In 2010, the tequila market saw a 3.5% growth (source Impact Databank), what made this growth interesting is a bulk of it occured outside the market leaders in the category. This opportunity did not go unnoticed and in 2011 we’ve seen an explosion in the number of new tequial offerings. More companies are stepping into silver tequila with blanco, platinum, joven and even anjeo claro offerings, all vying for a piece of the expanding tequilla pie.
With such a crowded field, the challenge becomes how to stand out. We found that many new tequila companies are embrasing the artisan aspect of tequila and presenting the spirit as a premium, hand crafted, sipping tequila that’s smooth, sweet and spicy.
“Our passion is to educate our customers that shooting tequila is not the way to taste and enjoy it, it’s embarrassing to drink your tequila in 3 seconds, when this product has taken between 8 to 10 years of patient maturity and a careful production process to become a delightful elixir worthy of a King” exclaims Julio Maya, owner of Adan y Eva Tequila.
In addition to some of the smaller, artisan producers of tequila, many of the major spirit companies are making moves in the space as wlel. Diageo recently introduced Don Julio 70, a clear tequila made from anejo tequila that’s been filtered to remove the wood elements and restore some of its blanco characteristics. Sazerac is expanding its presence in the agave spirit space with the introduction of their new new Monte Alban tequila, a well friendly offering made from 100% agave.
With the field expanding so rapidly, tequila companies are looking for new ways for customers to enjoy their spirit year round. This has brtenders looking beyond lime and salt and mixing these silver tequilas with vermouth, shrub and ginger. “In the summer I look to tequila for it’s spicy and vegital high notes and then as we move into fall I like to pull out the more earthy notes,” says Tommy Klus, Bar Manager of Kask in Portland, OR.
With the strong growth in the tequila sector it’s ultimately the consumer who wins with a wide selection of premium tequilas and an ever expanding selection of drinks that can be enjoyed year round.
Sino Silver Tequila ($34.99)
One of the great aspects of the expansion of the tequila market is space for smaller, independent producers to bring unique products to market. Judy Rivera dreamed of making tequila and when she shared this dreamwith her friends they replied “Si no traca, no gana” which translates into “if you don’t try you won’t win”. She took that as inspiration and along with her girlfriend Melly Barajas, owner of one of the only owner operated distillery in Mexico, they came up with Sino Tequila – a distinctively light and smooth silver tequila.
Rivera has been running the brand without the backing of any other large companies or investors which “makes it tougher, but more rewarding in the end.” Even though Sino Tequila is a small company, it still donates $1 from every bottle it sells to the Latino Arts Netork, a non-profit that supports local artises, galleries and commoniey centers in lower economic areas.
Sino Tequila has a light slightly floral note with undertones of fresh agave. The entry is smooth and sweet with a delightful mouthfeel. Sino picks up a little heat in the mid palate along with some nice white peper tones. The finish long and slightly sweet with a wonderful mini pepper kick at the end.
Azunia Platinum Blanco Tequila ($40-$50)
Intersect Beverage CEO Jim Riley wanted a tequila produced in a very traditional way, so he turned to Sergio Zuñiga. Segio’s family has been producting tequila for over 75 years using traditional methods like clay hornos overs, open air fermentation and pot still distillation. The result is Azunia Platinum Blacno Tequila.
Jim Riley, a former VP PR and Events for Kettle One Vodka, sees a huge opportunity in the marketplace for smaller brands to make a big impact. “Tequila is not only an artisinal spirit, it’s a very mixable spirtit and consumers are realizing it’s a user friendly product”.
Created from agave sourced from from the small lowland town of Amatitan, the Azunia Tequila has a distinctly citrus quality to it. The nose on othe Azunia Platinum Blanco Tequila is floral combined with a nice undertone of lemon. The entry is soft and lightly sweet with a floral bouquet that is backed by solid citris. Things build in the mid palate with some nice spice including black pepper. The finish is long and sweet with a slight pleasing bitter citrius note, like lime peel. Azunia Tequila is both a nice smooth sipping tequila and a good mixing tequila that pairs exceptionally well with citrus based tequila cocktails.
Arta Silver Tequila ($40)
Arta Silver Tequila stands out on the back bar from other tequilas with its uniqe triangular bottle and colorful label. It’s a fusion of modern and traditional which mirrors the company behind it. Started in 2009 by David Fox, a Sillicon Valley sofware entrepenour, Arta Tequila brings together a very modern spirits company with an 11th generation agave ranching family and a thrid generation master distiller.
