Tequila evokes a passion in the people who have the capacity to experience the magic of the agave spirit. Mayaciel is a new tequila brand owned and founded by the german entrepreneurs Jonas and Christoph. Germany IS pretty far away from Mexico, there is no denying that. The spirit, Mayaciel Tequila, has the true mexican vibe though, so we thought we would make a short interview with the founders of Mayaciel, Jonas and Christoph.
What is your background? How old, education, etc.
My co-founder Christoph and I met at university, and we have been close friends since the early days of our Bachelor’s degrees. We have both studied Business Administration, which comes in handy when you run your own spirits start-up. Christoph just turned 30 while I still get to enjoy two more years of my late twenties.
What made you take an interest in tequila?
Aged 15/16 I lived in the Northern Mexican state of Coahuila in a small town called Muzquiz. Since then, I have had close bonds with Mexican culture and its people. This passion about Mexico was further strengthened during university when Christoph and I extensively travelled Latin America. We particularly spent a lot of time in Mexico and made some close friends there. Being in Mexico and spending time with locals, you get to experience Tequila very differently compared to the (lack of) drinking culture we were used to from Europe. The spirit is so deeply embedded into Mexican culture that you can taste it in so many different occasions. For instance, you can go to a wedding or an anniversary and there would be fantastic Tequila being served. Or you can go to high-end restaurants in La Ciudad de Mexico and they would offer a Mezcal and Tequila pairing with dinner instead of wine. We totally fell in love with the quality of tequila that we discovered, its versatility and this positive lifestyle associated with it.
Back in Germany, we were disappointed to see that the way we experienced Tequila was simply not available. Ultimately, with MAYACIEL we want to fill this gap by introducing a high-quality Tequila which resembles the modern Mexican lifestyle.
How did you choose the distillery?
Once we had the idea of bringing our own Tequila to the market, we started to research distilleries in Mexico. Luckily, there is a government body in Mexico (“Consejo Regulador del Tequila”, CRT) which strictly governs the Tequila industry. The CRT keeps a registry of all distilleries which have the permit to produce Tequila and this list was our starting point. We then boiled down the list to the c. 50 most promising ones, called them and presented our idea of introducing a premium tequila to the European market. From the start we had a few criteria in mind which were essential to us. Most importantly (and this is something which differentiates us from many brands now entering the space), we wanted to develop our own distillation profile. A lot of distilleries offered that we could bottle one of their standard tequilas into our bottles, but we wanted to craft a unique taste. Secondly, we were looking for a distillery which focuses on quality, utilizes traditional processes, and does not use any kind of additives. In fact, our distillery Hacienda de Oro is now in the process of becoming certified as “Additive free” by Tequila MatchMaker. Lastly, the personal relationship with the team in Mexico is key. With seven hours of time difference, we have to rely on our Mexican partners and a successful collaboration is only possible with a deep level of trust.
Can you tell us a little about the distillery and how you work with them?
With pleasure. We work with the small, family-run distillery Hacienda de Oro, located in the lovely town of Amatitán in tequila valley. The distillery is run by the Partida family who originate from being agave farms. To this date, the family still cultivates their own agave fields which is a huge benefit for us, especially in times of agave shortage. For the production of MAYACIEL we only source agave from the family’s own fields and hence, can make sure that the agave plants have grown to maturity without the usage of artificial fertilisers or pesticides. The Partidas are now producing tequila in third generation. When we started working together with Hacienda de Oro, they were undergoing a generational change and the daughter Iliana who is now heading the distillery is our age.
As I mentioned earlier, trust is at the core of our collaboration with Hacienda de Oro. Given the distance, most of the communication takes place by email or video calls. We have working meetings with the team on a weekly level in order to coordinate production-related aspects, manage our inventories in Mexico or plan the next bottling. Furthermore, we regularly exchange ideas with Iliana, the managing director, about more strategic topics and general trends in the industry. While the coordination works seamlessly thanks to digital technologies, human interaction is still essential for the long-term relationship. We therefore visit Mexico once or twice a year and spend at least a week in Amatitán. It is important to us to not only have a quick lunch and take some pictures in the fields, but to really engage with the local community. And from what we hear, this is greatly appreciated.
Rose is a rather uncommon variation. What made you go for a rose? And how does one choose the specific wine barrels?
During the development phase of our Tequila Reposado, we have tested various barrel types and maturation lengths. We had the idea of giving our Reposado a red wine finish. However, it did not work out as initially planned but we really liked the red wine casks. The fresh agave notes from the Tequila Blanco and the dark berry aromas from the red wine make a great combination – Tequila Rosa as a stand-alone variation was born. It took us almost two years to develop the Reposado and another six months to finalise the taste profile of our Tequila Rosa. By the way, that’s why we are very sceptical when a new brand entering the market launches a full range of Blanco, Reposado and Anejo at the same time. It usually means that they simply buy off-the-shelf liquids.
Mexico has some fantastic wine producing regions which are a bit underappreciated on global scale. It was no question for us to source the wine barrels locally from a Mexican vineyard. Not only is it the more sustainable approach but the barrels also need to be relatively “fresh” in order for the tequila to extract the aromas from the cask. The semi-arid climate and desert conditions of Northern Mexico form a great environment for full bodied red wines such as Malbec or Syrah. We chose Malbec barrels because they provide strong aromas and a very interesting tannin structure.
How has the German market received your product?
We introduced the first batch of MAYACIEL Blanco in early 2020 and Germany went into lockdown two weeks thereafter. Despite these far from ideal conditions to launch a new spirits brand, we have been super happy with the reception in Germany and the development since then. MAYACIEL has been featured by some of Germany’s leading news outlets and in 2021 we also won the “Tequila of the Year”-award by German publishing house Meininger. These public recognitions are very helpful in growing brand awareness. Over the years, we managed to successfully grow the brand’s presence both in the on- and offtrade. Nowadays – whether you’re in Berlin, Hamburg, or Munich – you will likely find a bottle of MAYACIEL on the shelf of the leading mixology bars and premium retailers. Nevertheless, premium tequila is still a niche in Germany, and we keep on working hard in spreading awareness about 100% agave tequila.
Do you have any experience with reception in Mexico yet?
We do have some experience, although I must say it is based on a small sample size. Mexico’s tequila authority, CRT, handle two different permits for selling tequila: one for the domestic Mexican market, the other for the export business. We only have the export licence and as such are not allowed to officially market MAYACIEL in Mexico. Hence, the feedback we have received comes from Mexican friends. They absolutely love the product and say that it can easily compete with the most popular premium tequilas in Mexico.
When we, for instance, have tasting events in Berlin’s famous department store KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), it is always entertaining to witness the reaction of Mexican visitors trying our tequilas. They are at first somewhat sceptical about “German” tequila, although it is, of course, produced and bottled in Mexico. After tasting MAYACIEL they agree that it is a fine tequila, and some people actually bought a bottle in Berlin in order to take it back home.
50 cl is not an entirely unknown bottle volume but still pretty rare. What made you go for 50cl?
With the rise in popularity of premium gin across Europe, consumers have learned to associated high-quality, small-batch products with 50cl bottles. Being a handcrafted premium product, MAYACIEL shares these characteristics and 50cl was the natural choice. While the bottle design, of course, does not say anything about the quality of the liquid, we are happy to leverage this additional element of positive perception. Moreover, most other tequila brands come in 70cl and it is just another differentiator for us go with 50cl – following our slogan “Tequila Generation Next”.