One With Life – Organic Tequila With Women In Mind

Tequila is a wonderful spirits with a multitude of different expressions. Some producers  stress the old spanish/mexican origin, some catch on to mexican popular culture and yet some, like “17.02.09”  find their inspiration for marketing in european modernism. And yet it is all tequila. One company has found it’s path in appealing to mindfulness and the, fortunately  growing interest in organic products.

One With Life Tequila i founded by Lisa Elovich in 2015 as a tequila brand with an organic profile. One With Life is distilled by Tequila Las Americas (NOM 1480) who produces a great number of really nice organic tequilas like IXA, 4 Copas and Tres Vidas.

Lisa ElowichLisa Elovich has followed her own nose during her career. Having worked as assistant district attorney in Manhattan, a deputy attorney general, a boxing promoter, she has now turned to tequila. And the attitude to this new venture is interesting. One With Life is certainly made with women in mind, and the inclusion of lots of mindfulness and life wisdom in the product makes for an original attitude towards marketing tequila.

Q: You are a tequila producer, but your background is somewhat unorthodox. No hacienda, no agave fields and no multimillion dollar business allowing you your own vanity brand. Can you tell a little about your background?

A: My background is mostly in the criminal justice field.   I worked as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, deputy attorney general, administrative law judge, life coach, boxing promoter and now a tequila brand owner.  I want to be so many things but none define me.  It is important for people to follow their passion.   If you do, it doesn’t seem like work.  It makes life interesting when you change things up.  Tequila and me will be together for a while though.  I really enjoy being part of the tequila world.

Q: Doing organic tequila is certainly not the easiest of options. What made you choose to do organic tequila?

A: In my household we try to only have organic products.  It is good for our health and good for the environment.

Q: Do you think the organic tequila market will continue to grow as a special “organic” market or will it be a special trait within a market of quality tequila?

A: Yes I think organic products in general will continue to grow as people become more health conscious.

Q: The tequila business has a lot of small entrepreneurs and passionate idealists. Do you have any “idols” within the tequila business?

A: Yes Ken Austin of Avion Tequila is someone I respect and admire.   He has reached a high level of success yet does not have a big ego.  Other great tequila influence include Gonzalo Spindola (http://innovacionentequila.com/) and Mike Morales (http://tequilaaficionado.com/).

Q: Originally all tequila was blanco until it was decided to emulate the european spirits and do aging. You are only doing the blanco – why is that?

A: It is the most versatile and pure.  Also I am still getting my feet wet and learning the business.  I want to expand my distribution before adding another profile.

Los Americas

Q: Where do you have your tequila destilled and how did you find the distillery?

A: Tequila Las Americas.  I met Alvaro and Eladio Montes, Owners and Master Distillers and  loved their warmth, passion, honesty and work ethic.  Once I tasted their tequila, that was it!  I knew I had to go with this organic distillery.  I was introduced to them by Gonzalo Spindola  who is my consultant.

Q: Can you describe the flavor profille of “One With Life”?

A:  The flavor profile is a floral and citrus flavor on the front end and a vanilla finish.  It is a 100% Blue Agave with no additives whatsoever!    The flavors come directly from the Agave plant which is selected at its ripest point after 8 years.  It is  also cooked in a clay oven.  There is no diffuser/autoclave used.  That is what gives it its authentic, earthy and sweet taste.

Q: I really like the graphic design of the label and logo. Very elegant and utraditional. Is there a graphic artist behind it?

A: Yes Jeff Radden of Animated Arts.  He also designed my boxing posters.  He is very talented and knew how to capture the tranquil vibe we were looking for.

Q: Are you having any product development plans for the future?

A: Yes I would like to explore doing an anejo special edition for the holidays.    We are still in the start  up growth phase so I am taking it slow and learning what consumers want.   We keep moving forward and expect great things to happen with our brand in 2017 and beyond!

Awards for Top Tequila & Mezcal Brands in Denmark 2016

Awarding the top tequila & mezcal brands in Denmark  has turned into a tradition. Tequila.dk – the premier tequila & mezcal retailer and webshop in Denmark has once again awarded the top brands in Denmark. 2016 has been a good year for tequila and mezcal. Enthusiasm is large and growing. Mexican Foodblogs like Mexibro.dk, Restaurants like Copenhagen based Llama, Copenhagen liqourstore Shoppen and a lot of other conoisseurs have contributed to the rising star of agave based spirits.

Best tequila in Denmark 2016Best tequila in Denmark – 2016: Sangre de Vida Tequila

Sangre de Vida Tequila is a new brand in Denmark. And then again – it is not. Sangre de Vida Tequila came to Denmark in 2016, but not before we had a trial shot with Kah Tequila. The thing is… both Kah Tequila and Sangre de Vida are the creations of artist and entrepreneur Kim Brandi. Kim Brandi founded Kah Tequila but ran quickly into countless problems regarding copyright, trademark, partners etc etc. Long story short – Kim Brandi left Kah and created Sangre de Vida Tequila and chose la Cofradia as distillery.

Sangre de Vida is in our opinion far superior to Kah in quality and the bottle designs are much more beautiful than those of Kahs.

Sangre de Vida deserves to be awarded Best Tequila in Denmark 2016.

