s the point of describing your agave spirit as a “luxury” or “lifestyle” brand?

Fearless Prediction

How to Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas http://wp.me/p3u1xi-50UWith the trend toward attracting Millennials, and their demand for quality, transparency and affordability in the wines and spirits they seek, the growth of the High End and Super Premium segments seem destined to falter.

Celebrity worship and their endorsement of products, however, will continue to be a part of the daily fabric of every social media platform.

As Shu points out in the above article, “No matter how much fanfare or glitz a product gets from being in the limelight, it’s the opinion of experts and influencers on the product itself that keeps it there.”

Luxury items are only attractive when in use by someone we care about or admire, famous or not.

Agave Attachment

How can start up agave spirits entrepreneurs create lasting emotional bonds between their products and their customers?

By telling their brand stories clearly, consistently, and emotionally in a creative and engaging manner across all mediums.

In addition, instead of trying to interest megastars to front your tequila or mezcal, decide to become your own best Agave Ambassador.

Bo Knows

How to Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas http://wp.me/p3u1xi-50U

The new breed of agave spirits brand owners must not be afraid to stand in front of their own juice to preach their message to the masses.

The Founding Fathers of the Tequila Industry knew the value of forging personal relationships with not just their business associates, but with everyone.

In the tradition of old skool tequileros, luminaries like Guillermo Erickson Sauza, Carlos Camarena, German Gonzalez, David Suro, Sophie Decobecq, Ken Austin, Dr. Adolfo Murillo, Tomas Estes and many others, have not only produced some of the most beloved tequilas, but have fearlessly chosen to be their own qualified spokespersons.

There’s No Crying in Tequila!

How to Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas http://wp.me/p3u1xi-50U

Agave spirits inherently embody the passion and history of Mexico.  If luxury items are cold and unfeeling, then, agave spirits are the complete opposite.

An agave spirit without a representative, however, is like a band without a front man; like a basketball team without a point guard; like a country without a leader.

No amount of marketing spin can improve a label’s lifeless approval rating, or a vote of no-confidence from customers.

Tequila:  Con Ganas!

“Advancements in neuroscience reveal that virtually all decision making is emotional,” declares MBLM.  “Behavioral science demonstrates that the way we feel about a brand is the single best predictor of purchase.”

MBLM concludes, “up to 90% of the decisions we make are based on emotion.”

How to Infuse Your Tequila Con Ganas http://wp.me/p3u1xi-50U

So, if you decide to be the ultimate emotional mouthpiece for your agave spirit, the bottom line is…

Echale ganas!

 

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!

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pSI’ve finally gotten around to binge watching Mad Men on Netflix.

In case you haven’t joined the Streaming Generation, or lived without cable TV for awhile, Mad Men is a series set in the 1960’s about a fictional ad agency called Sterling Cooper based in New York City’s famed Madison Avenue.

[Editor’s note: I still can’t believe I was born during the Eisenhower administration!]

Tequila marketing being my thing, naturally, I’m drawn to the product placement of distilled spirits on the historically accurate show.

Along with adverts concocted by admen for cigarettes, bras, and washing

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Vintage Cuervo ad

machine manufacturers, spirits companies like Seagram’s, Jack Daniels, and Jose Cuervo were also a part of the advertising renaissance, and not just on American soil.  These early Behemoths of Booze also took the fight offshore.

And nobody can tell you more about those challenges better than José Zevada.

The Mad Man of The Caribbean

Jose “Pepe” Zevada and the story of the Z Tequila Brand from Z Tequila on Vimeo.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Iron Cactus menu.

I finally met the charismatic Pepe Zevada, the maker of Pepe Z Tequila, accompanied by Glynn Bloomquist, (CEO and Chairman), and Guy England (South Texas Market Manager), of Empresario LLC, the first Texas company to create, brand, distill, import, and market spirits.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Fernando Lamas

With the elegance and charm suggestive of silver screen Latino Hollywood hunks like Ricardo Montalbán or Fernando Lamas, and peppered with jokes and anecdotes of the “glory days,” you get the sense that you’re reliving spirits industry history, Mad Men style.

Over a delicious lunch at the Iron Cactus Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar on San Antonio’s renowned Riverwalk, Pepe regaled us with episodes of his life as the vice president of Brown-Forman in Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean.  During that time, he traveled to 106 countries (Pepe speaks 5 or 6 languages fluently) introducing Jack Daniels to those parts of the world.

After 30 years with Brown-Forman, he went on to work as vice president for the classic spirits distiller Hiram Walker (Sauza, Kahlúa, Courvasier, Beefeater), until the merger of Allied Domecq.

To Make a Long Story Short

After persistent encouragement from friends in Mexico, Pepe Z Tequila was Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pSborn shortly after José retired from 35 years in the liquor industry.

But, in the tradition of the three generations of Sauzas, Don Julio González, José Cuervo and Don Eduardo Orendáin, Pepe was determined to only put his name on a quality tequila.

