You just need to sit back and share all the social goodness that gets created about your brand on the tour.
We Don’t Displace Your Agency
You may have an agency that is handling all of your promotion and that’s OK. What we do complements what your agency is doing. The material we create on our tours is additional publicity that your agency, your social media manager, and you can use to further your overall promotion strategy.
We Don’t Take Over Accounts
We don’t take over your social accounts. We create and share promotional content about your agave spirit brand with Tequila Aficionado’s audience (about 3 million aficionados) that you can use in advertising and social campaigns as you see fit.
You Can’t Beat the Price
The beauty of the Tequila Aficionado Tour is you pay a modest price to have your brand(s) tour with us and then we take it from there.
We take pride in our transparency and are completely transparent about our networks and our reach.
Everything we do is organic and our followers are real tequila aficionados who buy and drink agave spirits.
If we boost a post about your brand, you’ll know about it and have access to all the details.
We also ensure all our posts are FTC compliant.
No Extra Work For You or Your Team
You don’t need to plan events, but your brand will be featured at several.
You don’t need to provide staff because our staff has tasted your brand, knows it, loves it and will sing its praises.
You don’t need to provide photography because we’re featuring your brand in photos and videos shared on all of our social networks.
You don’t need to write catchy copy because we know your brand and write the copy that resonates with our audience.
When you ride with us, we take care of everything!
A posse of 44 expressions representing 21 agave spirits brands, will saddle up to blaze a trail to various scheduled educational tastings and entertaining events throughout historic Southwestern haunts.
“Our tours are about co-creating great brand stories with agave spirits we’ve deemed worthy of extra attention,” explains Lisa Pietsch, CMO of Tequila Aficionado Media and Co-Founder of TequilaPR. “We’re very careful to allocate enough time on the road to be able to give each label’s expression the attention it deserves.”
Past journeys have covered different geographic areas with specific themes.
2017’s topic is the Wild Wild West, where barnstorming to rowdy saloons and ghost towns are planned in Van Horn, TX, White Sands, NM, and Tombstone, AZ. Glitz, glamour, and glamping are primed for whistle stops in Tucson and Phoenix, AZ, as well as San Diego, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs, CA.
“We’re fired up about the quality and diversity of these lines,” crows Mike Morales, CEO of Tequila Aficionado Media and Co-Founder of TequilaPR. “The range of agave spirits on this year’s Wild Wild West Tour is some of the finest sampling of Mexico we’ve travelled with.”
Early birds riding for the brands on the 2017 Wild Wild West Tour are:
One With Life, Azunia, newcomer El Consuelo, and the reloaded 4 Copas will be marshalling the stampede proudly displaying USDA Organic tequila badges.
Elegance and grace will be supplied by aces-high Embajador, delightful Amorada, the devilish Tres Ochos, and the dandy Titanium tequila.
Infused tequilas are the new men in black with Serrano pepper charged Soltado, citrus kissed Diva, Dos Almas laced with exotic Indonesian Ceylon cinnamon sitting shotgun alongside its 110 proof blanco cousin; and the Mountie of the group, De La Tierre Maple Tequila made with authentic Canadian maple.
Legendary tequila distilling families are well represented with Carlos Camarena’s classic Tapatio, Felipe Camarena’s sparkling Terralta, along with the maverick Los Osuna Blue Agave Spirit.
Taming this tequila wild bunch will be the mysterious anejos Mandala, along with Malinalli, named for the famed advisor and interpreter to Spanish Conquistador, Hernan Cortes.
It wouldn’t be the Wild Wild West without outlaws.
Along the trail, adds Morales, “We’ll be able to present these marques to distributors for Texas, California, and Colorado for private tastings that will provide them with a more thoughtful examination should they want to carry them in the future.”
“But,” warns Pietsch, “in order to create all the content we promise our sponsors, we can only accommodate two expressions per tour day. When we reopen registration on July 17, 2017, we’ll be able to make room for just 14 more expressions.”
*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.
Have you heard about the Tequila Aficionado Heartland Tour?
Every year, we take a little trip that allows us to create the sort of social media content that a studio and pro photographer just can’t create for you. The content and posts we create for our sponsors is the sort of organic social content that millennials are looking for – not the uber-slick marketing that went out in the 90’s. When you add a combined social reach of over half a million people seeing these posts, we know it’s a valuable marketing proposition for any brand that wants the most bang for its buck.
Here is a teaser of the sort of content we’ll be creating during the Heartland Tour:
Our First Stop: Bracken Cave
Our first stop on the Heartland Tour (Beginning September 11, 2016) will be an overnight visit to Bracken Cave, summer home of more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats (the bats responsible for pollination, biodiversity, and plant health in Blue Weber Agave). Bracken Cave is the world’s largest colony of bats and one of the largest concentrations of mammals on earth. We’ll be there to learn more about conservation efforts for these bats and witness their emergence, as they spiral out of the cave at dusk for their nightly insect hunt.
We’re firming up more details for this trip and will share them with you as we confirm each.
