The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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Page 42 of 119

{ }  43 { entrepreneurs } IT'S TAKEN 20 YEARS BUT TEQUILA HAS FINALLY shed its sophomoric image and graduated to the big league. The super-premiumization of the category, which has grown by 72 percent over the last decade*, has reached triple-digit price points and produced consumers who are confident about quality when trading up. It's estimated that 30 to 40 new tequila brands are being introduced to the market each year. Given this dynamic and highly-competitive landscape, the resources and talent required to propel a fledging artisanal brand to success can't be underestimated. Of the key milestones that mark tequila's rise from joven shooters to cask-conditioned extra añejo, the practice of aging reposado and añejo tequilas in white French oak was pivotal. Introduced by artisanal brand creator and tequilero David Ravandi in the early 1990s in a tequila line that he subsequently sold, the practice is now de rigueur for ultra-premium aged tequilas. Inspired by the oak-aging regimes favored by winemakers, Ravandi has developed products that were significantly differentiated both in quality and in their handcrafted, luxury packaging. The result: a sophisticated flavor profile that virtually guaranteed success for one of the industry's first artisanal brands. By 2010, Ravandi had another brand family—123 Organic Tequila—on the drawing board. Differentiated not only by sustainable practices and organic certification both by the USDA and the EU, 123 Organic Tequila embraced the cultural heritage of tequila through the images and legends of its origin. Once again, timing was key; 123 Organic Tequila was among the first certified organic ultra-premium tequilas to emerge on the market. Emphasis on terroir and authenticity, traits that have been integral to Ravandi's projects for more than 20 years, have become the new calling cards for artisanal brands. New oak aging plays a significant role in the craftsmanship of 123, which spends the requisite amount of time in lightly toasted white American oak. Long recognized by the industry gatekeepers for products that consistently over deliver, Ravandi pushed the premiumization envelope even further with the 2013 release of 123 Organic Tequila Extra Añejo (Diablito), a single-estate ultra-premium tequila that spends 40 months in white French oak. As in wine, extreme diurnal shift contributes complexity Diablito, which is grown at an altitude of 6,000 feet, further reinforcing the advantage of terroir. Ravandi's latest contender—El Luchador Organic Tequila, a single-estate, distiller's- proof blanco—has just been released, with rested and aged versions to follow. In this brand, with graphics derived from Mexican lucha libre culture, he marries French and American oak for a 110-proof spirit with racy agave, lemon pepper and sea salt aromas and creamy, full-bodied flavors. Ravandi has made quality the top priority of his brand creation strategies: New French and American white oak, terroir, authenticity and organic production have become the mantras of the ultra- and super-premium proposition. His flavor profiles and packaging designs have been emulated by larger, commercial brands and, through being first to market with products that have propelled the category forward, he has inspired the premiumization of independently-owned artisanal brands. *All statistics from the Beverage Dynamics report "Tequila's Rising Star," May 2014. The Contender BRAND CREATOR DAVID RAVANDI STAYS ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE PREMIUMIZATION CURVE by Deborah Parker Wong Brand creator David Ravandi, founder of 123 Organic Tequila and the just-released El Luchador Organic Tequila. 123 Organic Tequila (pronounced Uno Dos Tres) was one of the first certified organic ultra- premium tequilas to emerge on the market. 123 Organic Tequila (Diablito) is an ultra- premium extra añejo tequila aged for 40 months in French white oak. El Luchador Organic Tequila derives its label from Mexican lucha libre culture. Bottled at 110 proof, this blanco packs punch. PHOTO: MARTIN LOF

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