Rethinking tequila: Premium brands aim to change perceptions

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Tequila has much more to offer than its longstanding party drink image.

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LONDON (AP) – Love it or hate it, tequila stirs up strong emotions in many drinkers.

“Forgive us for the bad quality tequila nostalgia!” The director of production at Patrón Tequila mocks Antonio Rodriguez. “We can’t hide that we come from a history when tequilas generally weren’t as premium as they are now.”

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Dino Moncrieff, founder of London tequila and mezcal bar Hacha lamented, “People always blame tequila for a bad hangover, when in fact the fact is they probably started drinking wine at night and then beer and then champagne and then At some point, maybe 2 or 3 in the morning, someone said, let’s have tequila!”

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And Stephen Oghene, vice president of global marketing and sales for El Tequilano Tequila, agrees that tequila was seen as having a “party, smash-it-down, get-west kind of spirit.”

But, he says, “over the past 10 years, a lot of effort has been put into educating people and making them understand that tequila isn’t just a spirit to shoot. It’s a really complicated spirit” that took time and effort to build. It takes expertise. .

These re-education efforts seem to be working. According to International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR), tequila is one of the fastest-growing alcoholic beverages in the US, with consumption increasing by 40% over the past five years.

Hamish Smith, editor of bartending magazine Class and Bar Editor for Drinks International, says that with an increasing understanding of tequila’s various qualities, “100% agave” is now the star performer, the way single malt is for Scotch.

“This awareness goes against the craft spirits movement, an appreciation of Provence, celebrity endorsements, and a cocktail industry that has been showcasing quality tequila for years,” says Smith. “It’s not a perfect storm, but it’s pushing the ranks of international development year after year.”

Despite its age-old reputation, experts say tequila isn’t really a great choice for people who are drunk. While many spirits contain glucose, which causes a rapid rise in blood sugar followed by a crash, adding to a hangover, tequila contains fructose from the agave plant, which they say breaks down more slowly. Is.

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For a premium tequila, don’t use a shot glass, says Nitzen Podoswa, founder of Satrina Tequila.

“Your nose is too close to the liquid, so you can’t really smell the notes properly. It just makes it easier to drink. But if you have great tequila, you need to have a flute cup, ” she says.

And instead of gulping it all down in one go, swirl the liquid around the mouth to taste, she suggests.

There are three types of tequila based on the time spent in oak barrels before bottling. The age of Blanco is 0-2 months, Reposado 2-11 months, Anejo 1-3 years and Additional Anejo 3-plus years.

Moncrieffe starts by asking its customers what they usually drink. If it’s a white spirit, he directs them to a blanco; For those drinking bourbon or whiskey, he recommends a reposado; And for cognac drinkers, something more complex like Aejo or Extra Aejo.

It takes about seven years for an agave plant to mature, and once harvested there are several ways to cook the plant and ferment and distill the alcohol.

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“What you’re drinking is really very, very special. It is very special how many years the plant has been in the earth, and it is very special how many people and how many agents are involved in this process,” Podoswa says.

Rodriguez says current trends focus on experimenting with aging, timing, temperature, and barrel types.

“We’re not talking about whiskey in which the main flavor is coming from the wood,” he says. “Tequila itself already has a big personality in a blanco expression. So when you age tequila, you’re not looking to overpower it. You want to complement it.”

“There’s also the Cristalino category, which I think was controversial, for tequila purists,” Oghene says. Popular in the US and Mexico, a Cristalino is an aged tequila that has been filtered to remove color and tannins, leaving it crystal-clear.

Rodriguez says rising US sales are driving interest in other countries.

“Most of the rest of the world has bad, cheap tequila,” says Jenna Faganan, co-founder of Terramana Tequila with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. She says tequila is about “solidarity” for Johnson.

“For that, he said, when I was growing up, for our family, if something great was happening, we’d get together and people would have tequila. But if something bad happened, we’d still get together.” and eat tequila,” Faganan said.

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Johnson joins the list of celebrities including George Clooney, Nick Jonas, and Kendall Jenner, along with his own tequila brands. It has been greeted with mixed sentiments in the industry.

“Almost every week you have a new celebrity tequila brand coming out,” Rodriguez says, “with only about 160 distilleries to produce tequila for thousands of brands.”

This means that multiple brands can be produced in one place; While many are getting it right, he says others are just buying the liquid and pouring it into a separate bottle.

Podoswa advises consumers to research a brand before buying.

“Are they making a good product? Are they caring for their agave? Are they doing it the artistic, traditional way?”

Faganan says he and Johnson work with one of the few family-owned distilleries left in Mexico. She says Johnson “cares about the people, the story, the sustainability.”

For new brands, star ads bring positive attention and make consumers question outdated beliefs about tequila, says Paul Hayes, British founder of Vivir Tequila.

“If these people are willing to drink tequila, these major celebrities, they’re not just doing shots of it all at once. They’ll be drinking in a different way. How are they doing it and why are they drinking it?” He says.

And Rodriguez welcomes the competition: “The way I see things, it’s not like we’re fighting between tequilas. We’re fighting to show the world what tequila is.”


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