How Tequila Aficionado Tours Began
The Heartland Tour is our 3rd annual (the first tour began in 2014 when Larry Large of Del Bravo Spirits heard we were taking an RV trip and brought us a box of Diva, Route 66 and Penasco tequilas for the journey). At least one Del Bravo brand has been on each of our tours and we are immensely grateful for that loyalty to the Tequila Aficionado brand.
Current sponsors of the Tequila Aficionado Heartland Tour
You’re busy trying to get your brand out there to consumers. We get that.
But did you know that we have lots of FREE ways for you to get your brand in front of our audience? You can check them out here, or just tune in to our next Monday evening Open Bar where we’ll be discussing all the ways Tequila Aficionado can help you grow your brand.
This is not a telephone call-in show. We will not answer our phones during the show. If you would like to participate in this show, please click here.
As the premier source in agave spirit education and entertainment, Tequila Aficionado can offer your brand a wide variety of products and services by our experts who are each influencers in their respective fields. In keeping with our philosophy of transparency, we’ve included a list of options available in every price range.
Como la principal fuente de agave espíritu educación y entretenimiento, Tequila Aficionado puede ofrecer su marca de fábrica una amplia variedad de productos y servicios de nuestros expertos cada influenciadores en sus respectivos campos. En consonancia con nuestra filosofía de transparencia, hemos incluido una lista de opciones disponibles en cada gama de precio.
Haga clic en bit.ly/seemybrand para ver todas las posibilidades de conseguir su marca, notada por los aficionados al tequila en todo el mundo.
When we nominate brands of promise, it is usually during the tasting of the product, but being in the social media end of marketing, I’ve been so impressed with one brand’s latest marketing images that I had to take the initiative and nominate this one myself.
Everything about the images that Malinalli Tequila shares with the public says class.
I’ve had the pleasure of tasting both the Malinalli Platinum and the Extra Anejo expressions and was duly impressed by both. If I could find them here in San Antonio, I would spend my hard earned dollars on them despite the many wonderful samples that decorate the Tequila Aficionado offices.
For those brands who would like to build a rapport with the female consumer in her mid-40s, take a lesson from Malinalli. Present class and taste and those with it will follow you passionately.
Well done, Malinalli Tequila.
You have just been nominated for the 2015 Brands of Promise Awards in Marketing Imagery.
With my itinerary (AKA Dress Code) in hand, and my presentations reviewed for the hundredth time, I arrived in Guadalajara on a very wet and rainy afternoon. Cloud cover obstructed my view on the landing pattern into the airport. Fluent in Spanish, I breezed through customs & immigration, baggage pick up, and found my way out to “Arrivals”.
Greeters en masse. There stood what seemed to be a sea of faces with anticipation, joy, and relief, painted across them as they awaited their parties to emerge from the Baggage Claim.
Men stood there, with every imaginable flower, from Calla Lily’s to Long Stemmed Ecuadoran roses, some single, some in ornate bouquets and arrangements. Women stood with freshly made up faces, and tresses of carefully coiffed hair, and their Sunday best…smiles abundant.
Greeting me was Gabriella, the company’s Marketing Director. A long, tall, elegant drink of water, with flowing dark hair to her waist and a lithe frame, I immediately felt “well-travelled-if-not-overdone” and though usually consider myself a stylish woman, I felt frumpy and wilted next to her. Dressed impeccably, she stood there with a sign “Jessica Arent” and a smile to greet me and welcome me to Guadalajara.
The ride to the office seemed to take no time at all, as we hit it off immediately. Telling me a bit about herself, Gabriella, shared with me her family background in the Fashion Industry, her rise in the company under the guidance of her father, her breakout into the Chinese Market, and Introduction into legendary product market launches in both Mexico and China through the family business. She shared that she was the oldest of ten, and the one upon whom the responsibility was laid when it came to family. She also shared with me how she came to be involved in the team developing this new tequila brand and product we were to spend the next week collaborating on.
As she chattered on, Guadalajara rose up around me, with beautiful architecture, and smart cars everywhere! Guadalajara is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Jalisco, one of only a handful of states from which Tequila can be made and called “tequila” (but you knew that, right?), and the seat of the municipality of Guadalajara. The city is located in the central region of Jalisco in the western-pacific area of Mexico. Guadalajara is the cultural center of Mexico, known for culture, and arts, Fashion and trends, it is often called “the Paris of Mexico” and is considered the home of mariachi music, of which there are reminders throughout the city.
Lush and green, I noticed lawn and foliage everywhere. Bougainvillea adorned doorway arches and balconies and palm trees lined the streets. Color and vibrancy was abundant, like an energy the city seemed to possess. We passed aromatic taco stands, with patrons lined up on makeshift counter stools pulled up to food carts. As we traveled through the city, the sky clouded and the heavens opened and the smell of the plants opening to take in the fresh rain permeated the air.
Unlike Mexico City, Guadalajara is on an eco-friendly green movement. Instead of gas guzzling trucks and SUV’s like so many other Mexican destinations, I saw bicycles, Vespa’s, smart cars, people walking, skateboards and rollerblades, and everywhere signs to adopt parcels of parks and land to keep them green.