To create a batch of Pepe Z takes over three weeks.  He calls the blanco tequila the “mother” of the line, and claims that the selected agave is the key to a sterling product.

Pepe Z Tequila uses only lightly toasted virgin American Oak barrels (not charred) for its reposado and añejo expressions, and it is one of the lowest in methanol after distillation.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Pepe, Guy and Glynn of Empresario.

These time tested techniques have not only achieved an authentic, “old world” flavor profile, but it has also garnered Pepe Z some serious hardware in the form of medals and awards.

 Flavor, Friendship and Family

Raised in Mexico of Spanish parents, José (Pepe is a common nickname for Josés) was brought up with strict moral values that have guided him throughout his life.

In his words, “I don’t do business without being friends, first.”  He asserts, “The liquor business is a people business, not a laptop business.”

In the era dominated by contracted brands with glamorous images and no backstory, Zevada prefers to take a page from those legendary patriarchs of tequila and make every effort to meet and greet each of his customers, personally.

Pepe Z: The Mad Man of Tequila http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4pS
Pepe Zevada and Mike Morales.

Part of the brand’s strategy is to nurture its relationship with its hometown of Austin, and then to solidify its embrace on the rest of Texas before conquering other states.  This tactic has worked wonders as evidenced by the glowing testimonials given by his customers.

While his clients enthusiastically preserve their friendship with Pepe, Zevada gratefully acknowledges that, “My customers are part of the Z family.”

And, in a time where spirits are judged on perceived value, Pepe demands that his tequilas remain affordable, believing that luxury shouldn’t be so hard to come by.

Distinguished flavor, devoted friendship and defined family values is the method to Pepe Zevada’s effective–and infectious–“madness.”

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!

Barrio Café–A Tequila Oasis

[In an industry of cookie-cutter airport cantinas, it was refreshing to experience a little bit of the local flavor at Barrio Café during a recent layover at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport’s Terminal 4.]

*Yawn!*

Frequent flyers are a highly sought after target market.  Just ask any company that pays top dollar to advertise in in-flight magazines.  They’ll admit that a temporarily sequestered audience with nowhere to go (but up?) is a gold mine.

But, with security protocols being what they are now, bored and isolated travelers awaiting the next leg of their trip desperately seek to pass the time at engaging airport bars/restaurants with strong food and drink selections, and even stronger wifi.

What struck me most about Barrio Café, however, was that it was a tequila oasis in a sea of food court cuisine.  Coupled with an informed and educated staff, and my ears perked up.

The Original Comida Chingona of Phoenix

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, along with her partner, Wendy Gruber, opened the first Barrio Café in the Calle 16 neighborhood of Central Phoenix in 2002, and it quickly shot to culinary stardom.

Inspired by regional dishes from Oaxaca, Ensenada, and the Yucatán, Chef 0514151503Silvana transforms them with a French twist to create, as it reads on their menu, “some seriously bad ass Mexican cuisine.”

Chef Silvana’s acknowledgements are as long as your arm, too!

Highlighted by an induction into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame in 2004, voted as one of the Top 9 Mexican Chefs by MSNBC Latino in 2010, and four James Beard award nominations in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Employing local graffiti artists and muralists to illustrate and beautify each location, Barrio is notorious for attracting eclectic customers–from low riders to politicians.

 Not Your Mother’s House

Beloved and admired by Chef Silvana’s long term café employees, server Brittany Sabo proudly elaborates on this and other locations, its founders, and Barrio’s varied menu.

Help Conserve Water, Drink Tequila

The Barrio Café bar inside Terminal 4.
The Barrio Café bar inside Terminal 4.

With a tequila selection as assorted as their clientele–from the Usual Suspects to Arizona based smaller brands–their list also includes eye-opening tequila flights.

Here, Brittany reveals Chef Silvana’s future plans for a possible private label tequila.

Precioso, Hermoso, and Ready for You!

A snifter of 7 Leguas tequila.
A snifter of 7 Leguas tequila.

The idea of catering to short term secluded audiences hasn’t escaped big name tequila companies.  But, that warm cozy feeling of being welcomed into a neighborhood bar and restaurant is an unexpected quality not usually found in cookie cutter cantinas.

For years, Jose Cuervo has licensed branded Taberna del Tequila bars in airports around the US.  The Blue Mesa Taco & Tequila Bar at Dallas/Ft. Worth International, has long been an Herradura (Brown-Forman) stronghold, as well.

Airline travelers eventually come and go, but a snifter of good tequila and a house taco of cochinita pibil at the Barrio Café in Terminal 4 could very easily make you miss your connecting flight.

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!

The Mega Marketing of a Brand Part III – Back To The Future With Jose Cuervo

Originally published on TequilaAficionado.com Dec 3, 2006

tequila aficionado, vault, jose cuervo

 

 

The trend in the spirits industry is for cross marketing with a guerrilla attitude.

