The BIG Business of Kosher Tequila, Part II

[An urgent text message about Kosher tequilas from an agave beverage manager at a thriving new bar in New York City, and the resulting questions raised from research into this misunderstood market from all points–tequila and mezcal brand owners, consumers, and rabbinical representatives of the Jewish faith–prompted me to finally discuss the positive, often flawed, and vastly under served kosher tequila and mezcal segments of the market.]

But first, if you’re a…

Tequila or Mezcal Brand Owner

…take a quick peek at Part 1, in case you’re still in the dark about what being kosher means.

Next, before you decide whether being certified kosher is the right move for your brand, here are a few things to consider.

Reliability

siembra_azulDoes the rabbinic field representative of the kosher certifying agency actually understand the tequila or mezcal making process?  Is this person willing to do his due diligence?  And, is he willing to be on-site and to participate at each stage of the certification process?

David Suro, importer and brand owner of the famed Siembra Spirits brands of tequila and mezcal, recalled only positive experiences with the rabbi who oversaw the kosher certification of the first batches of his tequila, Siembra Azul.

“The rabbi was thorough and always there,” recalls Suro.  “I was very comfortable with someone who cared that much.”

(Tequila Treasure Bottle Hunters take note:  Only the first three batches of Siembra Azul were ever designated kosher.)

Is It A Hassle?

Depending on the agency you use, your particular distillery, and if your processes and recipes are consistent, you may be subjected to only one on-site audit and subsequent annual fees to continue using the kosher seal.

Other agencies could require unannounced visits by rabbinical field representatives to determine if your brand should continue to carry its hechsher.

What About Going Organic?

dulce vida, tequila, reposadoRichard Sorenson, founder of Dulce Vida Tequila that is both organic and kosher, admits that the company tends to focus more on being certified organic, but doesn’t feel the two certifications “…are mutually exclusive, but go hand-in-hand.”

This helpful article on the EarthKosher website could help you weigh the differences and similarities of the two certifications.

What’s All This Gonna Cost?

Here’s where it gets sticky.

Depending on the brand’s (or distillery’s) needs, an approximate cost could range from $25,000 pesos ($1437.98) per year, to tens of thousands of dollars– per batch!

The price varies from business to business, and from industry to industry.  Your best bet is to get an on-site estimate from a respected agency and then determine…

What’s My ROI on Kosher Tequila? 

Baron-TequilaDepending on which estimates you believe, you could be missing out on your cut of a multi-billion dollar market.

With the spirits industry anxious to tap into Millennials, you might heed the words of Mordy Dicker, Executive Vice President of Business Development for KEDEM/Kayco, who was quoted in this 2015 Kosherfest press release, “‘People think positively about kosher food.  It’s become trendy.’  Dicker said millennials, vegetarians and people who are glucose intolerant can now find what they need in the kosher space.”

Perhaps they should be looking for your tequila or mezcal, as well?

***

If you’re a tequila or mezcal aficionado and want to “keep kosher,” or simply a consumer looking for new kosher sipping experiences to share with your friends and family, we’ll show you how in Part 3.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The BIG Business of Kosher Tequila, Part I

[An urgent text message about Kosher tequilas from an agave beverage manager at a thriving new bar in New York City, and the resulting questions raised from research into this misunderstood market from all points–tequila and mezcal brand owners, consumers, and rabbinical representatives of the Jewish faith–prompted me to finally discuss the positive, often flawed, and vastly under served kosher tequila and mezcal segments of the market.]

A Rant on Kosher Tequila…

For years, anyone who’s ever searched for a current list of kosher tequilas has no doubt been directed to the website of the largest regional Jewish Orthodox organization in North America, the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc).

Those same persons were tragically disheartened by the woefully meager list of kosher tequilas–and these days–unmentioned mezcals.  And of the brands that were listed, more often than not, were now, sadly, extinct.

