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.
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.
Q: How did you set up as a producer of tequila?
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.
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.
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.
Q: The name – “17.02.09” is rather odd?.. What’s the story?
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.
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.
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.
Note per 2nd of August 2017
Brand Owner, Victor Basurto would like to clarify that although a new tahona was built in order to achieve the 17.02.09 formulation it was, in fact only partially used. Only a year later it transpired that the motor being used to move the tahona stone broke down and the juice extraction process was then continued on a regular mechanical shredder.