That’s shooting your enemy not from behind trees and bushes, but…

From where they don’t expect you to be! Nobody’s proven to be better at this than Jose Cuervo.

09

Let’s Review…

Taberna del Tequila,  jose cuervoIn Part I, we took you inside the Taberna del Tequila, tequila producer Jose Cuervo’s stealthy way of introducing their products to a new captive audience—air travelers—all across the country.

In Part II, we revisited one of our favorite haunts from the 70’s and 80’s, Southern California’s El Torito Mexican restaurant chain. There, Cuervo has been steadily maintaining their relationship with tequila drinkers for almost 50 years.

In this final installment in the Mega Marketing of a Brand series, we promised you a sneak peek at the future of Jose Cuervo’s marketing strategy. We also hinted that the future had almost nothing to do with tequila.

In fact, the chances are good that—without you knowing it—you’re already up to your caballitos in their mad plan to take over the tequila taste buds of the world. Also, we’re going to explain how you’re part of Jose Cuervo’s mysterious “forth tier.”

So reach for your cellular phone and…

 

Text Me!

Blackberries, laptops, PDA’s, and desktop computers. E-mail, e-mail discussion lists, blogs, forums, and podcasts. Broadband, DSL, and wireless Internet. Reaching out and touching someone has never been speedier!

It’s so easy for all of us to communicate our thoughts and feelings, now. Almost instantaneously, a hot deal on a caseload of your favorite blanco—or a good or bad review of a new reposado–can be forwarded to hundreds of tequila aficionados with the click of a mouse.

In fact, that’s exactly how I do it.

cuervo nation,  jose cuervoAs soon as I write this entry, I can publish it on this site. Every member or surfer can then agree or disagree, express their feelings on the subject by writing back, and even forward this blog/article to their friends. No more waiting to hear what anyone thinks about the hype behind an average reposado, or the reemergence of a favorite añejo.

Just post and click “send.”

Large and small tequila producers now have websites that allow consumers to check them out, contact them, and ask questions. By the same token, these producers can glean information from their customers and request feedback.

What do you do with all this information? How do you use it?

Jose Cuervo has figured it out. But first…

 

How ‘bout a Beer With Your Tequila?

Discus, distilled spirits council,  jose cuervoIn 2004, the Adams Beverage Group, a market-research firm in Connecticut, reported that U.S. spirits sales rose 3.8 percent in 2003, the highest level since the 1980’s. Beer sales dropped by 0.6 percent that same year.

According to New York-based consulting firm, Beverage Marketing Corporation, beer’s overall share of the alcohol beverage market has eroded like the salt around a margarita glass. By contrast, since 2000, the market share held by wine and spirits has grown, especially among younger consumers.

Finally, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. reported in 2004 that spirits accounted for 29.7 percent of alcohol sales in the U.S. compared with 28.6 percent in 2002. Most of that growth was from the super-premium brands that, for our purposes, are defined by the council as tequila retailing for more than $27. The volume of all types of super-premiums sold represented about 1 percent of the U.S. market.

Paul Walsh, liquor giant Diageo’s Chief Executive, said it best at last year’s annual shareholders meeting:

Diageo,  jose cuervo, captain morgan“Every year in the U.S. for the next ten years, there will be half a million more consumers coming into the legal drinking age, and they will be adopting spirits earlier in their life cycle,” he proclaimed.

People 21 to 24 years old account for 30 percent of the nation’s beer consumption. Beer’s demise is blamed on the relationships being forged by spirits companies with consumers in their 20’s.

Are you seeing a trend here?

Snappy radio spots, flashy cable television commercials, vibrant print ads in magazines and on billboards, hip sporting events sponsorships, and interactive websites are all weapons used by marketing experts to get ‘em while they’re young, and make ‘em lifelong customers.

What Jose Cuervo is doing to ride the wave of this trend is no secret any more.

 

The Mystery of the Missing Forth Tier

brandmarquee_jose_cuervo,  jose cuervoIn Part II, we explained the process by which your favorite tequila is distributed in the US. Developed after Prohibition and known as the “three tier system,” it includes importers, distributors, and every bar and restaurant you can think of.

We also shared with you the secret to Jose Cuervo’s success in working the three tier system. They’re so good at it that they have quietly modified it to fit their 21st century marketing plan. It’s so slick, that even Al Capone would approve!

Jose Cuervo has actually added a “forth tier.” And, although it is illegal to sell directly to the end consumer (you and me) they’ve just about managed to do it using—are you ready for this?–your cell phone!

 

Virtual Velvet Rope

 jose cuervo, tradicionalIn London this past spring, in conjunction with i-movo, Splendid Communications, print, outdoor advertising and radio promotion, Cuervo tequila invited consumers to enter a drawing for tickets to an exclusive Cuervo de Mayo party.