This old, outdated, and unreliable list is not only supposed to be a guide to fully enjoy and appreciate the Jewish holidays and to help “keep kosher” year round, but it also serves Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, Vegetarians, Vegans and even people who are lactose or glucose intolerant.

So…

What Exactly Is Kosher, Anyway?

kosher_def-filtered

For us gentiles (non-Jews), Kashrut is the set of Jewish religious dietary laws.  Food that may be consumed according to halakha (Jewish law) is deemed kosher meaning fit, and in this case, fit for eating or drinking.

In every case, approved products are given a hechsher, a rabbinical seal of approval, by a trusted and reputable kosher certifying agency that signifies the food or drink conforms to Jewish law.

Here’s a helpful Kosher glossary of terms.

quely-obtains-the-kosher-certificationHistorically, the practice of marking food as kashrut dates back as far as the Byzantine period (6th century CE) where Jews of a particular region in Israel stamped their bread dough with impressions of the Jewish Temple Menorah in order for consumers to verify its kashrut.

In 1911, soap manufacturer, Procter & Gamble became the first company to advertise a new product, Crisco, as kosher.  Over the next twenty years, companies with household names like Lender’s Bagels, Maxwell House, and Manischewitz grew the kosher market.  And who can forget that famous slogan for Hebrew National hotdogs?–“We answer to a Higher Authority.”

Decades later, kosher has come to symbolize both quality and value.  It has also become a very lucrative market according Menachem Lubinsky, founder of the annual two-day Kosherfest trade fair.  As of 2015, he estimates there are as many as 14 million kosher consumers that generate $40 billion in sales of kosher products in the US alone.

Other sources estimate that over $150 billion of kosher-certified products are consumed every year in the US.

Kosher Certifying Agencies

A kosher certification agency is an organization that bestows a hechsher to ingredients, packaged foods, beverages, and certain materials, as well as food-service providers and facilities in which kosher food is prepared or served.  This certification verifies that the ingredients, production methods, and/or food-service processes and utensils complies with the standards of kashrut.

To be certified requires periodic onsite visits, sometimes unannounced, by mashgichim (rabbinic field representatives) in order to verify ongoing compliance.

Today, the largest kosher certification agencies in the United States, known as the “Big Five,” certify more than 80 percent of the kosher food sold domestically.  These five agencies are: the OU, OK, Kof-K, Star-K, and cRc

most_commonK

Other respected kosher certifying agencies around the globe include:

EarthKosher based in Colorado, the logo of both the Johannesburg/Cape Town Beth Din used in South Africa, MK headquartered in Montreal, Canada, and The Kashrut Authority in Sydney, Australia.  Operating across six continents including the United Kingdom, KLBD, based in London, is the Kashrut Division of the London Beth Din.

By far, the greatest number of agencies seems to be in the USA.

Kashrus Magazine publishes a bi-annual guide to almost all kosher certifying agencies worldwide.  As with the tequila NOM lists, the number of agencies, just like the number of tequila brands and distilleries, fluctuates from year to year.  At press time, this number is between 1,151 to 1,253.

When In Mexico…

In Mexico and throughout Latin America, however, KA-Kosher  and Kosher Maguen David (KMD) rule the roost when it comes to certifying products as kosher.

KA Kosher, Kosher

As per KA-Kosher’s Facebook page:

“El sello KA KOSHER es el único en México aprobado por el Tribunal Rabínico de Israel.  Es el logo de la Comunidad Ashkenazí, el único en Latinoamérica aprobado por el Alto Tribunal Rabínico de Israel.  Bajo su sello se encuentran marcas como Nestlé, JUMEX, Del Monte, LALA y casi 500 empresas más.”

(“The KA-KOSHER seal is the only one in Mexico approved by the Rabbinical Tribunal of Israel [Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel].  It is the logo of the Ashkenazi community, the only one in Latin America approved by the High Rabbinical Tribunal of Israel [again, Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel].  Beneath its seal are such brands as Nestlé, JUMEX, Del Monte, LALA and almost 500 more companies.”)