Not knowing much about Guadalajara, beyond the reputation for rich soils and minerals for agriculture, I learned that Guadalajara has a humid subtropical climate that is quite close to a rainforest climate, featuring dry, warm winters and hot, wet summers. Guadalajara’s climate is influenced by its high altitude and the general seasonality of precipitation patterns in western North America. Although the temperature is warm year-round, and known for the “eternal spring”, Guadalajara has very strong seasonal variation in precipitation. The northward movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone brings a great deal of rain in the summer months, whereas for the rest of the year, the climate is rather arid. The extra moisture in the wet months moderates the temperatures, resulting in cooler days and nights during this period. My timing? Wet season. It was perfect. With my hair already responding to the 98 degree heat and the rich humidity and taking on a life and mind of its own, kinking madly, I was grateful for the rain cascading down around us.
Driving through this huge city, I came to understand that Guadalajara is built around 5 primary fountains. Had you ever wondered about the traditional Mexican Villages, towns and Pueblo’s that seem to be built around a central plaza and a fountain? Those fountains were not for architecture, but had a purpose; just as these 5 fountains of Guadalajara. Fountains were once wells. It was here you came to fill buckets for home water, baths, and cooking. Accordingly, the five central fountains served each community’s water needs. Today the Fountains rise up from beautifully landscaped medians that showcase majestic bronze sculptures telling compelling stories of the city’s rich history.
Unlike many colonial cities that maintain their original town plan, in the 1950s Guadalajara underwent a major project that changed the face of the city. Older buildings were razed to allow for wide avenues with new constructions, underground parking lots, and shopping centers. Fortunately, the most beautiful older buildings were left intact.
I was astounded by this incredible city. At the heart of Guadalajara is the cathedral. With its twin pointed towers and central dome, Gabriella shared that it is the most recognizable landmark on the Guadalajara skyline. The Cathedral is surrounded on all four sides by “plazas, an integral part of all community planning in Mexico, as culturally these are the central meeting places for all socializing in Mexican communities. “Plaza Guadalajara” faces the cathedral. Its central fountain depicts two lions with their paws resting on the trunk of a tree, the city’s coat of arms. To the south is the “Plaza de Armas” with its art nouveau bandstand and matching lampposts. The adjacent “Government Palace” has a lovely baroque facade and a spectacular mural painted by Jose Clemente Orozco in the interior main staircase. To the north of the Cathedral is the “Rotondo de los Jaliscienses Ilustres”. This green space has a central circular monument with seventeen ribbed columns; the statues surrounding it represent Jalisco’s illustrious sons (and one daughter), people from Jalisco who have made notable contributions in arts, science and politics.
Behind the Cathedral is the large “Plaza de la Liberacion”, deriving the name to commemorate Miguel Hidalgo’s abolishment of slavery. A statue of Miguel Hidalgo holding a broken chain commemorates this historical event. The “Teatro Degollado” is at the far east end of the plaza. Guadalajara’s Ballet Folclorico performs here in this beautiful neoclassical building dating to 1856, and Gabriella told me to prepare myself, as this was Sunday’s activity and I was in for the cultural spectacle of a lifetime.
Coming around the back of the theater, I saw a fountain depicting the Guadalajara city founders. The “Plaza Tapatio” begins here and stretches over half a mile to the “Hospicio Cabanas”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Everywhere I looked were picturesque arcades and promenades, bubbling fountains, charming restored colonial buildings, modern sculptures, and happy people greeting one another with hugs, kisses, or great big smiles. Baby’s clung to mothers, and children ran around in circles chasing one another.
I tilted my head back against the headrest and breathed deeply, while I listened to Gabriella continue on the points of interest as we wound our way to the offices and the rain began to subside.
All too soon we came upon a tall modern office building, and pulled in to park the car and head on upstairs.
We paused at the door for a moment, as the sounds of gregarious conversation floated out to us. She turned to me and asked “Are you ready to meet everyone?” as an endearing smile spread across her face. Opening the door the room came to a dead halt in all conversation as we walked in, and a roomful of momentary strangers all turned toward me to welcome me. I say “momentary” because Mexican culture speaks to empathy, and engagement and the art of drawing you in, no matter how shy you thought you might be.
One by one, these gentlemen stepped up to me with an outstretched hand, a smile and a kiss on the cheek in greeting. The impressive 27 year old CEO, the distinguished gentleman who clearly had a fascinating story that spread across his face and came through his smile, that was the COO, and the enigmatic and enthusiastic Tequila Maestro. I realized in short order I was among the elite of the Tequila world in Guadalajara. More distinguished and certainly refined than anyone I had met to date in the industry, the first impression of this team of “Tequileros” was nothing short of impressive. Graciousness and Gentility is what came through from this cast of characters in my Epic Tequila Adventure.