Consumers were instructed to enter by texting Cuervo with their birth dates to a designated number. Winning entries were sent a text message with a code word. Reply with that code word and bingo…! Instant text tickets. On the night of the event, staff members used PDAs to verify the winners.

The response rate was phenomenal. Eighty percent of the target market that relies on mobile phones to organize their lives answered the call. In the marketing world, this was a home run!

So the next time you get that text message on your cell, or whatever gadget you use, it could be from Jose Cuervo himself.

With all this high-tech marketing, what’s next? JCTV?

…Maybe!

 

Tequila Telenovelas

corazon partido, http://www.hulu.com/porque el amor mandaNot to be outdone by Diageo, Allied Domecq, together with Conde Naste Traveler Magazine, has produced a television show for the Oxygen Network. Bring Home the Exotic re-creates travel experiences for friends and family. What makes this five-part series so special is that Kahlúa is the special guest star!

Geared toward women in their 30’s, the show not only allows Kahlúa to control its product and brand messages, it also meets the spirits industry’s marketing standards that at least 70 percent of a TV or film audience is over age 21.

The show has been so effective that Allied Domecq is concentrating on producing more shows instead of focusing on product placements in existing TV shows and movies.

On the flip side, in partnership with Hispanic media powerhouse Telemundo, and Mexican television producer Argos, Jose Cuervo has graciously allowed filming of the hot new telenovelaCorazón Partido (Porque el Amor Manda), on the grounds of La Rojeña distillery. Sauza has also jumped at the chance of having their distillery featured in the show. The exposure is not just in Mexico and Latin America, but to millions of Hispanics living in the US that watch Spanish language television, too.

 

The Tequila Love Boat

carnival cruise linesLike Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in the classic cartoon of piano oneupmanship, Sauza just finished sponsoring the “Sauza Tequila Academy” on board Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Fun Ship” Fascination.

Remarkably similar to Cuervo’s Taberna del Tequila spotlighted in Part I, the number two tequila producer designed a program to teach adult passengers everything they’ve ever wanted to know about Sauza.

From its distinguished history, to specialty cocktails, to sponsored topside parties, cruise vacationers in search of new experiences can discover another side of Sauza. With t-shirts and recipe cards, passengers can even relive their memories of the Tequila Academy once they’ve returned home.

 

Nano-Nano!

discus, distilled spirits councilAccording to the Distilled Spirits Council, each year the alcohol industry spends more than a billion dollars on “measured media” advertising. That’s TV, radio, print, and outdoor. Radio and TV alone are estimated for this year to be about $110 million. That’s a four-time increase from 2000!

There’s no escaping our friends Jose Cuervo, Sauza, or any other tequila company that decides to follow their lead and can keep up.

The trend in the spirits industry is for cross marketing with a guerrilla attitude. That’s shooting your enemy not from behind trees and bushes, but…

From where they don’t expect you to be! Nobody’s proven to be better at this than Jose Cuervo.

With downloadable music videos, podcasts of news reports and interviews, and even your favorite TV shows—all with commercials–expect him to be everywhere. Even on that i-Pod with the small screen that you carry with you in your car, to the gym, and while you walk your dog.

To paraphrase ScarfacePacino, not Capone

“Let me introduce you to my little friend…Jose!”

 

logo1By Mike Morales, Co-Organizer
New Mexico International Tequila Experience™
Southwest Tequila Association

New Mexico International Tequila Experience™

 

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!

The Mega Marketing of a Brand Part II – Jose Cuervo Is A Friend of Mine

Originally published on TequilaAficionado.com Dec 3, 2006

tequila aficionado vault, jose cuervo

 

 

In a relationship that the Animal Planet calls symbiotic–like the small fish feeding on scraps from a shark’s jaws, or birds picking the bugs off a hippo’s butt–Cuervo has benefited nicely over the years by partnering with major restaurant chains all over the US. They have single-handedly influenced thousands of tequila drinkers.

 

The Lonely Bull

In an informative article in the Los Angeles Daily News last December, Staff Writer Brent Hopkins recounted the humble beginnings of one of the oldest Mexican food restaurant chains in Southern California.

el torito, jose cuervoEl Torito--which also celebrated its golden anniversary in December 2004–was the brain-child of ex-fighter pilot Larry Cano, whom Brent describes as having “…a few recipes and knowledge of an exotic sounding foreign drink known as tequila….”

In the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, it was the ultimate place to eat, drink, and party. I’ll admit, I was among those who enjoyed traditional Mexican food with more than one margarita and a round of shots.

According to the article, El Torito grew into an international powerhouse with restaurants as far away as Turkey and Abu Dhabi. After many changes in ownership, it has been streamlined to a manageable 69 locations.

Through it all, Jose Cuervo was there.

El Torito has now begun to focus on its cuisine, but one look at the menu–which we’ll do shortly–tells you that that’s not the only thing management is emphasizing.

