The BIG Business Of Kosher Tequila, Part IV

Why Go Kosher?

dulce vida, anejo, tequila, kosher tequilaThat’s what we asked several Kosher tequila and mezcal brand owners and ambassadors.  Some of their reasons may surprise you.

Richard Sorenson, Founder of Dulce Vida Tequila, the only 100 proof organic tequila to date, comes from an organic foods background having developed the first USDA organic energy drink on the market to gain national distribution.

“Kosher certification is not something we focus heavily on,” admits Sorenson.  Yet, in Dulce Vida’s case, it legitimizes and solidifies the company’s pledge to the consumer to be “authentic and pure.”  

In fact, Sorenson does not believe that “organic and kosher certification are mutually exclusive” and instead, go hand-in-hand.

Lisa Barlow, co-founder with her husband, John, of Vida Tequila.vida tequila, kosher tequila

“Kosher means ‘fit  or appropriate.’  Some people think that all tequila (blanco) is kosher.

“One thing we do, under kosher certification, is to use a kosher certified yeast for the fermentation process.  Not all brands do this. 

I love kosher law in general, and feel it’s been something I’m proud to say VIDA is.

“I know it’s trendy now to say you’re Kosher but for us it’s something we have been proud of since launching in 2007.  To me it shows we care about the quality of our 100% Agave Azul line of tequila.

“I’m proud our product carries the kosher logo.”

Camille Austin, brand ambassador for Montelobos mezcal–

“To be Kosher is to guarantee, in all aspects of production, that all standards of cleanliness which the Jewish religion requires are met. 

“This is an interesting subject I’ve touched with Ivan [Saldaña, developer of Montelobos mezcal] quite a bit, as well.  In mezcal production, as you know with its diversity, a number of things can be crucial elements to ensuring all requirements are fulfilled.

“For starters, guaranteeing there are no animal products (meats or insects) that contaminate the process. Therefore, a traditional Pechuga mezcal could not be considered Kosher.

“Another important element would be to ensure that all animals involved in production are treated with dignity and respect as is the case with our beloved mule Rambo, who pulls the Tahona to make the Montelobos mash.

“We thoroughly pick through all our raw material, the espadin [agave], one by one, and make sure there are no worms, beetles or other insects.

“Fermentation is key as not all yeast used to make agave spirits has a Kosher origin.  In the case of Montelobos, we ferment naturally in open air, without adding yeast, for a controlled period of no more than 7 days.

montelobos, kosher mezcal
The many facets of Montelobos mezcal.

“There are many organizations globally that are dedicated specifically to audits and certifications such as this.  At Casa Montelobos, we are certified and audited every few months through the OU, or Orthodox Union, based in New York City which is one of the most strict and internationally recognized Kosher organizations in the world.

“On the back label of each bottle you will find a big circled “U” identifiable with this organization.

“You could say that to be certified Kosher is to be disciplined, consistent and organized in your production process.  It is a demonstration to those, albeit those who enjoy your product as consumers or those who are your mezcalero piers, that you are an open book with how you make your product.

“At Montelobos, although a quite small production, we are very proud of the final product and are committed to maintaining the cleanest and most natural standards to make our mezcal.”

With help from Leyenda del Milagro’s brand ambassador, J.P. DeLoera,

Moises Guindi, co-founder of Milagro explains:

“As you may know, kosher certification is related to certifying that a product complies with a set of rules stated in the Jewish religion. 

“That said, Tequila in its essence and based on the laws that regulate tequila production (NOM) would be with some exceptions I will point out, Kosher.

“That said, in order for a product to be Kosher, it requires an audit to ensure it does not fall into the exceptions that would make it non-Kosher.

“These exceptions, in the case of tequila, would be related in adding additives or flavoring agents that may contain a non-kosher ingredient.  Other exceptions would be certain yeasts and the aging in barrels that contained non-kosher products beforehand such as Brandy or Wine.

“The Kosher certification also requires that there are no insects inside the bottles so quality controls to ensure this are required.