Best Mezcal in Denmark 2016Best mezcal in Denmark – 2016: Mezcal Vago

The award for the best mezcal has to go to Mezcal Vago. Mezcal Vago is also a new arrival in Denmark. We saw it first in 2016 and it is one of those brands, where there is a great connection between quality, tradition and company. It’s a small company, but the never compromises on quality and they continue to work with organic growth in the company. They invest wisely in sustainability which is good.

Mezcal Vago makes their mezcal on Espadin, but also on other agaves like Mexicano, Cuixe, Tobalá  and others. Everything is made in small batches according to old traditions and in a completely transparent process.

That is why they fully deserve the award of being best mezcal in Denmark 2016.

 

Selling artisanal tequila glassware

An interview with Romeo Hristov of Chisholm Trail Craft Glasses

It is nice to drink tequila and mezcal, but it is even nicer when you can drink it from a beautiful glass.
The glass enhances the drinking experience. A Riedel tequila glass with its long stem and high glass is fine when you are at a tasting.

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The Riedel Glass. The official tequila glass – here with beautiful engravings.

The Riedel glass shows off the the liquid and allows us to enjoy seeing through the glass because it is narrow and thin walled.

If you like to enjoy your tequila while reading or working at the computer, a snifter is better. It is less likely to topple when you reach out for it and it is much easier to sit with. And of course the snifters’ shape enhances the olfactory experience. You can enjoy the delicious fumes of the liquid while drinking.

There is a world of hard to  describe tactile and sense oriented experiences in the glass and they are all part of the overall drinking experience.

Romeo Hristov of Chisholm Trail Craft Glasses (http://chisholmtrailcraftsglasses.com/) has a keen eye for beautiful glasses and a curious mind for the knowledge of history and craft that goes into making a truly exceptional glassware for agave spirits.

Romeo Hristov of Chisholm Trail Craft Glasses
Romeo Hristov of Chisholm Trail Craft Glasses

TequilaList.com took a talk with Romeo Hristov on the art of glasses for tequila and mezcal:

Q: Who are you and what is your background?

A: By education I’m an archaeologist and anthropologist, but  during my BA study in Mexico I also became fascinated with several Mexican handcrafts (such as the silversmithing, the artisanal glass and the talavera [majolica] among others), and my interest in them continues to the present.

Q: How did you establish an interest in Mexican glassware and tequila and mezcal glasses?

A: It started as a historical and anthropological curiosity: after all, the first glass in the Americas was produced in 1542 in Mexico, and a variant of the pre-Columbian jarrito [drinking jar] for alcoholic beverages from agave plants is still used in rural Mexico. Notwithstanding my enticement with the Mexican mouth-blown glass (and other Mexican handcrafts), comes from their singular aesthetic to permeate an objects of raw, earthy quality with harmony and beauty.

Q: It seems your interest for cultural history has played a big role. Did you personally seek out the artisans working within different fields?

A: Always. In my opinion, the creation of an outstanding artisanal item depends not only from the materials, the experience and the ethic of the artist, but also from a hard to describe, intuitive quality that brings together the craftsman, the object and their realms. And this quality is  a very evasive one that easily can escape the conventional scrutiny of intermediaries.

Q: When did you get the idea to start selling hand-crafted glassware?

A: I started to study and collect Mexican mouth-blown glass and ceramic in the late 1990s, but it took more than a decade before my hobby was transformed into a business with artisanal glasses for agave spirits.

Q: The “Pepita” engraving technique… it was news to me that this was in fact a Mexican speciality. Where did you learn about it?

Jose CruzGuillen
José Cruz Guillén engraving an “El Arenal” balloon snifter.

A: I got acquainted with the “Pepita” engraving in the late 1990s and decided to use it in my glasses for agave spirits in 2014, after realizing how many particulars the tequila and the “Pepita” have in common. Few of the most noteworthy examples are:

  1. both the tequila and the “Pepita” are a fusion of pre-Columbian and European crafting skills and traditions;
  2. both the the tequila and the “Pepita” originated in the mid-sixteen century Mexico/New Spain, and
  3. the legacies of both the tequila (as a luxury Mexican spirit) and the “Pepita” (as fine Mexican craft) gained a world recognition after being joined together in the Casa Dragones tequila bottle, arguably one of the most stylish containers for agave spirits ever made.

Q: How did you figure out what to focus on in your shop?

A: My enterprise with tequila and mezcal glasses started as a leap of faith, but it seems to be generating a decent amount of interest among the tequila aficionados, especially those that value artisanal quality and tradition. However, we live in a fast-changing world and I’m also trying to follow some recent trending products and opportunities in my target market.

17.02.09 – New premium organic tequila from the future

At TequilaList.com we often get mails from people within the tequila industry who would like us to do a small article on their brand, or a tasting and most often we can’t really oblige due to lack of time.

When we got the mail from an unknown “Victor Basurto” though, we did stop and ponder. Why? Because he had attached images of a spectacular, futuristic looking metal bottle with organic tequila.

17-02-92 organic tequila!
Here it is in all its glory – the 17-02-09 organic tequila!

Normally such a project would leave traces on the internet in the shape of reviews, websites etc, but none could be found. So we answered Victor with a bunch of questions!

