Story by Natasha Swords. Main photo by Caleb Stokes.
While Mexicans do not confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16th), they do trail behind Americans in alcohol consumption every May 5th. Americans may be unclear why they’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo but they’re doing it with more conviction than the holiday’s country of origin.
Quick history lesson: Cinco de Mayo commemorates the 1862 battle of Puebla, in which a staggeringly outnumbered cluster of Mexican soldiers, won victory over innumerable French troops.
Americans spend $2.9 billion on margaritas each year. That represents 14% of all cocktail sales. The leading tequila sold worldwide is Sauza selling 3.8 million 9-liter cases last year, with Patron coming in second with 2.5 million 9-liter cases, according to Statista. Third is El Jimador, still impressive with 1.1 million 9-liter cases. According to the data analyst service, the vast-majority of all those brands’ cases were sold in the United States, and total tequila sales into the U.S. topped out at 15.87 million 9-liter cases in 2016. Jose Cuervo is the No.1 American sold tequila, owning 22% of U.S. tequila volume sales in 2016. Patron and Sauza tequila also accounted for a double-digit volume share here, in the same year.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council, one of the keys to tequila’s U.S. growth has been distillers’ abilities to offer a product for every budget and occasion. By offering both well-aged high-end and super premium products, as well as affordable value brands, tequila is accessible to all Americans.
However super premium products are garnering consumer focus lately according to Distilled Spirits Council Director Public Relations, Kelley McDonough, “A common trend we’re seeing across the entire spirits sector is strong interest in super premium products.”
Bonfort’s takes a look at some major players who have built this roaring category into what it is today, as well as the lesser-known tequilas that have entered the U.S. market, stood up to the big boys and proven they have enough staying-power to last the course.
Hacienda Corralejo stakes claim as the first estate in Mexico to produce tequila commercially, and for nearly 250 years, the methods used have remained unchanged. First imported into the United States in 1994, Hacienda Corralejo is made from handpicked agave and is the only tequila using the Charentais distillation method commonly associated with Cognac production. “All of Corralejo’s bottles are produced at a glass factory owned by a close neighbor, Don Leonardo, located just a few miles away from the distillery,” says Camille Henningsen, Corralejo Tequila Brand Manager at Infinium Spirits. “The tall, colorful bottles stand out on the shelf inspiring the brand’s slogan: those with pride stand tall.” This Cinco de Mayo season brand sales are supported through the Hacienda Corralejo Reposado and Silver VAPs with two accompanying Sangrita glasses.
Hacienda Corralejo Silver $24.99
This tequila is made from 100% Blue Weber agave and bottled unaged. The aroma is white and pink peppercorns, and mint. On the palate you’ll find sweet agave flavor, spearmint and it finishes light and crisp.
Hacienda Corralejo Reposado $29.99
Made from 100% Blue Weber agave and aged four months in barrels comprising three types of oak – French, American and Encino oak, this sweet vanilla tasting tequila also bears notes of honey, spice, with hints of oak. On the palate is lemon-lime, peppercorn, honey, oak and agave notes. Enjoy the medium-bodied finish.
Hacienda Corralejo Añejo $34.99
Again, made from 100% Blue Weber agave and aged for 12 months in charred, American oak barrels, this ultra-premium tequila bears notes of oak, hints of cocoa, vanilla, peppercorn, and vanilla. On the palate you’ll notice caramel, white peppercorn and cardamom spice with a big, full body finish.
Made in Los Altos in Jalisco, Dulce Vida is authentic, handcrafted, 100% blue agave and USDA organic tequila. Among the largest independently owned tequila brands in the United States, Dulce Vida Spirits’ full portfolio includes a lineup of 80- and 100-proof aged and unaged selections in Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, Lone Star and a 5-year Extra Añejo. Plus, all-natural flavored tequilas in Grapefruit, Lime and Pineapple Jalapeño.
Founded in 2009, the brand was imported into the United States in the same year through Texas. CEO, Eric Dopkins told Bonfort’s, “Although it’s still a young brand, it has grown by nearly +500% in the U.S. over the past 19 months. The latest Nielsen data in Food and Drug ending December 2, 2017, has Dulce Vida as the fastest growing tequila brand in the U.S. out of the top 25. Trends continue to accelerate as the brand is expanded in to more markets.”
Dulce Vida has a modern tequila positioning. The package is not the typical blown-glass and instead shows off vibrant colors with solid appeal on both the shelf and the back bar. “We use the term ‘organic’ to communicate the organic attribute that we work hard to maintain with our partners that source only organic piñas,” explains Dopkins. “Our 5-Year Extra Añejo has a special etched glass that creates a luxury package.”
The tequila category took a 7.5 share of the spirits category in 2016, according to Dopkins. “It’s growing faster than nearly all other categories at +9%. The category is expected to be one of the fastest growth categories over the next five years.”
The full Dulce Vida portfolio includes options that are great for both sipping and mixing. Dulce Vida’s classic Blanco is 100% blue Weber agave, USDA organic tequila made in the highlands region of Jalisco, Mexico. Offered in both 80 + 100 proof options, the Blanco offers a pleasant citrus aroma that is well balanced with a hint of spice and a sweet agave finish. In addition to the Blanco selection, Dulce Vida has several aged expressions including a Reposado, Añejo and Extra Añejo.
Dulce Vida Blanco $29.99
Offers a pleasant citrus aroma that is well balanced with a hint of spice and a sweet agave finish. Smooth.
Dulce Vida Reposado $40.99
Aged between 9-11 months in American Oak whiskey barrels, has a light honey color and refreshing aroma of fruit with hints of caramel and citrus.