“On the  commercial side, being Kosher is an enabler for all those consumers being Jewish or not that are looking to buy products that do not contain any non kosher ingredients.”

From Cesar Barba, Production Planning and Warehouse Coordinator at Milagro’s distillery:

“As Moisés stated, Kosher is a certification to ensure the Jewish community that the production process is compliant with the Jewish religion.

“That being said, this certification is made annually by a certification house that sends a rabbi to make sure that the agave, the distillery, and the barrels (if used), are all Kosher compliant.

“The rabbi sent by the certification house is like an external auditor, so it varies depending on the auditors’ availability, hence why there is no particular rabbi coming to OPTE.  Also, there are some “surprise” visits during the year to make sure we are still Kosher compliant.

“We are certified with KMD, whose logo can be seen in the back label, but there several other certification houses and they are all recognized worldwide.

“The main advantage of being Kosher certified is that you can reach a very specific market niche.

milagro“Given the previous statements, we are Kosher because:

–       We are Kosher certified.

–       Our third-party distiller partner is Kosher certified.

–       We use Kosher certified products from non-animal origin during our production process.

–       Our barrels did not hold any non-Kosher products.

–       We have annual certification visits and one or two audits during each year, depending on the external auditor’s (rabbi) availability.

“Moy basically shared that one of the most important processes to scrutinize is fermentation, where producers may add non-kosher yeast and other additives i.e.:  urea.”

DeLoera concludes, “Finally, a neat story is that Danny and Moy are from different Jewish backgrounds.  Danny is from the Ashkenazi heritage, and Moy from the Sephardim heritage.

“Because Jewish weddings demand all products be Kosher, and Danny and Moy wanted Milagro at their weddings (of course!).  Initially Milagro was certified by agencies from each and both Jewish traditions.  Now it is a bit of good banter, and the one that stands is KMD, which is from the Sephardim tradition, and KMD is known to hold the strictest audits and standards.”

See The Miracle Men Behind Milagro Tequila videos here.

Milagro Blanco Tequila Review

Mike Morales and Alex Perez taste and discuss Milagro Tequila Blanco in this episode of Tequila Aficionado’s Sipping off the Cuff.

milagro, tequila, blanco, reposado, anejoMILAGRO
SILVER

Milagro Silver is an estate-grown, 100% blue agave tequila that is renowned for its crisp, fresh, agave taste and world-class smoothness.
COLOR Bright, clear
NOSE Crisp, fresh, agave-forward, citrus notes
TASTE Crisp, fresh, agave-forward, vegetal and citrus notes, spicy black pepper finish

Gold – 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Silver – 2014 The Spirits of Mexico Competition

 

THE ORIGIN OF MILAGRO TEQUILA

It started in 1998 with two college friends, Danny Schneeweiss and Moy Guindi. Danny and Moy saw amazing things happening in the creative scene of Mexico City.

All around them, they saw new expressions of international sophistication, youthful energy and passionate creativity.

Everywhere except tequila.

Tequilas had become one-dimensional caricatures of tradition, or calculated celebrity-driven business ventures, devoid of creativity and truth.

Danny and Moy wanted a tequila that bridged two worlds — the deeply rooted integrity of traditional tequila, and the vibrant, creative culture of modern Mexico City.

 

 

Find Milagro Online:

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

milagro, tequila, blanco, reposado, anejo

The Montelobos Mezcal Project

[After The San Antonio Cocktail Conference held in January, 2015, Tequila Aficionado Media caught up with Dr. Iván Saldaña, producer of the upstart mezcal, Montelobos, a partnership project with the makers of Milagro tequila.  A featured speaker during the conference, here’s our in-depth discussion held at the bar of the lavish Westin Riverwalk Hotel.]