Q: What is your background, Victor Basurto?

A: I have tequila running in the family but only incidentally and by proxy really because my actual background is in arts and multimedia.

I am from Mexico City and lived there always, but my father was working as financial manager for Tequila Sauza in the 80’s and so we moved to Jalisco and lived there several years.

Over that time I got to know tequila and what surrounds it first hand and all that experience has now poured into this project.

Decades later and I was already importing tequilas into Europe when I took the tequila courses with the wonderful Ana Maria Romero in Guadalajara.

Her methodology really allowed to grasp how parts of the production process relate to specific characteristics found in the myriad tequilas.

With that knowledge in mind the original formulation for ‘17.02.09’ sprung naturally and took form on paper theoretically quite easy because all the time it was clear which treats were the most desirable.

However, realizing it and bringing it to the market took what seemed an eternity.

The tequila

Q: How did you set up as a producer of tequila?

Victor Basurto as jimador
Victor Basurto as jimador

A: I am now renting a rural distillery that was found abandoned and is currentl owned by a group of agavero families. It took a year to refurbish it back into production standards – even building a new Tahona to achieve our formulation – and helping them certify its processes as organic, too.

Our agaves stem from the Tequila Valley (Las Majadas Estate), although the distillery is located in the Jalisco Highlands.
Both the distillery and the agaves are certified organic, the latter by Ceres.

We helped the distillery get certified as organic and we also covered the certification costs for the agaveros themselves.
Actually it is the agaveros, who own the Altos Cienega Distillery (Jesus Maria and Capilla de Guadalupe) as a collective of 15 families.

Getting up and running

Q: How did you go about the actual distillation process?

A: We refurbished the old copper/stainless steel alembics and got them up and running.

tahona
Our very own and brand new tahona at Altos Cienega

There has been no filtration at any part of the process in order to have a raw product that is surprisingly smooth, the fermentation was done spontaneously from same-batch cooked agave yeasts.

The baking was done in brick ovens. Extraction of juices was done with the tahona and ‘bagazo’ was later added to the fermentation tanks, just like Patron and 7 Leguas do, to increase organoleptic complexity.

Organic is good

Q: Organic production seems to be a concern of yours?

A: Nowadays only a very low percentage of all the agaves harvested is organic which I think is a pity, for once organic agave culture dies, tequila actually ceases to be authentic.

To the aerobic fermentation process we add a porcentage of the 'bagasse' - the remaining baked agave fibers left on the tahona after juice extraction - in order to increase complexity...
To the aerobic fermentation process we add a porcentage of the ‘bagasse’ – the remaining baked agave fibers left on the tahona after juice extraction – in order to increase complexity…

The whole idea was to recover, at least for my tequila, not only the artesian production model (brick ovens, extraction via the tahona pit, aerobic fermentation and distillation without water) but agave culture itself.

As you may know, there are only a handful of organic tequilas in the world. Mine is certified by Ceres and I pay a premium to the agaveros so that they also benefit while keeping a traditional Mexican agriculture tradition.

My biggest dream is to have my own zero-waste distillery, I have already an architectural plan and launching my brand this year is the first baby step in that direction.

The name

Q: The name – “17.02.09” is rather odd?.. What’s the story?

Agaveras in the fields
Agaveras in the fields

A: Brand name is the beginning of the Age of Aquarius according to urban legend.

The digital date corresponds to the planetary alignment (Age of Aquarius ) as described in the song ‘Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In’ from the Rock Opera “Hair”, a famous hippie musical from the 60’s.

Personally I have always been a fan of Scandinavian design, of Science Fiction in all forms and particularly of writer Jules Verne, I also like the Steampunk design ethos and Japanese packaging very much.

The Bottle

Q: Where does the bottles spectacular design come from?

A: New product development for the aluminium bottle took more than three years and it truly breaks with the paradigm of the normal glass bottle seen everywhere you go  – making ‘17.02.09’ to visibly stand out in a very crowded brand-space not only for spirits but for beverages in general.

Packaging
Lots of wonderful organic tequila being packaged

The futuristic bottle is my own design entirely and the idea was basically to launch a tequila brand that was clichè-free, easily recognizable and that goes beyond the call of duty regarding quality.

I’ve noticed the trend of bars or kitchen facilities becoming more like modern labs – resulting in a cross between Zen meditative spaces and Bauhaus functionality – and that triggered the whole bottle design process as well.

The whole brand philosophy is all about reaching an equilibrium between agave culture and recovered tequila production methods in a way that makes sense beyond any marketing hype.

And for the future…

Q: How has the reception of your brand been so far?

A: We picked Silver for ultra-premium Blanco at “The Tequila Masters 2016”  in London earlier this year – with Herradura’s ‘Directo de Alambique’ getting the Gold.

And from all the tequilas in the competition, ‘17.02.09’ was the only one that is certified organic, which clearly illustrates the prevalent ratio among brands.

Q: What are the plans? The first bottle is a blanco. Will you put out a new blanco on the market next year as well?

A: Indeed, every year a new Blanco edition for ‘17.02.09’ will be launched, each one from a selected single-state and from a different region.