Not long after arriving, I was introduced to the “juice”. There are no words to adequately describe this product line, other than “Epic”. Introduced by Jaime Villalobos Sauza, of the famed SAUZA TEQUILA FAMILY and proud 5th generation tequila aficionado, the nondescript “milk bottles” were opened one at a time and poured into tasting flutes. We collectively put our glasses to our noses with each sample, rolled our glasses to inspect “legs” and “crowns” and the Brilliance of the liquid in the glass, and one by one we tilted the glasses to our lips and drew in the liquid. Swilling for five seconds, inhaling deeply and swallowing, with a deep exhale, the notes and complexities of the distillations rose up, one after the other, promising a smooth, soft sipping experience and delivering a luxurious libation experience.
Dinner was soon offered by our personal chef, Josue Bañuelos (Now rated “THE WORLDS GREATEST CHEF” by this writer-I ate really well all week and lost weight!). As we sat down at the table, I took it all in. High above the cobblestone streets of Guadalajara, the pocket doors pulled all the way back so the soft breeze added to the “Al Fresco” mood. The delicately seared Sea Bass with a caper minieure sauce, fresh grilled asparagus with agave honey, and cilantro carrots plated on immaculate Villeroy and Boch White Bone China, the beautiful, carefully selected Reidel glasses, for the Chillean Chardennau chilled to perfection, all finished with a refreshing homemade Fresh Lemon Ice with red and black raspberries and mint; I began to understand the methodology behind the image of the brand. The first impression spoke volumes and the ideas began to formulate in my mind, like the flavors exploding in my mouth, so too were my pistons exploding with ideas!
Before I knew it, the evening had passed and I found myself on my way to my hotel to check in and settle in the for the night. I regretted emerging from the car, not yet done with the day, eager to see and learn and taste so much more, and dragged myself up to my room.
Unpacked and comfortably settled in to my room, I took a deep contented breath. I called the front desk and in Spanish asked for the wake-up call. I pulled the drapes on the traffic of Guadalajara, and submerged into the dark folds of the room, the breeze blowing the curtains in the window and sleep coming over me. I closed my eyes, eager for the next day to begin.
Read the continuation of Jessica’s Journey coming soon!
Jessica Arent has spent her career steeped in the Hispanic culture. Passionate about the Latin culture and experiencing roles that have taken her from television to digital marketing throughout the United States and Mexico, Jessica’s passion for Mexico runs in her blood. An accomplished writer, Mexico is where her heart lives and is the focus of her work and writing. Specializing in marketing Hispanic based products and services, Jessica will tell you there are few people in the world or places she has traveled, from Asia to Europe and in between, who compare to the Mexican culture. Building websites such as ALL ABOUT MEXICO and fostering the marketing endeavors of a number of tequila products, to name a few, Jessica sets out to inspire the world around her, one person, one relationship at a time, to know and understand the culture she calls home. Jessica is a partner at Intermountain Media, LLC, the Communications and Media Director of Terra Energy Resources Corp, and shares other travel and tequila adventures on her blog, Jessica’s Mexico.
Throughout Part 1, we employed the use of more adjectives and descriptors to define, describe and distinguish one booze from another in the same category, as well as to give the illusion that it is actually closer to another booze in the leading categories.
Words like award-winning, artisanal, small-run, limited-production, hand-crafted, and boutique are reused over and over. So are micro-distilled, limited edition, small batch, small lot, organic (which we’ll cover in-depth in a future article), single village, homespun, authentic, small-lot, prestige, signature, high end and reserve.
They all have real core meanings, but because we see them repeatedly in ads, billboards, packaging, shelf talkers and point of sale (POS) materials, the lines between meaning and true definitions get blurred.
For instance, the definition of the word premium as defined by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) is actually a pricing term. To the average consumer, however, it has come to mean quality. And when consumers’ buying habits change and trade up, it has become known as premiumization.
Though some American micro-distilleries have attempted to distill small batches of agave spirits, it has proven difficult and labor intensive due to it being produced from a plant that takes years to mature as opposed to grains, hops, and grapes that yield more frequent harvests.
It would be silly to define and measure craft tequila in ways that relate to wine, beer and other spirits created in the United States and abroad. There may be no boundaries in spirits marketing, but to impose limits on the number of barrels, bottles and cases manufactured and sold by a tequila distillery in order to measure a craft product would have no jurisdiction whatsoever in Mexico. Secondly–
There Is No Backpedaling
The Beer Wench, Ashley Routson said it best when interviewed for this article:
“No one wants to fault the big guys for being successful–that is not what this argument is about. My main question is–how big is too big? And as long as a company stays independently-owned, does that mean it will always be craft?”
Indeed, both the craft beer and spirits segments are growing at such a fast rate, that the Brewer’s Association has changed its definition multiple times. This has allowed the burgeoning brewers more room to expand. And as spirits writer, Wayne Curtis, discusses in this article from The Atlantic, the alarming growth rate of small distilleries is having an effect on the quality of the finished craft product due to a shortage of experienced distillers.
As a consequence of this exponential growth, in both the craft beer and craft spirits categories, the process–the art form itself–is getting watered down.
Let’s face it–
No one gets into the tequila business to be a failure. Everyone wants to be on top. And once you get there, the challenge is to stay on top. We know how arduous the tequila hero’s journey is.
