Tequila Aficionado Media Reveals 2014 Brands of Promise™ Winners!

Awards Announced During a LIVE Google Hangout Telecast

For Immediate Release!

hangouts2March, 28, 2015, San Antonio, TX—In an unprecedented live Google Hangout telecast, Tequila Aficionado Media (TequilaAficionado.com) unveiled its Second Annual 2014 Brands Of Promise™ Award winners in Tequila, Mezcal and several other agave related categories.  A full list of Brands Of Promise™ winners can be viewed and downloaded here.

[Tweet “2014 Brands of Promise Winners Announced!”]

tequila awards, tequila aficionado, brands of promiseAmong the stellar labels recognized as Brands Of Promise™ award recipients, Trianon Tequila won the judges’ Best of Show Award, and Briscas Mezcal was recognized with a Gold medal for each of their expressions.  Gold was bestowed onto JLP Golden Lime Margarita in the Ready-To-Drink (RTD) category, as well.

Download the full list of nominees & winners here.

“The quality of the juice in 2014 was just outstanding,” crowed M. A. “Mike” Morales, CEO of Tequila Aficionado Media.

[Tweet “Congratulations to @TrianonTequila for winning Best of Show! #BOP2014”]

wahaka

“What a great year 2014 was!” agreed Alex Perez, Founder and Chairman of Tequila Aficionado.  “So much good juice.  So much good quality.  It is the best time for agave spirit aficionados.”

trianon stack

Best in Show

“Man this was tough,” added Morales, referring to selecting medal winners.

All brands were judged by Perez and 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.

2014-08-11 15.09.09“Competition for shelf space and ‘share-of-mind’ is fierce in this business, especially when going up against more established brands with deep pockets,” admits Perez.  “Most new tequilas, and dozens of mezcals and other agave spirits, are virtually unknown to consumers,” he explains.  “That doesn’t mean that promising startups shouldn’t be recognized.”

“We’re not out to gouge anyone,” declares Morales.  “We understand that advertising budgets for emerging brands are always costly in the beginning.”

[Tweet “The Brands Of Promise™ Awards help brands by leveling the playing field with NO FEES”]

Morales adds, “Simply being nominated for the Brands Of Promise™ awards means that we deem each of these participating brands worthy of the public’s attention.”

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About Tequila Aficionado Media

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Since 1999

TequilaAficionado.com, (Tequila Aficionado Media) is the most comprehensive and informative source for tequila, mezcal, and sotol on the internet or in print today.

It has been the only online tequila magazine for the past 15 years and is visited by tequila aficionados in over 120 countries around the world.  It produces fresh audio, video, feature articles and other content, and successfully shares them throughout all of its powerful social networks for maximum exposure.

[Tweet “Tequila Aficionado: Introducing you to great tequila, mezcal & sotol for 15 years”]

About the Brands Of Promise™

If you would like to enter your tequila, mezcal, sotol or other agave spirit or related product in the coveted Brands Of Promise™ awards, click here.

If you would like additional publicity for your product or brand, simply click here for our current rates and special promotions.

Download the full list of nominees & winners here.

[Tweet “Enter the 2015 Brands of Promise now! Cutoff 1 Sep.”]

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The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention

What’s New

The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention successfully launched its first annual event at the Radisson Hotel & Suites in downtown Austin on August 10-11, 2014.

Primarily a show that serves the spirits industry (or trade) in Texas, for us at Tequila Aficionado Media, it was a chance to visit with new brands, products and services trying to break into the challenging Texas spirits market.

In this clip, Michael E. Klein, a spirits entrepreneur and long-time Austin businessman who spearheaded the formation of the alliance, explains its purpose.

What follows are some of the highlighted products that you should watch out for on Tequila Aficionado Media, in Texas, and beyond.

Briscas Mezcal2014-08-11 15.09.09

In the current booming mezcal market, more and more brands are appearing under the traditional higher alcoholic proofs that more established mezcals are known for.  Briscas is a refreshing libation that refuses to be confused with other gateway mezcal brands.

Ricardo Gonzales, Sales & Marketing Director for importer Moreno Spirits, gives us a quick rundown of the small batch espadín Briscas Mezcal.

Juan Moreno, President & CEO of Moreno Spirits, explains how bringing Briscas to market was a journey of discovery for himself and his family.

Surprises

The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention was not without surprises for us at Tequila Aficionado Media.

Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the 86 Company.

Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the 86 Company.