The bottle, which is made from 100% recycled materials is just one of the many sustainable and charitable aspects of this company. Arta Tequila donates 1% of all it’s profits to the charirties in places they do business in.
The nose on the Arta Silver Tequila is very sweet and floral with a hint of olive. The entry is extremely soft, smooth and flavorful with stand out fresh agave notes along with some nice citrus and honey. In the mid palate theres a solid green pepper note along with a subtle honey pineapple. The finish is long soft and sweet with the slightest hint of salt.
Alderete Tequila ($48)
Farming is an incrediably important component of tequila, and it’s an industry that the Alderete family know very well. The Alderente family run a harvesting company in the US but looked to their roots in Mexico for their latest venture Alderete Tequila. Bringing along modern farming and irragation practices used in the United States they worked closely with mexican farmers to produce an exceptional highland tequila.
“A large number of the people who work for us in our harvesting company come from Mexico, so we wanted to produce somethig that they would enjoy and be proud of”, expains Ronnie Alderete. Alderete Tequila is something to be proud of.
The nose on the Alderete is light and slightly spicy. There’s an etherial quiality to the nose that is incrediably inviting. The entry is silky soft and smooth with just a slight sweet quality to it. The core of the Alderete Tequila unfolds in the midpalate with a unique herbal quality that’s absolutely seductive. It grabs a little heat towards the finish, enough to leave your palate tingling. Alderente is an exceptional and unique tequila.
Gran Dovejo Tequila ($50)
With 142 registered distilleries and over 1,100 certified tequila brands, the tequila market has become incrediably crowded and competitive. So why did Frank Mendez of Mendez Imports and his cousin Jesus Venegas decided to make another tequila? “We felt that the market is eager for an ultra-premium, single estate tequila with an unadultered agave flavor that everyone, especially aficionados, will love,” explains Frank Mandez.
To create that tequila, Gran Dovejo Tequila, Frank Mendez and Jesus Venegas enlisted the help of the Feliciano Vivanco distillery located in the highlands of Jalisco, in the town of Arandas. They added to the mix two of Mexico’s most influential and reputable “tequila gurus” Gabriel Espindola Martinez and Leopoldo Solis Tinoco to help create the flavor pofile and tequila experience they were looking for. The result is a quiticential highland tequila.
Gran Dovejo Tequila has delightful nose that combines fresh agave notes with green pepper. The entry is immensiely smooth and flavorful with delicious herbal and peppery notes backed by very slightly sweet agave. The finish is very long and dry with the slightest bit of pepper spice to it. Grand Dovejo Tequila is incrediably smooth and clean, a superb ultra-premium sipping tequila.
Adan y Eva Blanco Tequila ($39)
With it’s fig leaf bottle and embossed portrait of Adam and Eve on the label, Adan y Eva takes a decidedly biblical approach to standing out in the crowded field of blanco tequila. While this tequila doesn’t come from the garden of paradise, it originates in picturesque highlands of the Los Altos de Jalisco region.
Owner Julio Maya picked the iconic couple as part of thier brand name, “to make a statement that Adan y Eva Tequila was suitable to be enjoy by men and women as one!” One of the few cerified kosher tequilas on the market, Adan y Eva Blanco Tequila prides itself on being extremely hand crafted. From the artisan hand blown bottles to the hand embossed lables, everything in the process for Adan y Eva is an artisan endevor.
The nose on the Adan y Eva Blanco Tequial is decidedly highlands with vegital pepper notes backed by agave. The entry is sweet with a ribbon of pepper. The agave here tastes more like roasted agave than fresh agave. There’s a little heat that gets picked up in the mid palate along with an herbal and peper mix. The finish is long and slightly sweet with a little salt and herbaciousness.
Monte Alban Silver Tequila
Many of the new tequilas on the market come from smaller independent producers, but that doesn’t mean that the major distributors don’t have their eye on this space too. Monte Alban comes from Sazerac North America who has enlisted the help of the legednary Gonzales family to make their tequila.
The Gonzalez family have distilled tequila for more than 125 years. In 1986 Rodolfo Gonzalez, decided to start his own distillery in the city of Guadalajara name Destiladora Gonzalez Gonzalez – maintaining original standards and quality for three generations. Today it is the fourth largest exporter of Tequila, producing in excess of 10 million liters annually of tequila. Nowadays his daughter Graciela and his son Rodolfo actively participate in this company
The nose of the Montel Alban is of roasted agave, it’s got an almost smokey note that floats above the agave. The entry is fairly thick and sweet opening up to a mix of pepper and spice with an herbal undertone. The roasted smokey agave notes also emerge in the mid palate and stick around for a long, slightly salty and spicy finish.