Because the tequila is free from any additives from the ground up it has been very well-accepted by some innovative chefs as a new cooking element for their extended palette.

It is also currently used successfully for innovative pairing of dishes in unlikely venues:  e.g.  Asian fusion or Nordic cuisines.

I wish to raise the quality level of tequila in Europe by offering a superior product that can be easily adopted in unlikely places – thus bypassing those channels wherein tequila has few chances to raise above from the low-quality drink status it has on this side of the world.

I firmly believe that – although there are quite a few good ‘reposados’ or ‘añejos’ around – the baked agave core itself has the complexity and is unique enough to stand on its own without masking it one way or another.

The brand will always remain ‘Strictly Blanco’ meaning that no aging whatsoever will take place or that propping it with additives of any kind will not happen.

The aromatic profiling for ‘17.02.09’ thus will vary naturally with each new edition  – according to the chosen region and the production process that better reflects the underlying properties already present.

So… how does it taste?…

The 17.02.09 is a blanco. It’s an super premium organic blanco in an extraordinary bottle, but it is still a blanco.
The nose feels slightly cool. There are notes of fresh apples and minerals.
The initial taste is surprisingly rich. It opens with a large and fullfilling, slightly mineral agave. The usual agave sweetness i subdued in favor of a broader palette of tasting experiences.
When the initial taste grows into the full spectrum one will discover pomegranate and apple, as well as a very very ligth citrus.
The after taste is fresh and lingering.

To sum it all up…

One has to conclude that the 17.02.09 really is a great tequila, and one which absolutely should have a place on the market along side other great tequilas.

Artisanal Glasses for Tequila and Mezcal

Riedel Glass El Arenal
Riedel Glass El Arenal

The drinking experiences encompasses multiple experiences. There’s the taste ofcourse, but also the olfactory and visual ingredients. The tequila/mezcal smells nice, tastes nice and may be beautiful to merely look at. But, a sometimes overlooked part of the drinking experience is the glassware.

How does the glass feel in the hand? Is it heavy? Is it slim and tall, like the Riedel glass or squat and heavy like some whisky glasses. There’s a tactile dimension to the glass enhances all the other sensual experiences.

Romeo Hristov from Austin, Texas, has started a webshop for luxury drinkware for tequila and mezcal handcrafted in Mexico. The drinking vessels are made by some of the absolute best glass engravers, glass blowers, silversmiths and ceramic artists, and offer a unique combination of functionality, beauty, and the artistic legacy of Mexico.

The shop, “Chisholm Trail Craft Glasses” may be found at http://chisholmtrailcraftsglasses.com/ .

Later this year we at TequilaList.com shall make an interview with Romeo Hristov.

 

Zacamex – working people of the tequila/mezcal import export business

When working in the tequila/mezcal business one encounters a lot of kind passionate people who are never mentioned or seen in the media coverage of the industry. Some are growers, mezcaleros, designers and some are the people who makes an effort to bring tequila and mezcal to other parts of the world.

We have made a small interview with the people behind Zacamex. Zacamex.com has been started by a young couple of danish/colombian origin, Alexander and Carolina.

Zacamex Tequila and mezcal
Alexander and Carolina from Zacamex

Q: Who are you?

Alexander Andersen: Dane, lives permanently in Mexico since 2012.

9 years investment banking experience from London and Mexico.

Has a master degree in Finance and Economics from London School of Economics.

Carolina Bolivar: Colombian, lives permanently in Mexico since 2013 and works as an entrepreneur.

Has a master degree in marketing and psychology from Queen Mary University, London.

Q: What is your main business?

We export Mexican products such as Tequila, Mezcal and Mexican craft beers.

Q: How old is Zacamex and what’s behind the name?

We have been running our export business since 2015. Our firm is called “Zacamex” (www.zacamex.com). We live in Zacatecas in Mexico (hence the name Zacamex), an area that produces mezcal and is close to the tequila area of Jalisco.

Q: How come you took an interest in tequila/mezcal?

We love tequila and mescal ourselves, as it is a huge part of Mexican culture.  One should see how they produce tequila and mescal in Jalisco and Oaxaca in the most wonderful surroundings!

Q: What’s your preference – Tequila or Mezcal?

We find mezcal more charismatic and varied as so many different agave plants can be used for mezcal. Mezcal is excellent for cocktails as well. For people new to the “agave world”, it is probably best to start with a Tequila blanco as mezcal at first can seem very strong. Avoid the mixed tequila, which is why we specify that it has to be “100% agave”, even for cocktails! It is a myth that no one can tell a good tequila vs. a bad tequila when blended into a cocktail).

Q: You are selling tequila and mezal not only in Denmark, but also in Britain and the middle east. How do these countries differ when it comes to taste?

In emerging markets like Lebanon, the focus is still on mixed tequila (not 100% agave tequila), whereas we see more interest in mezcal and expensive tequilas in the UK and Denmark. Things are changing though and in a place like Colombia, mezcal is now slowly entering the market.

Q: There is a vast progress for tequila and mezcal on the cocktail scenes these years. What is it, do you think, that these products add to the scene?