Dulce Vida Añejo $45.99
Aged up to 24 months in select American Oak whiskey barrels, has a rich, golden amber color with aromas of vanilla and cinnamon. Its full-bodied flavor and smooth finish are best experienced as a sipping tequila.
Dulce Vida Extra Añejo $160
Aged for five years in Napa Valley Cabernet and Merlot barrels, this complex, 100% blue agave tequila shows hints of cinnamon and butter with notes of vanilla and spiced oak.
Real Fruit Infused Tequila $25
Dulce Vida is a luxury tequila at an approachable price, sourcing organic piñas from Los Altos (Highlands). With real fruit infused tequilas, it’s a low calorie, low carb offerings that allows consumers to make a simple cocktail at home or a simple cocktail at a bar, like Palomas with the grapefruit tequila or Mexican Mules with the lime. Simple mixology with 2 carbs and 66 calories per serving!
On the cocktail side, Dulce Vida offers three all-naturally flavored tequilas in Lime, Grapefruit and Pineapple Jalapeno that offer simple mixology. Just add a splash of soda and a fresh citrus garnish for an easy, delicious cocktail in minutes.
When Jose Cuervo was founded in 1775, nobody knew it would turn into the blockbuster brand it is today. It was first imported into the United States in 1852 and these days it’s celebrated not only for the product inside the bottle but for the labeling outside it too. Reserva de la Familia was first introduced to the world in 1995, in celebration of the Jose Cuervo family’s 200th anniversary.
Each hand-blown bottle of Reserva comes inside of a wooden box that is adorned with the work of a Mexican artist, with each year honoring a different individual hand-chosen by the Jose Cuervo family. New artist boxes have been released every year since Jose Cuervo’s 200th anniversary, and each year they have quickly become a highly treasured collector’s item.
Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver $29.99
Tradicional Silver is one of the most prestigious tequilas of the line. Serve chilled in a crisp, smooth shot or in a well-crafted cocktail like The Paloma. 100% blue agave, the color is crystal and the aroma, herbaceous, with subtle citrus. Expect a spicy, sweet, green apple flavor with a hint of baked raisins offering a sweet and refreshing finish.
Reserva de la Familia $149.99
Reserva de la Familia is a tradition passed down through ten generations of the Jose Cuervo family line, resulting in a fine extra-añejo tequila. It is 100% blue agave tequila created with 10-12 year old agaves that are stripped of the bitter outer layer. The tequila made from the piña is then aged in French and American oak barrels for a minimum of three years, stored in the Cuervo family’s private cellar and then combined with tequila from the family reserves as old as 30 years.
This tequila shows off a lovely dark amber hue and aromas of almonds, apples, olives, and cinnamon. It has a rich oaky flavor alongside toasted almonds, vanilla, and cinnamon. Customers will enjoy the long and silky finish.
1800 Tequila Silver $27.99
For more than 200 years 1800 has never wavered from its original formula and distillation process producing 100% agave, quality liquid, although it sells at least a million cases into the United States each year.
The packaging for 1800 Tequila is an iconic trapezoidal shape, reminiscent of the centuries-old Mayan stone pyramids found throughout Mexico and dressed with a crest. “Trabajo, Passion, Honestidad” (Work, Passion, Honesty) is displayed on the crest, signifying the honor and tradition that go into the process of crafting this historically rich tequila.
Made from 100% Weber blue agave, and aged for 8-12 years ,1800 is double distilled, and a special selection of white tequilas is blended together for added complexity and character. The result is a premium tequila with a smoother, more interesting flavor than some on the market. The clean, balanced taste with hints of sweet fruit and pepper is perfect sipped neat, on the rocks, as a shot or in a cocktail.
Avión Single Origin Tequila
- Silver $44.99,
- Anejo $49.99,
- Avión Reserva 44 Extra Anejo, $149.99
Avión was launched in the U.S. in 2010, but work on the brand started in 2007 when Founder, Ken Austin traveled to Mexico and first met the Lopez family. Any way you want to serve Avión works – sipped, neat or on the rocks, and likewise makes a pretty terrific ‘Elevated Margarita’.
Avión Silver ranges between $40-$50 depending on the state, and the Reposado ($45-$55), Añejo ($50-$60) and Reserva 44 ($150) expressions are more expensive. The brand’s most loyal consumers are linked more in a psychographic sense rather than by demographics, as Avión consumers look to enjoy quality products and aspirational brands
“We find Avión consumers are linked more in a psychographic sense than by demographics,” says Jenna Fagnan, President of Tequila Avion. “They look to enjoy quality products and aspirational brands whether they be a 25-year-old in Southern California, or a 40-year-old in Atlanta.
Avión Single Origin Tequila sources its raw ingredient (rare highlands agave) from one small town, Jesus Maria. “Terroir is a concept that people typically associate with wine, but it is something that we are talking about because it has a large bearing on the flavor profile of Avión Tequila,” Fagnan explains. “Because of the elevation, soil type, and growing conditions, Avión Tequila has a crisp, naturally sweet, agave-forward flavor profile.”
“The fact we can state Single Origin Tequila, differentiates Avión from a lot of other brands. This is especially relevant to bartenders, whereas consumers are interested in the fact that Avión is all natural, with nothing but agave and spring water in every bottle. Agave spirits have exhibited phenomenal growth in the last 10 years, primarily due to an increase in demand from the U.S. As the rest of the world discovers how special, and delicious agave-based spirits are – the growth will no doubt mean an increase in share of total spirit consumption,” Fagnan concludes.
Created by Bar Manager, Cari Hah.
Created by Tyler Levey, Avion Manager in Los Angeles, CA.