No one with a business plan ever said, “I’m going to mass produce my lousy tequila and once I’ve flooded the shelves with my swill and lost market share, I’m going to distill a tequila the old fashioned way.”
Don’t pretend to continue to still make your tequila like you have over the past 250 years, either. You are not that home based family operation still harvesting agaves by mule and macerating piñas with a tahona, any more. That family’s history was forgotten when the brand was sold.
And just because you build a separate, smaller facility on your distillery property to produce a more labor intensive line (and even petition to do so under another NOM number!) when you have never attempted to do so in the first place, does not make your more expensive line a craft tequila.
Moreover, just because you happen to be a colossal consumer of agave, still being emulated for your unique style of 80’s spirits marketing, and prefer to see things differently, don’t expect the rest of us to swallow your slant.
Following are some tips and suggestions that may help guide you in making more informed decisions when selecting, defining and measuring a craft tequila.
#1: NOM list
By Mexican law, every tequila must display a number that corresponds to the legal representative, tequila producer or distillery in which it was produced. Tracing that number to the CRT’s list of distilleries, you can discover what other brands are manufactured under that specific number, and presumably, in that specific factory.
Logic dictates that the fewer labels a fabrica (factory) produces means more care should be taken with its one or two flagship brands. Logic also dictates the opposite when you see many different brands appearing under a particular NOM number.
Whether the distillery produces only a few lines, or many contract brands for others, is not necessarily a sign of the tequila’s craftiness or quality, but it’s a start.
You can view and download the most recent NOM lists from our website here.
Taking a pointer from panel expert, Chriz Zarus’ now industry classic article, “Change is at Hand for the Tequila Market, Part II,” a craft brand with a good chance of survival in the market will be one that “You, your distillery, and your brand have generations of lineage.”
Meet-the-Maker dinner pairings, industry meetings and on-premise tastings showcasing a craft tequila will more than likely feature the brand owner or the master distiller behind the brand.
In some cases, a well respected Brand Ambassador (not the gal or guy with the tight t-shirt!) will stand in for the owner if there is a scheduling conflict.
Again, this is not a guarantee of craftiness or quality, but most family owned brands will stand behind (or in front) of their tequila with pride.
Another tip from Zarus’ treatise that could be useful in determining whether a craft tequila will be successful or not is, “Your company does…own at least a portion of the distillery that produces your product.”
This was successfully accomplished by the owners of Suerte Tequila, one of the few still produced with a tahona (milling stone). In order to ensure the quality of their tequila and to regulate the brand’s eventual growth, Lance Sokol and Laurence Spiewak purchased the distillery.
Does your craft tequila have some skin in the game? Most good ones do and will proudly make that information public.
Similar to #3 above, some craft brands are owned by families with ties to the land and own their own agave. In some instances, they may or may not own all or a portion of the distillery where they produce their tequila.
In the midst of this current agave shortage, this one asset could make or break a craft brand. This information should be readily available in POS material, but is also not a guarantee of quality or craftiness.
#5: Use of a Diffuser
While considered a legitimate tool in tequila production efficiency and has the full blessing of the CRT, it is a dead give away that shortcuts are being taken.
As noted agave ethno-botanist, Ana Valenzuela so succinctly declared in this open letter…
“…prohibir el uso de difusores (hidrólisis de jugos de agave) que les quita “el alma” (el sabor a agave cocido) a nuestros destilados, únicos en el mundo por su complejidad aromatic y de sabores.”
[“…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.”]
This is also in keeping with Zarus’ definition of preserving the process as the art form or craft outlined in Part 1.
Using a diffuser is a closely guarded secret by most mid-sized to large distilleries and hard to spot. You can read more about them here.
If there are any products that deserve to be described with the aforementioned adjectives that spirits marketers are freely throwing around these days to denote a handcrafted tequila, mezcal, or other agave distillate, they are in the organic segment.
Stringent regulations are required in both farm to distillery, and then from factory to bottle, to be given the designation organic and the permission to use the USDA seal that appears prominently on the labels.
By virtue of being organic, the process is considered much more natural and is inherently small batched.
But, not every brand has the budget to become a certified organic tequila. In addition, some brands may simply not see the value of being certified as organic, especially since some organic certifying agencies have been looked upon distrustfully in recent years.
Still, it could arguably be the most reliable indicator of a craft agave distillate.
This might be the toughest test of all.
As we mentioned above, many brands prefer to play their cards close to the vest. By the same token, many family owned brands are fiercely proud of their origins and will gladly tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Is your craft tequila brand willing to tell you their story, or just tell you a story?
Many of the more popular craft tequila brands are helmed by creators who are delightfully flamboyant and outspoken, as well.
Craft by Any Other Name
As our reader in Part 1 stated, the meaning of craft is “all over the place” and then some.
With mixology being the leading trend driving the spirits industry and demand for better ingredients on the rise, this means quality tequila is essential for those creating crafted cocktails (there’s that word again!).