Casa Dragones Tequila ($275)
Setting to define the top end of the ultra-premium tequila market, Casa Dragones is a unique joven tequila that brings together a delicately refined platinum tequail with just a touch of extra-anjeo tequila. The color from the extra-anejo is taken out using an ultra-modern filtration process.
Producing Casa Dragones Tequila involves an extremly intese and maticulous hands on process that means that Casa Dragones is only able to produce a very limited amount of tequila every year. Co-founder and CEO Bertha González Nieves says, “For us, it’s one bottle at a time, and we never want that to change.”
Bertha González Nieves is the first female ever to become an accredited Maestra Tequilera. She’s joined with Co-founder Bob Pittman, a former AOL Time Warner COO and a founder of MTV to round out one of the more impressive new tequila ventures.
Casa Dragones Tequila’s subtle floral and citrus aroma with notes of sweet agave is fresh and inviting. Swirling a glass reveals its rich, silky body and long, pronounced legs, which leave a sleek texture on the palate. One sip releases hints of vanilla and spiced undertones balanced with notes of pear for a uniquely smooth taste.
Arrogante Blanco Tequila ($40)
Impulsora Rombo made its name as the original producer of Sammy Hagar’s Cobo Wabo Tequila, but the brand was sold to Sky Spirits it moved production to another facility. This gave the Impulsora team an opportunity to regroup and look at making their own tequila.
It was this tequila that Marina Wilson from Double Eagle Imports Ltd tasted that became Arrogante Blanco Tequila. “This is a family run distiilery and they very attentive to quality.” says Marina. “What they do different they use brick ovens, slow bake and the process 72 to 96 hours so the surgars don’t caramelize give it a harsh flavor”.
When it came time to putting the brand together Marian wanted to highlight the artisnal roots for tequila. “We went with a wide mouth jar versus fancy glass from fance to show off the roots of the drink and reflect the way it was made.” explains Maria. Aarogante comes in a hand painted frosted milk jug shaped bottle with an intricate laser etched top. This unique bottle is then placed inside a tall tin and shipped to retail.
“The market for tequila is so competitive, there are so many tequilas, if you don’t give people something special you are lost,” comments Maria on the unique packaging for Arrogante.
Arrogante has big ripe fresh agave on the nose with a slight undercurrent of white pepper. The entry is soft with a nice mouthfeel and strong fresh agave flavor. It quickly opens up with a wide range of spice flavors including pepper, allspice and even some woodsy cinnamon notes. Arrogante picks up just a slight amount of heat at the end of the mid palate and has a long slightly salty finish.
Ambhar Platinum Tequila ($40-45)
When Billy O’Rourke wanted to create an ultra-premium sipping tequila, he turned to the bartenders of Las Vegas. After three grueling tasting sessions with the Las Vegas chapter of the USBG O’Rourke found the exact tequila he was looking for.
“We wanted the bartenders to feel like they had authorship and ownership in our product.” explains O’Rourke, “so we kept tasting and testing until we got it right.” Although O’Rourke is based in Austin, Texas he saw the Las Vegas market as a key showcase market to launch his product. In addition to working closely with the bartenders he helped launch a Ambhar lounge at the new Tropicana Hotel. “30% of tequila is sold into Southern California and 47% of the vistors to Las Vegas come from Souther California, making it a great spot to start launching a product from,” comments O’Rourke.
The strategy has already begun to pay off as visitors from arcross the country are discovering Ambhar and then requesting it when the get back to their own home state.
Ambarh is a distinctively different tequial. Made from a blend of agave plants from both the highlands and the lowlands, Ambhar Platiunm Tequila is distilled five times to create a very smooth and clean tequila.
Ambhar Platinum Tequila has a nice clean peppery nose. The entry is very crisp and slightly sweet with a nice soft peppery spice. There’s a slight herbaciousness under the pepper and it maintains a lot of its flavor through a fairly long finish. Once the Abhar finishes it leaves a nice cool and pleasant feeling on the palate.
Lydia Reissmueller, Beverage Consultant with The Tender Bar, looks to Platinum tequila like Abhar for their earthy spicy quality and the smooth clean finish. Lydia pairs Ambhar Platinum Tequila with carrots, lemon, honey and black cummin for a tequila drink that is both fall friendly and a tonic to help ward off winter colds.