KMD, kosher

KMD’s current website makes even bolder claims such as “Es la empresa líder en certificación kosher en Latinoamérica” (“The leading company in kosher certification in Latin America.”).

It also cites statistics that Mexico is the fourth largest kosher market behind Israel, the United States, and France, and that sales of kosher products, presumably in these countries, exceeds non-kosher sales by 20 percent.  KMD also states that 80 percent of kosher sales are to non-Jewish consumers.

KMD, stems from the Sephardic community of Jews and is known to follow the strictest codes and standards of kashrut, referred to as Mehadrin.

 Decisions, Decisions…

states, jewish

Similar to organic certifying agencies, having your tequila or mezcal brand approved as kosher requires that you hire one of these kosher certifying agencies.  Like buying a car, you don’t necessarily need to purchase one from a local dealership.

You can go anywhere in the world, but with so many certifying agencies and what seems like varying degrees of inspection, can you feel confident about purchasing their services?

Who Do You Trust?

If you’re a tequila or mezcal brand owner considering certification, we’ll offer some tips and steps you can take in Part 2.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

A Sotol By Any Other Name

[On a sweltering August afternoon, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited by Mike Groener, CEO and President of Genius Liquids to sip and savor the latest addition to their Desert Spirit line, Texas Sotol, at their distillery in Austin, TX .]

Here Comes the Rain Again

MonsoonDay

Ask anyone who has spent any significant amount of time living in the Desert Southwest during Monsoon Season, and they will tell you that they can smell rain.  At those times, your part of town may be sunny and bone dry, but a strong breeze will carry the scent of falling raindrops for miles.  Sooner or later, the skies darken, thunder rolls, lightning strikes and the floodgates open.

Similarly, those who have sampled significant amounts of tequila or mezcal wet-cement-signduring their lifetimes will admit to the elusive “wet cement” flavor profile evocative of rain hitting a hot, dry sidewalk.

The latter is so rare these days with tequilas attempting to become smoother and more neutralized, and mezcals being distilled at the more accepting entry level 80 proof (40% ABV) than traditional higher strengths.

But try to describe true sotol such as Don Cuco as I meekly attempted to in Tom Barry’s insightful article, A Sotol Story , and you can fumble to find the words.

“To me, Don Cuco Sotol carries the best of all worlds.  It opens up — blooms — so much that it demands to be treated like a fine wine.  It has the smokiness of some of the best mezcals, but the flavor is simultaneously reminiscent of the best tequilas and then, not at all.”

Tumbando_sotolThe best descriptor that one can come up with is that sotol made in Chihuahua, Mexico smells and tastes like desert rain falling in that region.  It is arguably the truest illustration of the term terroir.

But what does Texas Sotol represent?  That’s what we came to Genius Liquids’ headquarters to find out.

Humble Beginnings

Mike Groener describes Genius Liquids’ humble beginnings and explains the process and challenges in producing Genius Gins and their new Texas Sotol.

The use of champagne yeast was at the suggestion of tequila Siembra Azul’s maker, David Suro, whom Mike met through John Garrett, a friend and spirits supervisor at distributor Victory Wine Group based in Dallas.

Here, Mike discusses more about the inspiration to use champagne yeast in his spirits.

Conscientious Objector to Vodka

Genius Liquids distills three types of gin (standard strength, navy strength, oaked), and Texas sotol, but no vodka.  Distilling something “odorless and tasteless doesn’t represent any piece of art” according to Groener.

Why Sotol?

2015-08-15 13.05.20To learn more about Chihuahua’s native spirit, Groener did his homework.  Through his relationship with Garrett, he has met Judah Kuper, co-founder of Mezcal Vago and spent time at Judah’s family mezcal palenque.

He has also sought advice on his Texas Sotol from Jacob Jacquez, fifth generation distiller of the legendary Don Cuco Sotol, and creator of newcomers, Ocho Cientos and Por Siempre sotol brands.  He has also communicated with representatives of the globally available Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol.

