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!

Pura Vida Silver Tequila Review | Jerry Nettik

vinturi spirit aeratorJerry was the first brave soul to submit a guest review for Tequila Aficionado and earn himself a Vinturi Spirit Aerator.  We have a feeling he’ll be tasting a lot more tequilas with it once it arrives on his doorstep!  Want to submit a review of your own?  We’d love to read it!  Click here for more information on how you can work for tequila!

 

Pura Vida Silver Tequila

pura vida tequila, tequila, tequila aficionado, jerry nettick, reviews

100% Agave Azul
40% Alcohol/volume – 80 Proof

NOM 1414 – Feliciano Vivanco y Asociados, S.A. de C.V.

This premium tequila is produced from Los Altos (Highlands) estate grown agaves and artesian water, then triple distilled for purity and smooth taste.

I guess I am a believer in fate. I was first introduced to Pura Vida while making a quick stop at a small liquor store in west Austin, Texas. This was my first visit to this liquor store, and as luck would have it, they had a small table set up next to the door. A lovely young lady was at the table, pouring samples of Pura Vida Tequila. I chose to sample the silver, and as I recall, that first taste was bold yet mello at the same time. I could tell from my first sip that this premium spirit was destined to be one of my top-shelf favorites.

When you first open the heavy blue glass bottle, you will be treated to a smooth and sweet yet bold earthy agave aroma. Right away you know you have discovered something special. Your nose tells you to pour a full shot of this rich tequila, and begin to sip it.

The first taste of this crystal clear 100% agave blanco, gives you a medium spice, somewhat fruity mouthful of unmistakable Jalisco Highlands agave. This smooth blanco has all the taste and feel of an small-batch, artisan tequila. The triple-distilled spirit is perfect for sipping and savoring the moderate agave flavor. The finish is medium with a hint of ginseng and vanilla across the tongue.

When drinking this top-shelf spirit, I prefer drinking a healthy shot ‘neat’ in a slightly chilled snifter, with a lemon twist. You will enjoy sipping this blanco tequila as a relaxing drink after work or when mixing up your favorite tequila cocktail on the weekend with good friends. A good food pairing would be a broiled white fish, or some tequila-lime infused shrimp off the barbecue.

The only problem with this premium tequila is that it may be hard to find outside of Texas, the location of it’s largest US distributor. However, they have been working hard to expand its footprint north of the border.

If you come across any of the varieties: blanco, reposado, or anejo of Pura Vida in a restaurant, bar, or nightclub, I would suggest you consider this ‘fate’ and order up a shot, or maybe a ‘vertical’ flight (one shot each of the blanco, reposado, and añejo – all Pura Vida) and sample all three. This will give you a chance to match the taste that’s right for your palate. ¡Salud! and enjoy!

Reviewed by Jerry Nettik, passionate tequila lover and aficionado.

Follow Jerry online:

Twitter

Facebook
Google+

See Mike Morales’ and Alex Perez’ reviews of Pura Vida:

Pura Vida Silver  |  Pura Vida Gold  |  Pura Vida Anejo

pura vida anejo pura vida silver pura vida gold

Never miss and article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.



Pura Vida Añejo Tequila Review

Alex Perez and Mike Morales of Tequila Aficionado.com taste and savor the amazing Pura Vida Añejo Tequila.

Pura Vida

Never miss and article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.



Pura Vida Gold Tequila Review

Alex Perez and Mike Morales of Tequila Aficionado.com taste and discuss Pura Vida Gold Tequila.

 

Pura Vida Gold

Never miss and article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.



Pura Vida Silver Tequila Review

Alex Perez and Mike Morales of Tequila Aficionado.com taste and talk about Pura Vida Silver Tequila.

Pura Vida Silver

Never miss and article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.