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One With Life
One with Life Tequila (OWL) is part of a philosophy aligned with living a mindful and balanced life. Grown and produced in an organic farm and distillery system in Jalisco, Mexico, it has a smooth, crisp and earthy taste that emulates the pure agave plant.
Enjoying One with Life Tequila, in moderation, reminds us to celebrate life with family and friends and appreciate the here and now.
So relax. Be happy. Be present. Listen deeply. Speak lovingly. Smile, breathe, go slowly.
OWL embraces the philosophy of consuming products that are grown and produced by organic farming, which excludes synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, genetically modified organisms and other artificial enhancements.
OWL has a smooth, crisp and earthy taste that emulates the pure agave plant from which it was created and it’s sweet scent alludes to a touch of citrus. It is this purity that makes OWL easy to sip or blend with your favorite beverages. Whether you are new to the tequila world, an aficionado, or a connoisseur, you will thoroughly enjoy our unique tasting spirit.
The CRT has announced that it is going to become the certifying authority for organic tequilas. While preparing to film Sipping off the Cuff, we discussed what this could mean for the industry and raised some questions as to how this may affect smaller producers as well as the legitimacy of the organic certification.
In what proved to be the toughest bracket for the judges to date, Malinalli Tequila swept the Platinum trophy in the hard fought Blanco division, with Ambhar, El Mayor, and Mamalón tequilas close on its heels.
Gold Medal Winner Lisa Elovich, brand owner of Organic Tequila One With Life, was ecstatic, saying, “Thank you so much! It is such an honor to get this award. I know this will help us with marketing and distribution.” She graciously added, “Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners! So happy to be part of it!”
In an equally gracious statement made over their Instagram account, medal recipient Papa Bueno Tequila wrote, “We are honored to have been among this impressive group of nominees! We love tequila and congratulate all the winners and thank Tequila Aficionado for the time, humor and love they bring! Definitely Bueno!”
About the Brands Of Promise Awards
All brands were judged by Founder, Alex Perez and CEO, M.A. “Mike” Morales, as well as by other Tequila Aficionado staff, on how they performed during Tequila Aficionado’s wildly popular Sipping Off The Cuff™ video series seen regularly on TequilaAficionado.com and viewable on its YouTube channel.
Unlike other spirits contests, The Brands Of Promise™ Awards does not require participating agave spirit brands to pay an entry fee. It also does not charge winners additional hefty licensing tariffs for the rights to use the medal award graphics on their labels, neck tags, shelf talkers, brochures, point-of-sales materials and websites.
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.
Dulce Vida’s Christopher Cain was kind enough to answer the questions we had earlier this week about Dulce Vida Tequila. As you may recall, this is an organic overproof tequila so you know Mike Morales had lots of questions!
Regarding the source of their agave:
“Initially we did source our agave from both the Pacific Coastal Highlands of Nayarit as well as the highlands surrounding San Ignacio and Arandas. For the last three+ years we have moved that to be exclusively from a co-op of growers in the Highlands surrounding San Ignacio and Arandas.”
Regarding the palate feel:
“What you may taste different in our base is the MLF that we do in order to give you a fuller, coating mouth feel. Most producers do not take the time to go through this step. That secondary fermentation sets our pre-distillate apart from the herd and allows what we distill to proof here to not be offensive to the taste.”
Cain went on to say:
“We can’t thank you enough for the review and kind words. Its truly a passion and labor of love, which is why we produce it and do not allow anybody else to do it for us.”
Thanks, Christopher! Tequila Aficionado is a labor of love for us as well, so we completely understand your passion.
Malolactic fermentation is commonly referred to as “MLF”, or (in winemaker’s speak as) “malo” (pronounced may-low). So if MLF is a type of fermentation, what ferments, what does the fermenting, and most importantly, what sort of changes does MLF make to the final sensory quality of the wine? MLF usually occurs shortly after the end of the primary fermentation (when the grape sugar is converted to alcohol by yeast). It is undertaken by the family of lactic acid bacteria (LAB); Oenococcus oeni, and various species ofLactobacillus and Pediococcus. The primary function of all these bacteria is to convert one of the two major grape acids found in wine called L- malic acid, to another type of acid, L-lactic acid. This conversion is accompanied by the production of carbon dioxide (so hence the term, fermentation). Lactic acid tastes markedly less sour than malic acid. In addition lactic acid has a mouthfeel “softness” about it in comparison to the oft described “hard” and “metallic edged” malic acid. In short, MLF results in a natural de- acidification and softening of the wine’s palate. Grapes produced in cool regions tend to be high in acidity much of which comes from the contribution of malic acid. For wines produced from such grapes, de-acidification via MLF is particularly useful as it results in a more balanced and palatable wine.
Although acid reduction is the most obvious result of the growth of lactic acid bacteria in wine, their action can also significantly modify the wine’s aroma, flavour and mouthfeel. These changes may be either good, bad or positively ugly depending to a large extent on which of the lactic acid bacteria dominates the MLF. Some of the Lactobacillus species have been implicated in the production of fetid milk, sauerkraut and sweaty characters. Whilst many high quality Old World wines are characterised and complexed by lactic nuances such as these, when dominant they are rather unpleasant. Some forms of Lactobacillus are also responsible for the production of “mousy taint” which is arguably the most unpleasant of all wine faults. Oenococcus oeni on the other hand is a far more desirable LAB as it typically produces substances that have pleasant and wine sympathetic aromas and flavours. Diacetyl is the most important of these substances, as it provides the most recognisable and characteristic of all MLF characters; butteryness. However, when in excess, diacetyl imparts strong caramel and rancid butter like characters, which can easily dominate the wine. Luckily, the more oenologically desirable Oenococcus oeni generally dominates the MLF as it has a greater tolerance to the high acid and high alcohol environ- ment of wine than the other lactic acid bacteria.
MLF is also thought to generally enhance the body and flavour persistence of wine, producing wines of greater palate softness and roundness. Many winemakers also feel that better integration of fruit and oak character can be achieved if MLF occurs during the time the wine is in barrel.
Wines that typically undergo, and are improved by MLF, are the full-bodied dry whites and medium to full bodied dry reds. But it must be stressed that not all wines benefit from MLF. Rieslings are a classic case in point. As a general rule, the quality of lighter bodied fruit driven wines that require crisp acidity are reduced by the action of MLF. The growth of all LAB are inhibited by cool temperatures and the anti-microbial agent, sulfur dioxide (SO2). Winemakers are therefore able to arrest the onset of MLF when making these styles by maintaining both low temperatures and reasonable SO2 levels during winemaking and subsequent bottling.
There is also a major practical reason why MLF is encouraged during the making of many wines, and in particular reds wines that have previously undergone malo in tank or barrel are far less likely to go through malo when in bottle. The onset of MLF in the bottle is disastrous as the wine will appear to the consumer to still be fermenting (as a result of CO2 being produced). The wine may also lose its fruit integrity and take on the unpleasant lactic aroma of cured meats.
So next time you open that bottle of Chardonnay, spare a thought for those marvellous critters that helped create that complex aroma and that round out and soften its palate. Cheers to these little creators of diversity.
Have you tried Hacienda del Sol? Tell us about it in the comments below or feel free to leave us a video response on YouTube. If we enjoy your commentary/video, we may ask you to join Team TA and become a Tequila Aficionado Contributor!