La Anatomia del Mezcal

Iván Saldaña (Photo courtesy of David Suro)
Iván Saldaña (Photo courtesy of David Suro)

In Dr. Iván Saldaña’s nifty little primer, The Anatomy Of Mezcal–which, by the way, belongs in every serious agave students’ reference library–he goes to great lengths to demystify maguey (agave) and mezcal in a concise and easy-to-understand fashion. As an introduction into the fundamentals of mezcal, the book covers it all, from what it is to how it’s processed.  Saldaña also defines the differences of artisanal mezcals distilled in palenques and haciendas from those using industrial methods. The latter is a situation currently being hotly contested inside the Mezcal Industry as it tries to cope with its alarming expansion without repeating the mistakes made by the Tequila Industry while still in its infancy.

A Double PhD.

Montelobos_ABVFrom his research, Saldaña asserts that the maguey plant efficiently evolves when affected by environmental stress.  It is precisely the plant’s adaptability to extreme conditions that makes it not only a versatile prime material for tequila and mezcal production, but also gives it its unique flavors and aromas that set it apart from other spirits. The same could be said about Iván’s versatility as a passionate scientist, researcher, environmentalist and mezcal developer who prefers to be challenged to come up with unique solutions. Here, Dr. Saldaña elaborates on his academic background leading to his PhD. In this segment, Iván recounts how his wine and spirits experience working for global distiller, Pernod Ricard, led to a craving to create something more intrinsically fulfilling.

My Way

Montelobos_derecho

Taking a lesson from Frank Sinatra, Iván explains what it was like to compose a mezcal like Montelobos without following any commercial guidelines.

Montelobos Explained

Iván has been quoted as insisting that “Mezcal is too often dominated by either an excessive smokiness or inopportune proportions.”  In his quest for the perfectly balanced mezcal, he concentrated on bringing forth Montelobos’ sweeter notes, along with citrus and smoke using cultivated espadin. 006The successful result garnered Montelobos a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013. Not wanting to create a single faceted mezcal, or replicating an old family recipe, Dr. Saldaña further breaks down Montelobos’ complexities.

The Value of Innovation

Dr. Saldaña produced his mezcal under the guidance of fifth generation Maestro Mezcalero, Don Abel López Mateos, but still believed in exploration and experimentation when designing its unique flavor profile.  Coupled with innovation, Iván contends that Montelobos is not about science, but about passion.

43.2 ABV

Montelobos_label   Iván explains how he arrived at the perfect 43.2% (86.4 proof) alcohol by volume to achieve the flavors and aromas unique to Montelobos.    

Sustainability

Agave_MontelobosNot only vigilant on creating Montelobos his way, Dr. Saldaña was also concerned about its environmental footprint on Oaxaca where it is distilled. Montelobos uses only organic, commercially grown espadin, certified so by certifying agency, Certimex.  Iván also makes sure that the wood used in roasting the espadin comes from a sustainable source.

The Universe Within the Universe

Dr. Iván Saldaña’s expedition into the anatomy of mezcal is by no means over. He confessed to having an urge to distill other variations of Montelobos that would emphasize additional flavors and aromas often hidden in traditional mezcal flavor profiles. For the time being, he prefers to continue to examine and discover the world within the world of mezcal.

The Miracle Men Behind Milagro Tequila

milagro

[Moises (Moy) Guindi, one of the two dynamic founders of Milagro tequila, and J.P. DeLoera, Milagro’s Texas Brand Ambassador, hung around after The San Antonio Cocktail Conference held in January, 2015. Tequila Aficionado Media chased down these two gentlemen for a rare chat at the bar of the luxurious Westin Riverwalk Hotel.]

MilagroBarrels

Ambassadors For the Modern Mexico

The time was 1997, and Europe had just signed a trade MilagroAgaveagreement with Mexico.  It officially recognized such spirits as scotch and cognac, among others.  In turn, Europe acknowledged tequila and mezcal’s denominations of origin.  Even though Mexico had issued its Protection of the Appellation of Origin Tequila in the early 70’s, this agreement was the first step in tequila finally gaining the global respect it deserved.

MilagroHomeUp until then, it had been heavily marketed as a traditional spirit often depicted in rustic agricultural scenes of burros and roping charros.  But, a new millennium was near, and a bustling Mexico City was partying like it was 1999 with art, music, design and architecture.