Austin resident Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the celebrated The 86 Company responsible for a brilliant line of spirits with exacting quality like our Brands Of Promise(TM) Overproof Silver Medal winning Tequila Cabeza, made an appearance in support of the event.

tbnca

L-R: Mike Morales, Jason Kosmas, John Rivers

Also exhibiting in grand style was John L. Rivers IV (a.k.a.: Juan Rios), Managing Director of Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila, a new offering from the illustrious former boxing champion.

Not only did he share with us some of this fine sipping tequila and listed its current markets, but also an exclusive photo of a super piña in the champ’s agave fields.

[Spoiler Alert!  At press time, we had not notified John about our verdict of Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila’s review on a future Sipping Off The Cuff(TM), but we let the cat out of the bag, here….]

Mixing and Matching

2014-08-11 16.02.19One of the more exciting and refreshing combos we discovered at the Texas Nightclub & Bar Alliance Convention was between Pablo Madrigali, Brand Manager with Mexcor International and Lucy Corona, co-founder of Slim Ritas, the 100 calorie fresh juice margarita mix.

Mexcor, a family owned business based in Houston, TX, has been the importer of crowd pleasing tequilas at reasonable prices from Destiladora del Valle de Tequila (NOM 1438)  for several years, including El Reformador, Cava de los Morales and Agavales.

Lucy Corona is a dynamic and spirited mother and business owner whose dream after giving birth to her children was to enjoy a satisfying and natural margarita.  So she made them herself!

Here, Rob Corona explains the birth of SlimRitas.

Here, Pablo gives a bit of Mexcor’s and Agavales’ history, and how he and Lucy joined forces.

One To Watch

2014-08-11 14.35.19 michael kleinMichael E. Klein has handed the reigns of planning future conventions to the team at San Antonio based SMC Events, and it looks to expand the tradeshow’s reach even further with more products and services participating.

Judging from the contagious energy coming from the booths of other exhibitors at the first annual Texas Nightclub & Bar Alliance Convention, the promise of bigger yearly events looks to be a sure thing.

Craft Tequila–WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 2

Blurred Lines

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.

Has anyone actually ever been to Los Camachines, where Gran Centenario is made?

Has anyone actually ever been to Los Camachines, where Gran Centenario is made?]

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.

There’s no chance of spirits marketers discontinuing the use of the Tequila Marketing Myth of borrowing benefits any time soon.  How, then, do we really define and measure a craft tequila?

[Tweet “How do we really define and measure a craft tequila?”]

We’ll show you how in a moment, but let’s get two things straight right here–

Remember Fact #1?  Tequila belongs in Mexico.

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?”

[Tweet “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.

[Tweet “Does small mean craft? More small distilleries means more inexperienced 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.

*Rant Alert!*

Let’s face it–

No backpedaling!

No backpedaling!

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.

[Tweet “Build a token distillery, get a fresh nom number and call it craft? Rubbish!”]

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.

[Tweet “Don’t market tequila like you did 20 years ago. We won’t believe you.”]

The Craft Tequila Gauntlet

El Tesoro handmade tequila.

El Tesoro handmade tequila.

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.

#2:  Pedigree

[Tweet “a craft brand with a good chance of survival in the market will be …”]

Don Felipe Camarena

Don Felipe Camarena

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.

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#3:  Distillery ownership/partnership/co-op

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.

[Tweet “Does your craft tequila have some skin in the game?”]

#4:  Agave and land ownership

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.”]

[Tweet “Can a diffuser tequila be considered a craft tequila?”]

El Tesoro's tahona, still in use.

El Tesoro’s tahona, still in use.

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.

#6:  Organic

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.

[Tweet “Can we automatically consider organic tequila “craft” tequila?”]

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.

#7:  Transparency

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?

[Tweet “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.

Spirits marketers using their powers for evil.

Spirits marketers using their powers for evil.

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.

[Tweet “Using the Craft Tequila Gauntlet can help in making the right buying choices.”]

 
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Approachable Tequila Cocktails

Another short video and sound bite from my upcoming dynamic article, The Evolution of The Tequila Bar, featuring mixologist Gilbert Marquez of Mercado restaurant and bar in the heart of Santa Monica, CA.

“When people start to learn about tequila, they have to go through cocktails, first,” explains Marquez, a tall, sharply dressed twenty-something.  “They don’t just come into a tequila bar and order a shot of El Tesoro.  They first order a margarita, and then start easing their way into tequila.”

“To teach people about tequila,” he clarifies, “it’s going to be mostly through cocktails–approachable cocktails–not cocktails that are overly complex.”