In a relationship that the Animal Planet calls symbiotic–like the small fish feeding on scraps from a shark’s jaws, or birds picking the bugs off a hippo’s butt–Cuervo has benefited nicely over the years by partnering with major restaurant chains all over the US. They have single-handedly influenced thousands of tequila drinkers.

Where other tequila houses like El Tesoro de Don Felipe and Cazadores visit bars and restaurants around the country, Cuervo’s version of a grass roots campaign is a little bit different.

 

 

The Good Ol’ Days

In Part I, I promised a glimpse at Cuervo’s La Rojeña distillery, but first, more about me….

LaRojena1I had just moved to New Mexico from Southern California. My first job was in Customer Service with one of the largest paper, food, and chemical distributors in the state. Starting at the bottom, I figured the quickest way to becoming a darling of the company–a route salesman–was getting to know the old dogs.

Before my arrival to this company, one other product that it sold was liquor. When the family-owned operation sold out, half the sales force morphed into one of the two major liquor distributors in New Mexico. Those that stayed with the food and chemical division longed for the good ol’ days.

At one of the quarterly meetings’ mandatory dinners, 25 raucous salesmen (and a few of us from Customer Service) ran up a $3000 bar bill on the company’s credit card! During a round of Cuervo Gold shots is where I heard it first.

“This reminds me of the time at Jose Cuervo,” said one salesman.

“What a party that was!” agreed another.

Simultaneously, they described the beauty of the facilities, the grounds, and the tequila at Jose Cuervo’s La Rojeña distillery.

7079The hospitality at these Cuervo “education” junkets is legendary. Mariachis, food, and all the tequila you can drink. Not to mention a generous spiff to each salesman for every caseload sold, or every new account acquired.

“We used to send two delivery trucks a week to every territory,” lamented another salesman. “One with food, and the other full of booze!”

Ah, the good ol’ days!

Many tequila distilleries graciously open their doors to tequila aficionados. CorralejoLa Cofradia (Casa Noble), and Herradura’s Tequila Express, a train that takes turistas to their distillery, to name just a few. But no one does it better–or did it first–than Jose Cuervo.

From Applebee’s (The Perfect Margarita made with 1800), to here in Albuquerque, New Mexico with the Garduños chain of Mexican restaurants (with locations in Arizona and Las Vegas, too), to the popular El Torito. Wherever you live, in every major or minor market in America, there is sure to be a restaurant chain–or liquor supplier to that restaurant chain–that has fallen under the spell of La Rojeña.

 

The Secret to Jose Cuervo’s Success

jose cuervo, brandsTo understand how deeply Jose Cuervo is entrenched in El Torito’s menu, you have to be aware of the “rules of engagement.” It’s called “the three tier system,” and it’s the key to the final segment of this series, so heads-up!

In order for a tequila producer–or any spirits producer, for that matter–to get his product to the US, he has to use an importer (Tier One). This importer is in charge of spreading the word to as many spirits distributors–state and national–as possible (Tier Two). Once distribution is secured, their sales forces are responsible for getting the product to their consumers–every bar and restaurant they service (Tier Three).

Here’s the secret to Jose Cuervo’s success…

Like a computer virus, Cuervo can be found everywhere along these three tiers. At one time or another, every importer, distributor, and chain of bars or restaurants has been invited to enjoy the pleasures of tequila at La Rojeña.

Unfortunately, unlike wines, spirits, by US law, cannot be sold directly to the end user (you and me) by the producer. Let’s drown our sorrows over that one, shall we…?

 

El Torito–Auténtico!

On every table is a simple, hand-sized brown three ring binder. A painting of a jimador harvesting a blue agave–that looks coincidentally like a well-known photo taken at one of the Cuervo agave fields–shares the cover with the El Torito logo, a lonely bull, and the word auténtico. Desserts and drinks in one little package, all made with Jose Cuervo products.

There’s the classic Cadillac Margarita with a side of Grand Marnier. You can order this signature drink in different colors like Green (Midori Melon), Pink (cranberry juice), and Red (Rémy Red).

The Blue Mesa Margarita with 1800 and Blue Curacao. The Real Mex Margarita with Tradicional. And a series of popular tequinis with names like Buenas Noches and Agave Tequini.

To be fair, El Torito serves other very respectable blanco, reposado and añejo tequilas like…

Sauza Tres GeneracionesDon EduardoChinacoCorralejoHerraduraCazadores…and Quita Penas. Along with the Cuervo standard bearers, Gran CentenarioReserva de La Familia, and even Don Julio (suspiciously missing from Cuervo’s Taberna del Tequila menu in the previous segment).

You can even wash down your dinner, drinks and dessert with a cup of Mexican coffee made with Tradicional and Kahlúa.

Each of the signature drinks is very reasonably priced from just over $5 to a bit under $7. Shots range from $5.25 to $10.50.

Although their menu tries to give equal time to other tequilas, when you check the bar, there’s no mistaking who’s on display…

Jose Cuervo!