But, with the invention of the wildly popular michelada cocktail, a margarita (which is the favorite way Americans consume tequila) served with a beer bottle upside down in a margarita glass, and chilled tequila on tap, there will surely be more cross pollination between adult beverage categories.
We’ve already seen this with tequila brands selling their used aging barrels to small brewers to create signature craft beers, as well as tequila aged in barrels bought from other brand named spirits.
This will only lead to even more crossovers between categories caused by inspired spirits marketers, PR firms, uninformed spirits journalists, and multinational corporations. Borrowing benefits has been the norm for some time.
There will always be those who deliberately hide the truth or feed false information to the media and practice opacity. We can’t control what they will say and do.
The key is to become educated and informed about a tequila’s recipe and process. Using the Craft Tequila Gauntlet above can certainly help in making the right choices.
An interesting question crossed my desk concerning the term craft as it relates to tequila.
This person asked…
“The one thing I am finding is the definition of ‘craft’ is all over the place. What does craft mean to you? Do you think it is based on the method, quantity, who makes it or maybe all of these factors?”
This reader went on to ask if I considered a particular big name brand as a craft tequila, and if not, would I consider a certain higher priced line from this same transnational corporation that owns the brand as a craft tequila.
Further, he confessed that two other well-known brands could be considered “craft” tequilas even though one of them had reported sales of over 50,000 cases in 2013.
“…an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands.”
The word handcraft is defined as…
“…to make (something) by using your hands.”
There are even deeper meanings to craft as it relates to the beer, wine and spirits industries, but before I get to them, let me remind you of some tequila facts and a huge marketing myth.
Fact #1: Tequila has its own geographic indication (GI). The blue weber agave from which it is made can only be grown, and tequila can only be produced, in specific states and regions in Mexico.
Fact #2: According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), despite 13 million 9 liter cases of tequila sold in 2013, it is still–and always will remain–virtually last in sales volume behind whisk(e)y, gin, vodka and rum due to Fact #1.
This brings me to the…
Tequila Marketing Myth–Borrowing Benefits
So, how does a PR or marketing firm with no real knowledge of what good or bad tequila is, convey the message that its client, usually a high powered, non-Mexican owned tequila brand (and all that that implies), is just as cool as the other kids who may or may not be as well funded?
You “borrow” benefits from the guy ahead of you. You compare your tequila brand’s features and benefits to the leader in the field, thus making your client “worthy by association.”
From the moment that Herradura rested tequila in used Jack Daniels barrels to attract the American whiskey drinker decades ago, marketers have tried to disguise tequila (and mezcal, now, to some extent) as something else.
And because of Facts #1 and #2 above, tequila marketers have for years misled the public by borrowing benefits from wines, beers and all other spirits in a seeming effort to gain tequila’s acceptance into the mainstream drinking public, and to increase sales.
Here’s what it means to produce a craft product in each of the following arenas.
The Brewers’ Association defines craft as small(“6 million barrels of beer or less per year”),independent (“less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer”), and traditional(“a brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation”).
“…those whose annual production of distilled spirits from all sources does not exceed 750,000 proof gallons removed from bond (the amount on which excise taxes are paid.)”
According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), a proof gallon needs an entire conversion table to figure out. We’ll let you do the math, here.
The American Distilling Institute’s (ADI) guidelines are similar but allows certified craft spirits a “maximum annual sales of 52,000 cases where the product is PHYSICALLY distilled and bottled on-site” and “maximum annual sales are less than 100,000 proof gallons.”
Where wine is concerned, the Department of Revenue defines a “small winery” as any winery that produces less than 25,000 gallons of wine in a calendar year. A “farm winery,” however, can produce up to 50,000 gallons of wine annually.
Some have even arbitrarily issued their own definition of small winery as one producing as little as 10,000 gallons per year, and a nano winery as generating only 500 gallons per year.
A simple Google search shows that each state has its own slightly different definition of what a craft wine or spirit is, and several states with popular wine growing regions like California, are constantly updating their definition to accommodate growing wineries.
The same growing concerns in the craft beer industry have prompted the Brewer’s Association to update their ground rules to allow for larger craft producers.
The Revenge of Brewzilla
According to Impact Databank, a large chunk of the beer industry has surrendered significant market share (some 6.7 million barrels, or 93 million 2.25-gallon cases since 2009!) to the spirits industry. The only bright spot for the entire category is the resurgence of locally brewed craft or specialty beers increasing in volume by 14% to 20.2 million barrels.
These stats have not been lost on spirits marketers who follow trends in similar markets to practice borrowing benefits. The big brands like Miller-Coors, Anheuser Busch-Inbev (Budweiser) and others also have jumped onto the craft bandwagon by either investing in small breweries or by inferring in their marketing that they still make their beer by hand.
As Ashley Routson, a craft beer advocate famously known as The Beer Wench, and whose upcoming book “The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer” will be an unpretentious, comprehensive approach to beer, puts it…
“In my opinion, the fight over the word craft should be one of semantics, but instead, its become a battle of the egos.”