The agave taste is completely different than Gin or Whiskey, say – and when you drink the good stuff (100% agave!), it also gives you a much more pleasant experience. When you get drunk on vodka, you forget who you are. When you drink whiskey, you feel like sitting in a deep armchair. If you drink tequila or mezcal you feel like talking and dancing! It has even been said scientifically that a good 100% agave spirit gives you less of a headache the next day!

Q; What are your opinions on organic tequila/mezcal?

In Mexico organic tequila/mescal is not a ”big thing”, however in Northern Europe and USA it seems to be growing a lot. The consumers are very conscious about the organic trend and want certified products. The demand for certified organic tequila and mezcal will likely grow in the coming years – as well as other types of certifications (like “Kosher” certification etc.).

Q: Sustainability has become somewhat o f “hot issue” within tequila and mezcal. It is pretty evident that even minor growth within the mezcal production relying on wild agave, one will put pressure on the sustainability of these rare agaves. Do you have opinions on this?

It is a problem when big tequila companies enter the mezcal world and only think in volume. This is a real issue. With regards to overall sustainability and the agave plants, we need stricter regulations in place. One could imagine a license fee and permission needed to harvest all wild agaves for instance.  Another important initiative is the conversation of the Mexican Long-Nosed Bat, the primary pollinator of agave. The bat is considered an endangered species in the U.S

Q: The discussion regarding “Proposition 199” which will prohibit the use of the word agave and mezcal outside the DO districts for mezcal has been pretty intense. Do you think the proposition will pass?

The NOM 199 proposal is not very coherent and we will have to see what the final text says.  In the current draft though, it is obviously going to hurt the non DO “distilled agave” producers if they have to call it “Komil” (a word no one uses) instead of agave.

Q: There is a multitude of mezcal brands on the market. Do you have any favourites?

Bruxo (no 2 and 5) and Enmascarado (especially the strong 54%) – there are some new ones coming now that we hope to present in Denmark soon!

Q: This interview and this blog is written in Denmark. How do you experience the danish “agave scene?

Tequila and Mezcal are still a niche vs. Gin and Rum but it is growing. In the last few years many Mexican/Latin bars and restaurants have opened up, and on our recent trip to Denmark we noticed how mezcal often is the “bartender’s choice”, which is a very positive sign.

Links:

Article in the danish life style magazin “Euroman”: http://www.euroman.dk/gastro/kendt-kobenhavnsk-natklub-og-restaurant-lancerer-hypet-spiritus-med-oploftende-brandert

Our favourite mezcal, Mezcal Bruxo:

http://bruxomezcal.com/

Bruxo Mezcal is made in a numbered series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

bruxo5Name: Bruxo means wizard / “male witch” in Spanish (“Brujo”) – Mexican Spanish commonly uses ”x”.

About Bruxo: It is a top quality mezcal, one of the finest in Mexico, and 100% artisanal, i.e. made the traditional handcrafted way using conical pit type oven, copper stills, natural fermentation. Bruxo Mezcal is made in Oaxaca, a part of Mexico in the South with excellent conditions to make mezcal due to its soil.

There are 5 different Bruxo types (all 46% alcohol):

Bruxo 1: Uses the “Espadin” agave. This mezcal is elegant and soft with floral, cinnamon and cloves notes.

Bruxo 2: Called “Pechuga” and blends two agaves:  Espadin and barril. It used the part of the agave that looks like the breast (“pechuga” in Spanish), hence the name. It has sweet herbal, citrus, fennel and peppermint notes. Bruxo 2 was awarded the gold medal in Berlin at the prestigious 2014 “Mixology Bar Awards”.

Bruxo 3: Called ”Barril” and uses a wild agave that takes 15-20 years to grow. It is richer and more complex with more spice. There are hints of nutmeg, buttermilk and flinty mineral in the taste.

Bruxo 4: Called “Ensamble” and is a blend of 3 agaves: The Espadin adds floral and pineapple notes, the Barril gives it a flinty mineral core and the Cuishe adds delicate green herbal notes.

Bruxo 5: Called “tobala” and is the most exclusive of all the Bruxos as this agave plant is small, difficult to find, and it needs long time to grow using a complicated harvest technique.

Ratings: Gold medal in Berlin at the prestigious 2014 “Mixology Bar Awards”

Rated best mezcal in many articles like www.esquire.co.uk/food-drink/drinks/7214/5-of-the-best-mezcals-to-buy/2/

Interview with Melkon Khosrovian of IXA Tequila

Organic tequila – and organic spirits in general – form a very small part of the spirits market. But there is a growing awareness that organic products and organic farming is good thing especially within a business like the tequila business.

There is a good amount of pesticides being used on the agave fields and intensive farming does take its toll on the soil. There is a lot of discussion within the community of tequila and mezcal enthusiasts what roads to take regarding farming, the path regarding mezcal NOM 199, the increasing role of big american spirits companies and a looming environmental threat from moving climate zones.
In light of all this, organic farming is a good thing and Los Angeles based Greenbars IXA Tequila is a piece of good news.
TequilaList has asked for a small interview with Melkon Khosrovian, owner of Greenbar.

Melkon Khosrovian from Greenbar DistilleryQ: Who are behind Greenbar?
A: Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew are the husband and wife team that create all Greenbar spirits and make them.