For two young college buddies, Danny Schneeweiss and Moy Guindi, the Mexico City club scene was where tequila sorely lacked a more modern edge and feel.  It was then that they deliberately set out to propel tequila’s image into the 21st Century.

Making Tequila Fashionable

003In this clip, Moy recounts the journey he and Danny embarked on to chart Milagro’s agave forward flavor profile in an era where producers were masking their juice to taste like other spirits.

 One Foot in Tradition, One Foot in The Future

Here, Moy and Milagro’s Texas Brand Ambassador, J.P. DeLoera, explain Milagro’s distillation process which combines old style methods with modern machinery to achieve and enhance its unique flavors.

Further emphasizing their respect for old world techniques, both J.P. and Moy describe how their exclusive joven tequila, Milagro Unico, is made.

Sophistication In A Glass

Milagro’s unique bottles have long been sought after by collectors.  Moy DannyUnicoblames his partner Danny, as the creative mind behind reimagining tequila’s image in clubs and bars around the world.

Milagro was designed to evolve tequila from a red headed step child to a sophisticated gentleman in a classy container.  But, the partners also wanted it to educate consumers.  They added a stylized agave inside each hand blown bottle of their Select Barrel Reserve expressions to illustrate tequila’s true bloodline.

What’s In A Name?

Moy recalls the hilarious story of how Milagro got its name.

How To Sip Milagro

J.P and Moy define the differences between Milagro’s core line and the Select Barrel Reserve.

All This and Kosher, Too?

Thinking ahead, the co-founders of Milagro decided to make their tequila kosher, one of the few brands at the time to do so.  Their reasoning was more personal than you might think.

Where Are They Now?

MilagroBoxIn 2004, Moy and Danny entered into a partnership agreement with family owned super-premium spirits distiller, William Grant & Sons.  The UK based company eventually acquired a 100% stake in Milagro in 2006.  This allowed Milagro to reach nationwide distribution in the U.S. and in key global tequila markets.

Not ones to rest on their success, both Moy and Danny retained certain rights and still have responsibilities to the brand as Moy clarifies here…

Almost 20

After almost 20 years in existence, J.P. describes his strategies to Milagro’s current challenges in the marketplace.

Having birthed Milagro in the midst of the Agave Crisis of the late 90s that almost bankrupted them, Moy learned the hard lessons of staying ahead of the agave pricing curve.

What About China?

Unlike the major spirits brands who consider exporting into China as the next gold rush, Moy believes that a conservative “wait-and-see” approach is best for Milagro.

La Leyenda del Milagro

Both J.P and Moy share their views on the one thing that you should know about Milagro.

Looking Ahead

Demonstrating that they haven’t lost their entrepreneurial drive which spearheaded Milagro into tequila’s New Age and made them one of the top three most influential start ups in Mexico, Moy and Danny are currently involved in a partnership with Montelobos mezcal.

Whatever tequila’s future holds for the next twenty years, it’s a sure bet that Moy and Danny will be at the forefront pushing it, and Milagro, to further heights.

San Antonio Cocktail Conference, Day #1 #SACC2015

#SACC2015, san antonio cocktail conference 2015

If you aren’t following us on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or Facebook, then you’ve missed some great fun!  We’ve been at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference this week and posting as we go.  To track everybody’s fun, follow their hashtag #SACC2015.

Today, we’ll attend Mezcal, and Pairing seminars (Tex vs. Mex: Texas Flavors vs. Mexican Spirits & The Relativity of Flavor Pairing), interview a few people and then support our friends doing good work at the Tequila Interchange Project by covering the fun at Lucha Limon.  If you’re in San Antonio, stop by The Esquire Tavern at 155 East Commerce Street, San Antonio, TX 78205, for ¡Lucha Limón! from 3-5pm today.

¡Lucha Limón 2015! is Texas’ first introduction to this fast-paced, lime-squeezing competition to benefit the Tequila Interchange Project. Challenge your favorite bartenders’ chops at this most essential of bar tasks! $10 gets you entered into the competition, and the opportunity to win some great prizes including rare tequila & mezcal bottlings, gift certificates, and more!