Routson goes on to say, “The word ‘craft’ is not a synonym for the word ‘good,’ ‘great’ or ‘better.’ Many non-craft breweries and large tequila producers make world class beer and tequila–there is no argument there. You don’t need to use the word craft to define your beverage as being good.”
“We need to separate the garbage from the good stuff. [Like craft] beer that is only made with the basics, grain, water, hops and yeast, the brewers do not use additives or adjuncts to flavor the beer.”
Cortez concludes, “[Tequila] is a product that takes time, care and only the purest agave extraction. The distillers depend on the time to harvest the agave, baking the pinas and perfectly extracting the juices. Once it is distilled it is a product that is pure and only flavored by the barrel with no extra additives.”
Tequila Industry consultant, Chris Zarus, innovator of TequilaRack, the world’s first take home tequila tasting kit that deliberately includes samples of some of the finest small batch, micro-distilled reposado tequilas sourced from family run distilleries, takes the craft argument to a higher level.
“The word craft has unfortunately been abducted by the marketing department and now misleads the masses. We go to classes that advise us on how to make our brands ‘craftier’ with specialty releases with funny names [and] all owned by multinational conglomerates that work relentlessly to reduce costs via cheaper ingredients and mechanization.”
Zarus believes that there are two industry definitions of craft which differ from what the consumer understands. They involve a specific recipe and a specific process.
In this craft version, the product is consistent and costs are contained.
“The Jim Koch’s [founder of Samuel Adams beer] view that his recipe makes his beer craft regardless of the fact that MillerCoors brews it for the masses,” explains Zarus. “In [Koch’s] opinion, its like a chef going to your house to cook his special recipe.”
“If you think about it in broad terms,” reasons Zarus, “all consumer products have a specific recipe. The difference here may be that the recipe is full flavored and is preferred by fewer due to its heartier taste.”
In this definition, the process is the craft.
Tequila Fortaleza, produced by famed fifth generation distiller, Guillermo Sauza, Zarus illustrates, “[Is] very
specific, old world, but not very mechanized. In this way the outcome varies by batch and the state of the local ingredients. The craft is the process.”
The downside, insists Zarus is that, “…the product varies by batch, like some wines. There is a lack of product consistency. Some batches have more acclaim than others and the maker is not getting to charge the full price of the best batches.”
This last seeming liability has been turned into a profitable tequila marketing plan by some boutique brands like Ocho and Charbay who source their agave from single estates thus promoting the brand’s terroir and creating buzz for individual vintages.
The Meaning and the Art Form
The two essential elements that Routson, Cortez and Zarus all agree upon are, first, that the craft process is the art form, whether in beer, wine or spirits.
The other factor that our panel of professionals agrees on is the battle of maintaining the true definition of the word craft.
We’ll explore these issues and how you can define, select and measure a craft tequila in Part 2 tomorrow.
Tequila Brands and Producers Have Already Sailed Into the Sucker Hole
For those new to the expression, a “sucker hole” is a colloquial term referring to a spate of good weather that “suckers” sailors into leaving port just in time for a storm to resume at full force and wreak havoc on the ship and crew.
For both Tequila Brand Owners and producers of a certain size, their ship has already sailed, and the storm is now closing in on them. Some in denial, others looking through rose-colored margarita glasses, still believe they can navigate through to that glimmer of light on the horizon. However, the perfect storm of doom looms just past the horizon of hope, and will soon envelope and destroy most, if not all, in its wake.
Oh, and that’s the good news. The bad news is that only a few of the big and the very nimble will survive.
This is because of a number of factors, primarily that too many of us bought in to the Yankelovich and similar studies that declared premium and above 100% Agave Tequila brands as the next big thing.
While the premises of these market premonitions were undoubtedly true, too many of us jumped headfirst into the juice just before the world economic decline. Six hundred brands have turned into 1200 brands in less than five years. The growth of the market has been dramatic compared with other distilled spirits, yet, it’s still relatively small, ranked only 4th in US volume. It has not grown fast enough to accommodate all of the entries into the field.
Resistance is Futile – Change is at Hand for the Tequila Market
The Gravy Train Wreck Ahead
I’m sure that for many of you, in just reading the title of this article, your blood pressure has escalated, and you may already be misdirecting your anger at the author.
For others who have experienced the many similar economic paths to consolidation in the global beverage industry, you have already accepted that change has to occur, and you will soon better understand and appreciate the math behind what I am about to lay out, and why everything I’m about to outline here will happen in due course.
For those of you who have your personal fortunes riding on the Tequila Train, both prominence and profit may still seem to be so close that you think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or beyond the next bend. But, I’m sorry to say that for most of us in the biz, the light at the end of the tunnel is that of an oncoming locomotive. This will be a catastrophic collision, albeit in slow motion, that will drain your resources and your resolve.
What can be learned from the Russians? (Excerpted from JustDrinks.com)
The global economic crisis has had a significant impact on the Russian spirits market, changing market dynamics and briefly halting the much-lauded premiumisation trend, according to current research.
