According to the Distilled Spirits Council, Americans cannot get enough of Mexico’s native spirit. Since 2002, Tequila volumes have grown 140%, an average rate of 6.0% per year. In 2017 alone, 17.2 million 9-liter cases were sold.
“One of the keys to Tequila’s U.S. growth has been distillers’ ability 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,” the Council asserted.
“While Value and Premium brands are the backbone of the U.S. market, the fastest growth has been in High End and Super Premium brands. High End Brands have grown 348% in volume since 2002. Virtually unknown in 2002, Super Premium Tequila volumes have skyrocketed 805% and today account for 3.2 million 9-liter cases.”.
Over the past decade, tequila has shifted from the traditional frozen margarita to luxury tequila offerings served in artisan cocktails, neat or on the rocks, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. The Council reports that the tequila category has seen substantial growth, particularly in its high-end offerings. While tequila volumes in the U.S. have grown an average rate of 5.8% per year, much of the growth is powered by the rise of high-end and super premium tequila. Super and high-end premium saw an increase of 706% and 292%, respectively, since 2002.
“A common trend we’re seeing across the entire spirits sector is strong interest in super premium products,” said Distilled Spirits Council Director of Public Relations Kelley McDonough. “Tequila fits nicely in this consumer trend with the many sophisticated sipping tequilas in the marketplace today. Tequila is no longer only associated with celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo or enjoyed in pre-batched frozen margaritas at a beach bar,” McDonough added.
In addition to the introduction of luxury tequilas, cocktail culture also has played an important role in elevating the category. Nick Bennett, head bartender at Porchlight, the first stand-alone cocktail bar by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), explained, “One of the main reasons we are in this golden era of cocktails is because there was a desire to move away from the sugary, syrupy drinks.”
Bennett continued, “…there are luxury tequilas with 100% agave helping to focus our energies into natural flavors and cleaner spirits, which shine in a simple cocktail.”
“We are clearly seeing growth among other craft tequilas as well as mezcals,” Evelyn Botello, Director Field Marketing at G4 Tequila, explained to Bonfort’s. Botello feels that authenticity and uniqueness are two factors not left unnoticed by savvy imbibers. “Consumers are searching for authentic experiences. As a result, they are becoming increasingly educated in what they drink. Knowledgeable reps provide the suppliers, bartenders, and consumers with information about the production process and producers. There is value in artisanal production, learning about the producer, and the story of the brand. This awareness of authenticity and uniqueness is something to which the industry and consumers are having a really positive response. It is our belief that this comes at the expense of established brands that commonly lack the character and quality of G4 and other exceptional brands.”
What’s next for the category? Botello weighed in: “Consumers are seeking authentic experiences. We live in the age of information making consumers incredibly savvy and educated. For tequila, some key differentiating factors resonating with the market include: single estate sourced agave, organic practices, and specific family brands. We suspect similar growth in select mezcal and also in small batch alternative agave spirits such as Sotol, Raicilla, and Bacanora.”
G4 is a tequila that exploded onto the market quite recently, and reception of the brand has been phenomenal. Knowing well that the world doesn’t really need another tequila, Bonfort’s was intrigued to learn what this brand has that others don’t. In other words, what’s the draw here?
“G4 Tequila is not just another tequila on the shelf; it is truly unique juice. It is considered the best tequila of Los Altos (The Highlands). This comes as no surprise for us, Felipe Camarena (G4 Tequila’s master distiller) comes from a long line of tequila master distillers. The Camarenas have been crafting tequila for four generations, and they are one of the very few tequila familias still crafting their own tequila in small boutique distilleries,’ Botello told us.
Felipe’s forward-thinking distillery, El Pandillo, is also a differentiating factor. Felipe, who is a civil and mechanical engineer by trade, built El Pandillo with the philosophy of staying true to tradition and his family’s legacy while blending eco-friendly Tequila. That philosophy includes: capturing rainwater through a water collection system built on the roof of the distillery (G4 is a blend of 50% rainwater and 50% springwater from the property); using traditional stone ovens that cook agave evenly by using a top- and-bottom cooking system, representing a practical and much more efficient mechanical approach; and, capturing the steam coming from the stills and converting it into energy— just to name a few.
● Blanco: $49.99. Distilled twice then bottled
● Reposado: $59.99. Aged for at least 6 months up to 9 months
● Añejo: $89.99. Aged at least 18 months
● Extra Añejo: $129.99. Aged at least 36 months
Felipe also has introduced a limited edition G4 55-month Extra Añejo; only about 800 bottles of this baby will be available in the entire country.
Keeping Tequila Honest
Botello broke down what it really means to create a high-end tequila in which consumers can invest their loyalty, their identities and, yes, their dollars: “To produce tequila you really only need three elements: agave, water, and yeast. As simple as that may seem, tequila production is one of the most complex and time-involved categories in the spirits world. Agave, for tequila the Weber Blue variety, is the raw material of tequila. Due to the regulated and uniqueness of agave farming and the length of the agave growth cycle (7-10+ years), and the specialty of that production— Tequila is really competing with itself for the use of these special and limited agave farms, to support both the production of all of specialized tequilas and support the giant, mechanized production brands like Cuervo and Patron. The ability to manage the farming resources, the land and the production of agave, seem to signal the ability to grow in a market that is maturing and segmenting in a way that has not been seen before.”
Botello continued, “Some of the concerns you would hear Felipe express are primarily about agave production, agave prices, and from a distillery standpoint: who is or is not producing right now, who is or is not using sustainable, eco-friendly practices, who is moving beyond traditional ways or opting to produce with chemical and mechanized methods, and even brands that use a lot of younger agaves and as a result do not yield the same quality tequila.”
Mexico prides Tequila for being true and authentic to its heritage. In fact, Tequila is often used as a cultural and national symbol. Tequila is an industry closely regulated by the Mexican government. The regulatory agency of Tequila Cosejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) or the Tequila Regulatory Council, is the compliance agency whose mission it is to secure the authenticity of Tequila production, helping to ensure the spirit is produced in accordance with strict guidelines, observing designated regions. The integrity of producers combined with the close scrutiny from the CRT, helps Tequila maintain its authenticity and identity to proudly hold its place as the spirit of a nation.