In the final segment, I’ll take a look at where the marketing future of Jose Cuervo is headed. Here’s a hint…

You’ll be surprised to learn that it has nothing to do with tequila! Instead, it’s slick, high-tech, and chances are good that you already own one. And with it, Cuervo conquers the mystery of the missing “fourth tier.”

 

logo1By Mike Morales, Co-Organizer
New Mexico International Tequila Experience™
Southwest Tequila Association

New Mexico International Tequila Experience™

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!

The Mega Marketing of a Brand Part I – On the Road With Jose Cuervo

Originally published on TequilaAficionado.com Nov 30, 2006

tequila aficionado, vault, Jose Cuervo

 

 

What better place to introduce your products but in your own place?

What better audience to introduce your products to, but to a sequestered one?

Maybe there was something to this mega-marketing to travelers with long layovers?

What’s The Price of Hornitos Got to do With This?

It was the beginning of my vacation, a sweltering Friday afternoon, and the start of the monsoon season in Albuquerque. I had to fly to Southern California, with a three-hour layover in Phoenix. I hate to fly in rainy weather. The forecast for Sky Harbor was even more harrowing. Thunderstorms–and guaranteed turbulence.

Arriving on time at Albuquerque’s International Sunport, and surviving the annoying airport security routine–removing my tennis shoes, emptying my pockets, and then putting myself back together (I swear, one day airports will just have dressing rooms!)–I had an hour to spare before my flight. I had earned a shot of tequila.

After all, I was going back to visit my folks for their 47th wedding anniversary, and we all know what it’s like to visit family!

Sidling up to Winners Sports Bar on the A Concourse, I discovered the tequila choices were pitifully poor–Sauza Hornitos, or Jose Cuervo Especial–and so was the choice of seats. Forced to sit next to a young couple that had obviously just met, I swallowed hard and ordered a shot of Sauza Hornitos. Not the most preferred, but it’s still 100% de agave.

Ordinarily, I order my shots in a snifter. I had to settle for a rocks glass, and icy stares from the couple next to me who were drinking micro-brewed beers. Seems every time the uninitiated catch me ordering tequila, they watch to make sure that I won’t go postal. It’s almost as if their fuzzy memories of toga parties with Jose Cuervo Especial seep back into their consciousness and are projected onto me.

Or maybe, those are just my memories of Jose Cuervo.

After spending a half hour on my cell phone explaining to my mother when my flight would arrive at LAX, I ordered another Hornitos to calm my nerves, and the bill.

“Eight dollars?” I shuddered. “For Hornitos?” I shook my head. Everywhere else in Albuquerque, better quality tequilas are priced much lower.

What’s the price of Hornitos go to do with this? Follow me to Sky Harbor….

Release Your Inner Lizard!

taberna del tequila, Jose CuervoAfter a one hour white knuckled flight from Albuquerque to Phoenix due to the predicted monsoon turbulence, and the absence of both complimentary sodas and snacks, I was ready for three hours of serenity with some food on the side.

I lugged my carry-ons and zeroed in on the closest fast food joints. Chinese food, pizza, sandwiches, fried chicken–none appealed to me. From the empty looks of these places, they didn’t appeal to anyone. Then, I heard the music.

Loud, pulsating music blasted from what I thought was the only nightclub in an airport in existence, the Taberna del Tequila. “Catchy name,” I smiled. It wasn’t until I was deep inside the Taberna that I realized where I was.

Jose Cuervo, that behemoth of tequila companies, has taken their marketing to the next level.

cuervo nation, Jose CuervoFirst, they purchased an island and called it Cuervo Nation with Anna Nicole Smith as its Ambassador. In the last couple of years, in partnership with HMSHost Food and Beverage company, they have systematically opened their own chain of restaurant-tequila bars in several airports across the country. McCarran International Airport in Las VegasSeattle-TacomaDetroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, among others, and Sky Harbor in Phoenix.

A meat market with a nightclub mentality, the only thing missing was a dance floor. Every table was occupied, and any available space at the bar was at a premium. The bar looked like a stage in a black velvet Elvis portrait from Tijuana, but there was no mistaking the star of the show–Jose Cuervo.

The back of the bar was black, with neon painted limes, saltshakers and shot glasses. The bar itself, surrounded by smokers, was lacquered with overlapping tequila labels from one end to the other. On either side, giant display bottles of Reserva de La Familia and Gran Centenario blanco were elegantly displayed on shelves with empties of 1800 AñejoTradicional, and Agavero. Behind the bar, a four-paneled big screen television was showing a Diamondbacks’ home game.

On the walls, made to look like crumbling adobe church walls (like drinking at the Alamo!), were murals of their logos, from 1800 to Especial. On the far wall, spotlighted and larger than life, was the Gran Centenario angel. I quickly grabbed a waitress and ordered a reposado, no lime, no salt, in a snifter.

This time, I got the snifter!