Please join David Suro, Emilio Veyra, and Miguel Partida of Siembra Metl along with Judah Kuper and Aquilino Garcia Lopez of Mezcal Vago, following their SACC seminar. Swing by and meet 3 Master Mezcaleros from 3 different states, taste their art, and learn more about their work. This is a true honor to have these 3 Maestros in San Antonio! Please join us for this unique opportunity.

Cocktails & Tequila/Mezcal tastings for great prices!

TIP is a non-profit organization and consumer advocacy group comprised of bartenders, consultants, educators, researchers, consumers and agave-spirit enthusiasts. Our organization advocates the preservation of sustainable, traditional and quality practices in the industries of agave distilled spirits. In light of current trends that are becoming mainstays in the production of agave distillates, TIP seeks to place a renewed emphasis on the importance of preserving the great heritage of agave distillation in Mexico.

Here are some photos of what you might have missed:

Scotland vs. Mexico Parte Dos #SCOTLANDVSMEXICO

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The table setting at The Last Word on Houston St., San Antonio
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David & JP wove their spirits’ stories together, describing the many similarities.

In my opinion, this was a brilliant class.  You wouldn’t expect to find much in common when comparing Scotch Whisky and Tequila, but Juan Pablo De Loera of Milagro Tequila and David Allardice of Glenfiddich found too many commonalities to dismiss.  Their weaving of information about these spirits from Mexico and Scotland as they walked us through a comparison tasting was inspired.

2015-01-16 13.42.28, #scotlandvsmexico
The lineup: Scotland vs. Mexico
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Our tasting table complete with the pre-tasting sweet potato empanada, the perfect palate reset before our tabletop travel.

glenfiddich-125th-anniversary-edition-mybottleshop

The big surprise during this tasting was the Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition.  At first whif, you might think it is a Mezcal, but this smoky, smooth, sensuous Scotch had me at “Slainte”.  If you can get your hands on some of this, buy it – and guard it closely – this is definitely a keeper!

 

Ambhar Tequila Relaxation Lounge

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Bobby walked us through a flight of Ambhar. We were impressed with the juice as well as Bobby’s insistence that we have the proper glassware to taste it.

In the middle of a long day of drinking, one really needs a place to relax.

OK, maybe not, but we had a wonderful time talking to the folks at Ambhar Tequila and tasting their spirit in their very thoughtful “Relaxation Lounge”.

2015-01-16 15.40.14Ambhar is experiencing a bit of a rebirth since it’s purchase a little over a year ago and the team that they’ve assembled is energetic, enthusiastic, and really know they stuff!

 

 

 Waldorf on the Prairie

2015-01-16 19.15.312015-01-16 19.21.02As soon as we walked in the door of the St. Anthony Hotel, we were greeted with a delightful surprise!  Espadin and Tobala, Gracias a Dios!  Gracias a Dios Mezcal, that is.  We had a great time talking to their team and tasting their spirits.  Look for this brand in Texas now but we expect the world will be demanding it soon!

After a much needed break for some refreshing Voss water, we explored the many bars – there were too many to count – there at the St. Anthony Hotel.

Shaking it, Latin Style

2015-01-16 19.50.46Dulce Vida Tequila had the workingest mixologist behind their bar!  He was shaking up what looked to be some delicious palomas.  We didn’t have a chance to taste them because, as fast as he was mixing, he just couldn’t mix them fast enough for the crowd.  We shot this vine of how hard this fellow was working, so you can guess the line was pretty long for his drinks.

 

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Topping it all off, we allowed ourselves the luxury of a J.R. Ewing Bourbon, straight up.  As die-hard Dallas fans, we couldn’t miss the opportunity.  J.R. Ewing Bourbon was everything you’d expect from the man whose name it bears – smooth, a touch of sweetness, and a little heat that makes you want to dance with the devil all night long.

2015-01-16 20.25.11The band, The Nightowls from Austin, was rocking the house, so we did just that – we danced.

#SACC2015: A great time was had by all!