Q: When did you start as a company?
A: Greenbar is an accidental company. We were making spirits at home first for ourselves, then our friends and family, and then their friends. After a couple of years, it became too big to do at home, so we started Greenbar in 2004 to bring our very different vision of how spirits should taste — memorable, flavorful and clean — to a wider audience.

Green-Bar-LogoQ: The name Greenbar tells something about your products: Stuff for the cocktail bar… Did you have a prior interest in cocktails/bartending before deciding to produce liquors?
A: No. But we always drank for pleasure, including beer and wine, and found spirits to be lacking.

Q: The combined demographic of bartenders and organic producers is usually pretty small. Do you consider yourself organic producers who do “liquor stuff” or liquor producers who do “organic stuff”? Or is the question wrongly phrased to begin with?
A: Good question and it comes up a lot. We’re definitely liquor producers who use organically grown ingredients firstly for their better, cleaner flavor and secondly for their ecological benefit. It’s similar to how our neighbor, Tesla, makes a great car first and saves the planet second.

productpage-ixa-tequila

Q: Organic certification is – at least in Denmark – pretty difficult to obtain because the entire chain from field crop to plate/glass needs to be organic. No pesticides on the fields, but also no pesticides in the processing machinery or bottling machinery. Usually tequila is made in destilleries which do a lot or at least an amount of other brands. How do you ascertain that the distillery keeps organic an standard crops apart in ovens, shredders etc?
A: Lots and lots of cleaning! Conventionally grown ingredients aren’t evil — for us, at least. They just don’t taste as good.

Q: TequilaList.com is fond of organic products and we do believe that organic tequila and liquors will find a steadily growing place in the market. In Scandinavia organic products and standard products different audiences and it will be interesting to see whether IXÁ tequila will find a new audience merely because it will be almost the only organic liquor on the market.  Are the markets for organically grown food equally divided from the standard products in the US?
A: They’re similar in most food and clothing items. But we take a very different approach to organic — that it allows us to make more delicious spirits, not just keep the environment clean — and as a result, our spirits seem to appeal to a much larger audience that simply wants quality and innovation above all.

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Q: It seems there is next to none discussions regarding residues of pesticides and fungicides in liquors like whisky, vodka, brandy but also beer seems to avoid the discussion pretty much. I wonder why, since it has been a rather important issue with food for at least a decade. Do you have any opinions on that.
A: It starts with the makers. Most alcohol makers enter the family business with a certain degree of tradition to uphold and lots of newcomers, at least in the U.S., are big fans of traditional techniques. Because we entered the business as outsiders, we simply followed our palate to better and better flavors. For us, organic ingredients simply taste better. They have more flavor, more aroma and more antioxidants that keep the flavor and aroma intact long enough after harvesting for us to capture them in spirits.

Q: Mezcal is growing pretty fast in both the international and the danish market. A growing awareness of the ecological costs and communities like the Tequila Interchange Project seems to make path for organic mezcal as well. Do you consider making an organic mezcal?
A: We’re big mezcal fans but since I go to Mexico to make the tequila, it takes me out of our own distillery in Los Angeles for weeks at a time. I just can’t be away even longer to make mezcal, as well.

Q: IXÁ is a tequila from the lowlands. I have often wondered whether the differences in flavour may be more attributed to different soils than to actual temperature differences. Do you have any point of views regarding the lowland vs the highland?
A: I think that this is mostly a myth. The main difference between highland and lowland tequila is in farming, harvesting and production techniques. For example, highland farms are smaller, with less intensive cultivation, which lead to healthier plants. Highland producers also harvest slightly more mature agave, which leads to sweeter flavors.

Finally, and most importantly, highland producers typically cook their agave in clay ovens, not stainless steel pressure cookers, which yields richer flavor, as well as ferment with fiber, not just juice, which, again, yields richer flavor. Also, very few, if any, highland producers use diffusers to extract juice from raw agave and then cook just the juice, versus the whole plant.

All of these produce the vast majority of the differences that the public attributes to the terroir differences between highland and lowland tequila. IXÁ, for example, is a 100% lowland tequila but it tastes exactly like a highland tequila because we use all of the old techniques that are still practiced in the highlands but not much in the lowlands.

page-IxaTequilaQ: The highland/lowland discussion is all about Jalisco, but there are other regions as well where tequila may be produced, but they seem never or rarely to be included in the discussion regarding terroir. Do you think the discussion regarding terroir should be more articulated or are the differences in flavour made through the distilling process anyway?
A: Tequila making, unlike wine, is much more a reflection of the maker than the soil. There are simply too many steps in the making of spirits where distillers can affect the flavor profile — for better or worse. When picking tequila made with blue weber agave, my advice would be to follow the makers and brands first, regions second.

Outside the confines of tequila, though, there are two very strong other variables to pay attention to — types of agave and cooking techniques. For example, mezcal, sotol and bacanora, which are also Mexican agave spirits, can be made with different varieties of agave and can be roasted or steamed. These differences produce distinct flavors that may appeal to certain palates differently from tequila, just like smokey Scotch whisky appeals to some and bourbon whiskey appeals to others.