What better place to introduce your products but in your own place? What better audience to introduce your products to, but to a sequestered one? Maybe there was something to this mega-marketing to travelers with long layovers?

Idonthavethemoneyoneme“Show off!” said a buxom blond in her thirties. She sat at a nearby table with a younger man. Both had just met.

Behind them above the bar and the big screen TV, in large neon letters, was painted the slogan, “Release Your Inner Lizard.” Securing a corner of their table, I dropped my carry-ons and proceeded to make friends.

There’s something surreal about having a conversation with people who are ahead of you in the buzz department, particularly those who are traveling. I felt I was in the intergalactic cantina from Star Wars with aliens who had had too much to drink.

“So what do you do?” she slurred.

“I’m Han Solo,” I replied. “Captain of the Millennium Falcon. And you?”

(The kid next to her got it!)

Just then, the waitress brought me the bill. Ten dollars for a Gran Centenario reposado. Considering I had paid eight dollars in Albuquerque for a lesser quality tequila, the Taberna’s prices were more in line.

Life was good!

 

All Work & No Play is Totally Missing The Point!

So exclaimed the Taberna del Tequila’s menu.

Graced with a colorful collage of photos of mariachis and jimadores on the cover–presumably all taken at Cuervo’s La Rojeña distillery which we’ll discuss later on–the first half of the menu is conveniently designed without prices for any of their signature drinks, such as…

The Millionaire Margarita made with Gran Centenario reposado…The Striped Guavarita…and the classic Golden Popper made with Cuervo Gold, touted as the official initiation to the Cuervo Nation. (Anna Nicole, grab my toga!)

On the back cover were the credits to this Jose Cuervo Traveling Road Show. Tequileria Favorites describes each of this producer’s featured players, from Gran Centenario Añejo to Agavero.

Realizing I was hungry, and that Cuervo doesn’t cook, the remainder of the menu is taken over by The Blue Burrito Grill. They lease the kitchen and supply tasty Mexican food at reasonable prices.

 

Amigos Perfectos

Taking stock of my evening so far, I made new friends, enjoyed fine tequila, and was exposed to a hip, new version of a trendy tequila bar. I even had a great time!

eltoritoThe crowd at the Taberna del Tequila steadily disappeared to make their connecting flights. While I waited for my order of chicken soft tacos and a second snifter of Gran Centenario, here’s how some other customers anchored their relationships with Jose Cuervo–forever.

Within six minutes, five glasses crashed to the floor in different areas of the Taberna, a biker called the female night manager a bitch, and a red wine drinker tossed her cookies with no prior warning. Otherwise, it was a quiet Friday night in Phoenix.

Although a new concept in marketing, the Taberna del Tequila isn’t the only way Jose Cuervo is forging relationships with an emerging drinking public. In the following segment, I’ll explain how they’ve secured brand loyalty among established tequila aficionados using one of the oldest Mexican food restaurant chains in Southern California–El Torito.

 

Jose Cuervo Taberna del Tequila Sidebar

Here is a list of airport locations for Jose Cuervo’s Taberna del Tequila for you thirsty travelers!

Cleveland
Charlotte

Detroit (2 locations)
Las Vegas
Kansas City
Miami
Minneapolis

Phoenix (3 locations)
Seattle

By the end of the year, they will have additional locations open in Tampa and St. Louis.

My thanks to Stan Novak of HMSHost for this information.

Enjoy!

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By Mike Morales, Co-Organizer
New Mexico International Tequila Experience™
Southwest Tequila Association

New Mexico International Tequila Experience™

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 Your Favorite Periodicals Perpetuate Tequila Myths

One Day, At Band Camp…

Recently, myself, and a few select others in this tightly knit tequila community, were asked to be interviewed for quotes concerning “surprising things you can do with tequila” for the May issue of a major, worldwide men’s magazine.

In the US, this would be just in time for Cinco de Mayo, and the predictable onslaught of articles riddled with comical inaccuracies and beginning with hackneyed clichés like…

“Remember when you were in (grade school, high school, college)…?”  Or…

“Celebrating Mexican Independence Day…”  Or…

“I can’t stand the smell of tequila to this day because one time….”  And, my very favorite–

“…tequila, made from the agave cactus….”

The author of this upcoming article told me that his magazine’s circulation encompassed a wide age demographic that included

One day, at band camp...
One day, at band camp…

males from their mid-twenties to early sixties.  In other words, from Millennials to Baby Boomers.

He further confidently informed me that his readership “has no idea about tequila outside of Cuervo Gold.”

At least, that’s what his boss–the editor!–told him to assume was his audience.

I was both disheartened and dismayed.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to this magazine’s website…

“[It] is the world’s largest and best-selling men’s magazine with 47 editions in 61 countries and a global readership of more than +35 million.  In the U.S., [its] circulation exceeds 1.8 million, and it has been named a Capell’s Circulation Report top-ten performer every year for the past decade.”