Groener admits that Genius Liquids is a bit egotistical when it comes to deciding what to distill, and prefers a challenge instead of the easy way out.

Sotol By Any Other Name

das_texanum(3)
Dasylirion texanum.

This lovely spirit of Mexico is not without its controversy.

Sotol from Chihuahua, Mexico is distilled using the dasylirion wheeleri plant, more commonly known as desert spoon or sereque in Spanish.

Genius Gin’s Desert Spirit Texas Sotol, however, uses North American sotol or Dasylirion texanum grown, wild harvested, cooked, fermented, and distilled in Texas.  This variety has evolved into a more compacted and hardier plant, designed to survive the harsh Texas summers.

All dasylirions were at one time considered distant relatives of the agave (agavaceae), but it is actually more akin to asparagus.

Mike furthers the debate and recounts the labeling issues concerning the word sotol, and why Genius Liquids prefers to brand it through their Desert Spirit line.

Texas Hill Country in A Bottle

Mike Groener pours a sample of Texas Sotol into my three types of glassware.  Unlike tequila, and to some degree, mezcal, sotol still does not have an official tasting glass.  Lisa Pietsch, Tequila Aficionado Media’s COO, describes it as “Texas Hill Country in a bottle.”

Beam Me Up, Scotty!

Like Master Distiller,  German González elaborating on how he came to create his opus, Tears of Llorona, Mike expounds on how, through their process, Genius Liquids has composed a transportive spirit in a “non-Auto-Tune way.”

 Tails of The Funk

Much like Montelobo’s Dr. Ivan Saldaña’s love affair with mezcal’s funkiness, Mike demonstrates how he carefully uses the colas (tails) after distillation to enhance Genius Liquids’ Desert Spirit Sotol.

The Magic Ingredient

Careful not to get too technical with his method of distillation, but with the same umph of Carlos Camarena’s (Tequila Tapatío) passion, Groener breaks down the love involved in producing a Genius Liquids spirit.

The Future

The first batch of Desert Spirit Texas Sotol was so well received that it sold out within two weeks of being launched.  The plan is to move Genius Liquids to larger digs due to the oppressive heat that prevents them from fermenting properly.

Groener spells out what the future holds for Genius Liquids and its expansion.

Off camera, Mike divulged that he’d like to wrestle with the challenge of producing a traditionally made Texas mezcal agave spirit, and has already sourced maguey for that project.  There are also plans for a blended agricole rum.

2015-08-15 13.06.27

In whatever direction Groener takes Genius Liquids, one can be sure that it will continue to seek, define and express the true meaning of Texas terroir–one small batch at a time.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

David Suro’s Amazing Tequila 101

little rock, food, podcast, videoSpecial thanks to www.lrfoodcast.com for providing such a great video of David Suro’s presentation and staff training on tequila at Local Lime in Arkansas.  This is one of the best Tequila 101s we’ve seen yet! 

A brilliant businessman, Suro-Piñero has made it his life’s mission to preserve and promote the tequila industry, a surprisingly complex industry that is in danger of losing so much of its heritage. In this presentation, Suro-Piñero details the process of tequila-making, from planting agave plants to the final distillation and aging. He also talks about the challenges facing the tequila industry and what needs to change to keep tequila from wasting away. ~ Little Rock Foodcast

Tequila 101

In this comprehensive video presentation, David Suro-Piñero, owner of Siembra Azul tequila, presents on the history and current state of the tequila industry at Local Lime restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas.  We at Tequila Aficionado highly recommend this video to anyone who enjoys good tequila or wants to learn more about tequila.

Salud!

 

siembra_azulSiembra Azul Tequila

Siembra Azul (Blue Harvest) is a small-batch, artisanal, premium tequila made from 100% of the finest blue agave, grown and produced in the town of Arandas, in the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. It is a kosher and double distilled spirit of unparalleled quality.