Q: It seems to be a disputed thing how much of the agave one should use and how mature it should be before harvesting. Are there any common ground within this? Some appear to think that only the innermost piña is usable and that it should be very mature before being harvested – other take a more “lax” attitude…
A: This debate is mostly about money, not attitude. Younger agave means more crop rotation and income for farmers and less expensive agave for distillers. They taste worse — sour and bitter, as most immature fruit would — but for customers who are after the effect of drinking, not the experience, the compromise may be worthwhile. Similarly, leaving more green plant on the piña will yield more tequila but that tequila will taste bitter. Some customers may not like this, whereas others won’t mind, especially if the price is low enough.

Q: Resting is one of the mysteries in tequila production for many. What is it good for? Is it used to lower the level of spirits as well as for letting the flavours settle?
A: Resting is an important step to let the flavors settle and form a more integrated experience on the palate. It’s as true for tequila as for brandy, rum or even vodka. We take an extra step in this settling process to micro-oxygenate our tequila to soften the final product so our customers can experience the full flavor of IXÁ without the burn normally associated with full-flavor tequilas.

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Q: I have often tried to pry out of bartender what it is, that defines a tequila which is good for cocktails. Most often the answers boils do to price. It should not be too expensive. That may be the final word on the matter, but I can’t help wondering whether differences in taste and flavour has no part. So… what defines a good cocktail tequila?
A: A good cocktail tequila must be rich in flavor above all else, otherwise it’ll get lost after the addition of citrus, sugar, other ingredients and dilution from the ice. After that, it’s a matter of cost.

For inexpensive cocktails, bartenders generally compromise on complexity and finish and make up for it by adding extra ingredients and making them sweeter. For really good cocktails, they choose more complex tequila with a softer finish and make simpler drinks to show off the tequila’s flavor.

Q: Do you have a favourite tequila cocktail?
A: I tend to make simple drinks and my go to tequila cocktail is the following:

City of Angels (we are in Los Angeles, after all!)
  • 1 oz IXÁ silver tequila
  • 1 oz GRAND POPPY California bitter liqueur (or another medium-bitter amaro)
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup (50/50 sugar and water)
  • Shake all and serve up in a coupe

Q: IXA Tequila is good… What is your favourite tequila besides IXÁ?…
A: I’m a big fan of Siete Leguas, especially their reposado.

Top 3 Tequilas & Mezcals in Denmark 2015

Danish webshop Tequila.dk has announced the winners of Top 3 tequilas and mezcals for 2015. The products are editors picks and the premise for the selection of the three best tequilas and three best mescals, is that they have to be available for purchase on the Danish market.

The Danish market for quality tequila and mescal has taken a pretty drastic turn for the better. The total amount of available tequila & mescal brands has risen with at least 300 % within the last year, and new and ambitious cocktail bars are popping up almost every day.

Greatly helping in the effort to awaken the interest for agave spirits in Denmark is a  bunch of dedicated agave entusiasts like Juuls Vinhandel, The Barking Dog, Tequila.dk and of course TequilaClub Denmark.

The winners of Top 3  Tequila brands in Denmark 2015

1:  Gold
  Best tequila Denmark 2015Creencias Tequila Organico

 

 

2: Silver
Silver Best Tequila Denmark 2015Casa Noble Tequila

 

 

3: Bronze
Bronze Best Tequila Denmark 2015Tapatio Tequila

 

 


The winners of Top 3  Mezcal brands in Denmark 2015

1: Gold
Gold best mezcal denmark 2015Ilegal Mezcal

 

 

2: Silver
Silver Best mezcal Denmark 2015Mezcal Alipus San Baltazar

 

 

3: Bronze
Bronze Best Mezcal Denmark 2015El Senorio Mezcal

Did they put guns in my tequila…?

5 tequilas and how they got their names

The world of tequila is full of fantastic stories straight out of the colorful Mexican culture and history.

We drink tequila while we enjoy good times with our friends. Rarely do we wonder how the products’ names and designs were initially conceived. However, behind every brand name there is a story to be told. Here are a few of them.

30-30 Tequila

303030-30 is a wonderful tequila which comes in a nice and simple bottle. The name, however… what on earth made anyone call it 30-30…?
30-30 is the caliber of a rifle. And the Winchester 30-30 rifle is the rifle used by legendary Mexican soldier and freedom fighter Pancho Villa in the Mexican revolution 1910-20.
Pancho himself – often associated with tequila – actually never drank alcohol and never smoked either. Pancho was a nickname for peasant-born José Doroteo Arango Arámbula – and he never entirely did fit the image of a bandit that contemporary media painted of him.

Aha Toro Tequila

aha-toro-tequilaAha Toro is the name of an elegant tequila in a beautiful stylized bull shaped bottle. Héctor Lizrraga Castel, one of the company’s owners, tells the story behind this odd name.

Once driving through the fields with his five year old nephew they met a big bull on the road. The bull stood its ground and refused to make way for the car. The small boy then impatiently cried “Aha Toro! Aha Toro!” (Hey bull – go away!). Mexico’s rambling cattle actually do have a taste for agave leaves and are able to eat them without getting hurt by the thorns.

So, vested into the tequila are the memories of a sweet afternoon, an impatient boy and a stubborn bull.