A recently released report from the International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR) on Russia’s spirits market claims that the downturn has also led to “…disruptions across the supply chain, with many suppliers and distributors going bankrupt or halting production. For healthier companies, however, it has presented an opening to establish their brands and take market share…”
The Silver Tequila Clouds have a very Dark Lining (Excerpted from Global market review of Tequila – forecasts to 2013 www.researchandmarkets.com )
The history of the Tequila industry has been one of boom and bust. Sales rose during the 1940’s only to collapse again in the mid-50’s. Export sales rose steadily from the 1960’s onward, although domestic sales fell sharply in the 1980’s due again to an economic slump, and the severe Mexican economic crisis of the early 1980’s resulted in plummeting sales.
The market was again disrupted by a critical shortage of Agave beginning in the late ’90’s, which served to hold back the category’s international development as brand owners were forced to divert limited supplies to the core US market, and quality perceptions were damaged as some manufacturers moved from 100% to 51% (Mixto) Agave products.
Today, that dynamic is in reverse, and the market is in oversupply. More and more 100% Agave products are coming into the market. This is helping to raise quality perceptions, and in turn, demand is surging not only in core Mexican and US markets but across a number of other countries.
The outlook for the category has rarely been better, and Casa Noble Tequila president and COO David Ravandi commented, “Tequila is entering a stage of consolidation in the world markets. It is no longer a fad. The fact that 100% Agave Tequila exports have increased tremendously over the last two years is extremely positive for the product’s outlook in the years to come.”
US Tequila Importation is a Sucker Bet
“My cousin will make the best Tequila for you Mr. Gringo”
“So, my friend, you want a great Tequila brand? We will make it for you. Just fifty percent cash up front to start the process.”
Unfortunately, far too many have fallen for this old gag. Relying heavily on the forecasting reports of the early 2000’s that suggested that luxury Tequila would be the next big spirits category after vodka.
With dollar signs in their eyes, the believers drank the Tequila Kool-Aid, most of them spending way too much to buy a brand, custom molded bottles, etc. But the worst part was that this left little if any money for marketing. Many did not even understand brand marketing inflation was happening right under their noses.
It had started soon after Patron hit 100,000 cases in volume in 2001, and the cost to market a Tequila brand in the US went from $1 to $10M per year. Today it takes at least $20M per year just to play in the same ballpark as Patron’s $50M plus, Sauza’s $35M plus, and Cuervo’s $30M plus marketing budgets.
Who could have predicted that a “realistic” business plan for the next successful ultra-premium Tequila brand calling for only 10,000 cases in the first year would end in it’s investors taking a bath?
The problem with this equation is three-fold:
1) Pricing: Unlike vodka and white rum, 100% Agave Tequila is just too expensive to produce and bottle in Mexico. Unless, like rum, vodka and mixto Tequila, it is able to be shipped in bulk and bottled near the final consumer, the cost involved with 100% Agave Tequila is always going to be too high to attain critical volume and profit levels.
2) Volume: US mass volumes are best when a spirits category is between $9.99-29.99/750ml. One hundred percent Agave Tequila is currently profitable only at the upper ranges when higher volumes are attained.
3) Distribution: The US “3-Tier” Distribution System is at best an oligopoly, and 19 states run a monopoly. Of the 1200 plus Tequila brands, want to guess how many they want to carry? Well, after the top 20, you are very lucky to be “special order only”. If you are fortunate enough to live in the states of California or Arizona, where one can be both the importer and distributor, you will find yourself driving your precious Tequila brand around to each account in your car.
Without product volumes or market clout, you will be hard pressed to get even an appointment, let alone a vender number with the chain restaurants and grocery stores. These major chain stores like Chili’s, Chevy’s, Costco, Kroger, etc., drive at least 85% of the combined volume in all but the control states. Without access to the chains, your market becomes the handful of privately owned, “Mom & Pop” accounts that usually know that small independent distributors are easy prey for bending the law on consignment, stringing out payments, or not paying at all.
While driving your own brand around certainly makes time for the personal touch and focus, these hand-selling efforts prove to be the most inefficient ways to distribute one Tequila brand. Your glass ceiling to fame and fortune becomes that next level of chain distribution that can only be had by a state-wide delivery system of the large wholesale distributor.
With Tequila segment Pricing, Volume and Distribution all against you, one will need to have a lot more money than the brands of the past in order to simply survive in the US.
Tanks-a-lot for Nothing
Call the tank maker and raise your stocks of liquid now!
Unfortunately, most of the mid-sized Tequila distilleries have bought into the notion that Agave prices will go up in the very near future. They base this notion on the boom and bust cycle of the past, and like Lehman Brothers, believe that they have successfully timed the market.
Greedily, many producers are now mortgaged to the hilt in order to produce all the Tequila that they possibly can afford to store in stainless tanks or wooden barrels. Fear of the impending Agave price increase that has yet to happen (and may not for many, many years) has seemingly forced them all into a squirrel-like stockpiling frenzy.
Are they storing Blanco, like acorns, for the hard winter ahead? These stored nuts of liquid demise are in reality winds conspiring to produce the perfect storm for all but the most financially secure and/or nimble producers.
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