“Tequila is one of the oldest plants you can ingest. The idea of drinking something that’s been through so many vintages or seasons and that is 8-10 years old us amazing,” comments Reissmuller. While many bartenders use agave syrup with tequila, Reissmulller likes to pair it with honey which “speaks to the legnth of the finish of a tequila like Ambhar.”
Deep Roots by Lydia Reissmueller (Tender Bar Consulting, Porland, OR)
2 oz Ambhar Platinum Tequila
3/4 oz Carrot Syrup*
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
5 drops Black Cumin Oil (You can get at any health food store)
Shake over ice & Strain into a chilled coupe
Garnish with a sprig of dill
1 Part Finely Chopped Carrots
1 Part Raw Honey
1 Part Boiling Water
Combine all ingredients well, and let stand covered until cool. Strain, label, date, and use within 2 weeks.
Avion Silver Tequila ($40)
Avion Silver Tequial has gotten a lot of attention from its staring role on the HBO series Entourage, but it’s the spicy earthynees that grabed the attenion of Adam Robinson, Bar Manager of The Bent Brick in Portland, Oregon.
Robinson is a big fan of bridging tequila through the seasons and sees many ways bartenders can take a tequila like Avion Silver Tequia and make it fall and winter friendly. “You can take tequeila in a much more spirit forward direction and back away from the citris,” explains Robinson. “Tequila works extremely well in spirit forward boozy cocktails.”
For the mixologist challenge, Adam Robinson wanted to preserve some of the late summer flavors while still presenting a fall cockatil. “Summers are so short here in Portland, it sort of falls by the wayside, and that inspired my drink.” Adam Robinson holds on to some of the summer friut by preserving cherrys both in spirit for the garnish and in a shrub for the drink. “Making a shrub is a great way to hold on to some of the late summer cherries and prolong those flavors into the fall.”
Avion Silver Tequia and the cherry sage shrub work perfectly together and combine with the spicy cardamon and habiscus flavors in the Hum to make a drink that is extrodinarily drinkable and distincly fall. Robinson picked the Tequila Avion because he was looking for a nice smooth tequila that wasn’t too smooth that it would get lost in the mix.
Wayside Cocktail by Adam Robinson (The Bent Brick, Portland, OR)
2oz Avion Silver Tequia
3/4 oz Cherry/Sage Shrub (vinegar,sugar,fruit,spice)
1/2 oz unfiltered and unpasterized apple cider
1 tsp Hum
1/2 oz Small Hands Gum Syrup
1 Dash of Angostura Bitters
Shake with ice and strain, Garnish with two cherries.
Siete Leguas Tequila Blanco ($40)
For his fall cocktail, Tommy Klus of Kask in Portland, Oregon turned to one of the great classic blanco tequilas, Siete Leguas. The Tequila Siete Leguas distillery was the original producer for Patron and produced the spirit until 2002 when it moved its production to its own distillery.
A distinctively highland tequila, Siete Leguas has the earthy notes that Tommy Klus was looking for in his fall tequila drink, the Autumn Flip. Klus is really into the fall flavors and like Lydia Reissmueller likes to pair a tequial like Siete Leguas with honey. For his Autumn Flip, Klus went with a fall spiced honey to bring in more cinnamon notes.
“I love the earthy flavors from tequila, with agave growin gin the ground for 10 years you pick up some amazing earthy undertones,” explains Klus. But Klus credits the pairing of Siete Leguas Tequila Blanco with Carpano Antica vermouth to “really bring out the confort tones in the drink.”
Tommy Klus adds more minearlity and smokey tones with a quarter ounce of Chichcapa Mezcal. Mezcal often originates from agave plants of a different variety than are used to make Tequila, but their flavor profiles are extremely compatible and compliement eachother.
Tommy’s drink, the Autumn Flip is one of the most convincing arguments we’ve seen that great tequila drinks aren’t just limited to warm weather months and that tequila can have a staring role in the spicy, flavorful and comforting drinks that help get us through the cold winter months.
Autumn Flip by Tommy Klus (Kask, Portland, OR)
1 1/4 oz Siete Leguas Tequila Blanco
3/4 oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
1/4 oz Chichicapa Mezcal
3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Fall Spiced Honey
1 whole egg
Dry shake the ingredients then shake with ice, double strain with fine strainer into a chilled cup. Grind cinnamon and nutmeg on the top.