Ley .925

ley-925-tequilaLey .925 – now there’s an odd name! “Ley” is the Spanish word for silver and .925 is the percentage of pure silver in a mixture of silver and other metals. Metal that consists of 92,5 % silver and 7,5 other metals is called Sterling Silver, and the founder of the Ley .925 wanted his very exclusive and costly tequila to be associated with that shiny and expensive metal.

One of the impressive dragon shaped bottles was decorated entirely with diamonds and sold on an auction, coining it the world’s most expensive tequila. Some other bottles were swept in silver decorations in order to make them exquisite and beautiful.

Kah Tequila

kah-tequilaInspired by the Mexican tradition of ‘calaveras’ Californian artist Kim Brandi designed the skull shaped bottles and created Kah Tequila. Calaveras are the decorative skulls made of sugar and used for celebrations during the day of the dead festivities. Today Kah vessels are still handcrafted works of art and no two bottles are the same.
Kah is the Aztec word for life, and the different agings of the tequila: blanco, reposado, anejo and extra anejo, refer to day of the dead cultures in different countries. The Aztecs were one of the many Mexican pre-Hispanic Indian cultures.

Tequila 29

tequila-29Tequila 29 is another name with numbers in it and a really cool logo. Alberto Rubio of Tequila 29 explains: “The number 2 means the two most important elements in tequila production: the land and the agave. The number 9 stands for the nine general steps to make tequila. The name two nine was also inspired by the word “tonight” and by that to represent the general image of fun in the night and the mysticism that the night brings; two nine – tonight.  And a more intimate and personal meaning for us is that the 2 represents my grandmother and grandfather and 9 are my nine uncles and aunts”.

Once again, a product name with a rich story and of poignant significance to the heart and history of the entrepreneur. The world of Tequila is wonderful!

¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirits of Mexico

A stylish, and very well researched book for the tequila enthusiast!
A stylish, and very well researched book for the tequila enthusiast!

This is a review of a really nice book, which I have spent my summer vacation reading. There is a lot of literature about tequila, mezcal and Mexico but there really are not that many, really good books with a broad perspective on the subjects. Most authors seem to be satisfied with colportation of more or less established myths mixed with margarita recipes and some nice pictures. This is different!

Marie Sarita Gaytán is the author of “¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico” published on Stanford University Press 2014. Over 6 chapters she writes on tequila from a broad cultural and historic perspective. Focus is, in her own words, on: “defining the process through which commodities acquire significance…” It is, at least in a European context, an established method with some roots in semiology, and she is using it with great flair. The book is easy to read and very inspiring.

First chapter Is about Pulque, Mezcal an Tequila, in which she explains the historic background for these beverages made from agave. While one may argue “why go back to the bloody stone age in order to explain this…” this is actually good. Mexican history is not my strong point and especially not prehispanic history but the inclusion of time before colonization makes good sense.

Second chapter is about the creation of tequila iconography. How Pancho Villa became a mexican macho figure and proponent for tequila – even if he never drank nor smoked. Interesting facts and utterly new to me.

Third chapter deals with the gendering of Mexicanidad and is about the changes and evolution in gender roles as seen In the perspective  of consumption and marketing of tequila. VERY well written and the story of Lucha Reyes and the hit “la tequillera” is fascinating.

1675055577_7f977cc077_bThe fourth chapter is about tequila tourism, but deals also extensively with how the myths about the tequila “workforce” are built and takes an unsentimental look at the conditions of the international tequila industry.

The fifth chapter deals with the institutions and regulations surrounding, protectiong and supporting tequila. Once again these efforts are analyzed and described in the light of duality of their on the one side, commercial interests and on the other side their immaterial and mythgenerating aspects. The subchapter on the efforts to make the western part of Jalisco part of Unescos World Heritage program is really enlightening. Many countries struggle with the creation of stories and images which will help sell their countries on the international tourism market. Mexcios cultural heritage is enormous, and Marie Sarita Gaytán describes convincingly haw tequila is used as a tool to brand the country and its tequilaproducing region.

The sixth chapter is about how tequila is perceived as seen from outside of Mexico. This is more of a sociological chapter, but still very interesting.

¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico is an excellent book which really does hold enormous amounts of information despite its merely 210 pages.  It is also an academic book – it is published on Stanford University Press – but here academia shines. I like the extensive notes, references and well thought index. A good index Is becoming increasingly rare to meet. I  have read a good amount of tequila literature, but this is the first time that I read something which tries to give a broader and more coherent picture of the industry. Often lacking in other books is the ability to explain why exactly tequila (of all the agave spirits in Mexico) came out as the “winner”. I think the Marie Gaytáns explanations are credible and they certainly shed some light on the issue for me – who lives in Denmark on the other side of the globe. The part dealing with poverty, economic inequality and import of workers from Chiapas was also news to me.

Highly recommended!

Marie Sarita Gaytan
Marie Sarita Gaytan

Marie Sarita Gaytán is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Gender at the University of Utah.

Ph.D. in Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2008
M.A. in Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2005
B.A. (with honors) in Political Science and Sociology, University of California, Irvine, 1997

¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico. Stanford University Press. 2014. ISBN: 978-0-8047-9310-0

Buy the book here! Stanford University Press Bookstore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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