Siembra Azul is the result of a meticulously monitored production process which is supervised by a carefully assembled team of expert tequila connoisseurs. Leading this team is David Suro-Piñera whose lifelong quest for the highest quality tequila propelled him to create Siembra Azul. Siembra Azul’s trademark, “The Future of Tradition,” is Suro-Piñera’s mission. He travels throughout the U.S. and Europe conducting seminars on the history, traditions, terroir distinctions and varying flavor profiles of tequila for consumers as well as the spirits and hospitality industries. His intent is to create transparency in tequila production and educate the drinking community about tequila so it can finally be accepted as one of the most complex spirits in the world.

Siembra Azul’s portfolio includes a fruity Blanco, a flavorful Reposado, a complex Añejo and profound Extra Añejos.

Find out more about the Siembra Azul Tequilas online here.

 

The Tequila Interchange Project

tequila interchange project, read tequila label, how toThe Tequila Interchange Project (TIP) is a non-profit organization and consumer advocacy group for agave distilled spirits comprised of bartenders, consultants, educators, researchers, consumers and tequila enthusiasts. Our organization advocates the preservation of sustainable, traditional and quality practices in the industries of agave distilled spirits. In light of concerning trends that are currently 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.

Find out more about the Tequila Interchange Project online here.

 

Local Lime Restaurant

local lime, little rock, arkansas, david suro, siembra azulWelcome to Local Lime. Join us for flavor-packed dishes inspired by  Mexican street fare, Latin American flavors with a hint of  Tex-Mex flare and delicious handcrafted cocktails made with premium tequila, mezcal, and juices. Each menu item served at Local Lime is crafted by our chefs, from scratch, using original recipes and prepared with premium ingredients (sourced locally whenever possible).  Every cocktail at Local Lime is hand crafted with just-squeezed juices, house-made syrups, and premium tequilas and liquors. Whether you’re enjoying a bit of sunshine and a few street-style tacos on our year-round patio, enjoying a night with friends and frozen margaritas in our oversized booths or seated in the middle of the mezmorizing cocktail crafting experience at our bar while dining on a sizzling plate of Pescado Vera Cruz, every seat at Local Lime is great seat – and yours is waiting.

Find out more about Local Lime Restaurant online here.

[vasaioqrcode]
 

Never miss an article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.



Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 3 of 3)

The continuation of Podcast #2, this is Tequila Aficionado Founder, Alex Perez, and CEO, M.A. “Mike” Morales meeting face-to-face for the first time.  They met in July of 2006 at a restaurant in California and tasted Siembra Azul, Dos Lunas and  Jarro Viejo tequilas.


Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 1 of 3)

Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 2 of 3)
Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 3 of 3)

Never miss and article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.



Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 2 of 3)

The continuation of Podcast #2, this is Tequila Aficionado Founder, Alex Perez, and CEO, M.A. “Mike” Morales meeting face-to-face for the first time.  They met in July of 2006 at a restaurant in California and tasted Siembra Azul, Dos Lunas and  Jarro Viejo tequilas.  Their conversation begins with a discussion of Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo of Casa Noble.


Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 1 of 3)

Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 2 of 3)
Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 3 of 3)

Never miss and article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.



Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 1 of 3)

The continuation of Podcast #2, this is Tequila Aficionado Founder, Alex Perez, and CEO, M.A. “Mike” Morales meeting face-to-face for the first time.  They met in July of 2006 at a restaurant in California and tasted Siembra Azul, Dos Lunas and  Jarro Viejo tequilas.  Their conversation spanned everything from established tequila families, drinking from the barrel, traveling to Jalisco, resoling boots and more!


Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 1 of 3)

Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 2 of 3)
Tequila Aficionado Podcast #3 (Part 3 of 3)

Never miss and article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.



Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

How to Get Paid to Drink Tequila:

How you can turn your passion into profits and get paid to drink tequila as a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or author

 

Salud!!