This magazine also gives complete breakdowns of their demographics including education and income, and how they compare to other men’s magazines.

It is, by far, the leader.  Further, its mission statement is…

50 Shades of Grey, er, gray.
50 Shades of Grey, er, gray.

“It’s the brand for active, professional men who want greater control over their physical, mental and emotional lives.  We give men the tools they need to make their lives better through in-depth reporting, covering everything from fashion and grooming to health and nutrition as well as cutting edge gear, the latest entertainment, timely features and more.”

Lastly, it claims to be…

“#1 source of information for and about men.” 

Underestimating Your Audience

*Rant Alert!*

So–

What does it say about editors of major men’s magazines who still insist that their audience only shoots tequila and chugs suds when their own stats tell a different story?

Major men’s magazines who service this demographic continue to dumb down significant advancements in the spirits industry, as well as perpetuate tequila myths to keep their readers in the dark.

Tequila hasn’t just “come of age.”  It’s been coming “of age” for

Remember when luxury meant subtle?
Remember when luxury meant subtle?

the past twenty years like the most recent Paleo diet or ab workout.  Cutting edge technology doesn’t only occur in the latest sports car or luxury wristwatch.

Here’s a newsflash for you, Perry White–

The issues facing the Tequila Industry at this point in time are much more critical than “surprising things you can do with tequila.”

When you construct 9 pages on your website to convince potential advertisers that your audience is wealthy and educated, act like it.

Give them timely information with substance–

 For Instance…

This article in the Times-Picayune is a prime example of a journalist who refuses to underestimate her newspaper’s audience while adding value to their lives.

It’s no secret these days that the craft beer and distilling industries are taking a bite out of the huge market share that beer and spirits multinational corporations have dominated for decades.

In case you missed it, Tequila Aficionado Media tackled this issue at length in Craft Tequila–WTF Does That Mean? Part 1 and Part 2.  In Part 2, we made suggestions on how you can distinguish a craft tequila from all the others (the Craft Tequila Gauntlet).

These behemoth conglomerates continue to fight back, either by swallowing up smaller brewers or distillers, or, as in Budweiser’s case, by turning up its nose at the whole craft concept, illustrated in this now infamous Super Bowl XLIX TV spot.

 Consumers Care

Whether it’s a by product of self-education and exploration, or the education being received from the craft spirits sector of the market, the average consumer is becoming more aware of what they’re imbibing and demanding quality and transparency from the industry.

So much so, that some consumer groups have taken it upon themselves to sue spirits makers like Austin, Texas’ Tito’s Vodka, and most recently, Jim Beam bourbon, for false claims that they are handcrafted.

Handmade?
Handmade?

While Simon Ford, one of the erudite founders of The 86 Company, makers of Tequila Cabeza, agreed in this interview, that such lawsuits are frivolous, he does admit that small companies like his owes it to the consumer “to explain the ins and outs of how it’s made and why it’s a worthy spirit.”

Therein lies the rub.

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

It behooves all small craft brands to continue educating their customers every chance they get, whether in person, through word-of-mouth, in point-of-sale materials (POS), or through social media channels.  And…

It is vitally important do so in print periodicals.

Conversely, it is the responsibility of the journalist, blogger, writer, copy editor or author of the article to report the information accurately–no matter what your boss says.

Think we’re being too difficult in demanding that we be quoted truthfully?  That we’re acting like prima donnas because we refuse to pair down our quote to fit your word count?  That we’re making a big deal out of a little white tequila lie?

Read this horrendous tequila blog posted on Liquor Online from August 2014, and then, get back to me.

If The Explosion Doesn’t Kill You, the Fallout Will

This piece of rubbish garnered such responses from readers like…

“What a disservice to someone that wants to learn / understand!”

And, this one…

Don't be THIS writer.
Don’t be THIS writer.

Lifestyle and Spirits Writers–

Let Me Let You In On a Little Secret…

It isn’t that we in this tequila community aren’t grateful for the opportunity to voice our opinions and impart our knowledge of our beloved spirit to your subscribers.  On the contrary–we are fully aware of the enormous goodwill that that kind of street cred can generate for us.

But you must understand and respect that it is our reputations, images, and brands that are also on the line.  Not to mention our character and integrity.

Remember–

You asked for our expertise to up your street cred, too!

Those of us throughout the tequila community take very seriously what we preach.  Whether we’re in the liquor store

Does your magazine add value to your lifestyle?
Does your magazine add value to your lifestyle?

aisles or quoted in the pages of a magazine or newspaper, we believe that at every moment we are adding value to someone’s life and lifestyle.

Don’t Be That Magazine

Like it says on Tequila Aficionado Media’s website and all of its social media, it is…

“The most comprehensive and informative source for Tequila, Mezcal and Sotol on the Internet or in print today.”

We don’t pretend to be anything else.  Your favorite magazine shouldn’t either.

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!!