Saturday, May 25, 2024

Worth a Shot: Luis Cota of Tequila Comisario

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LS: I’m here with Luis Cota, President and CEO of Tequila Comisario. We’re going to be discussing today the story behind Tequila Comisario, as well as where Tequila Comisario is going. Luis, thank you so much for being here, I appreciate it.

LC: It’s a pleasure to be with you today, Lincoln.

LS: Please tell how you guys got started, let’s start from the beginning.

LC: Well – by coincidence, really. One of our partners, Rick Darnell, retired NBA player, was the host of the 2012 All-Star Game. At the after party, there were two booths left, and one was Hennessy, one was Tequila Comisario, and the Hennessy Booth was sort of empty. Nobody was there. And this little booth with the tequila was just jammed with people. So, Rick Darnell and Steve Reiss, my two partners, Rick says to Steve, “let’s go take a look.” Steve says, “we don’t drink. Why should we take a look at it? But, let’s go see what it is all about.” They went to look at this booth. They saw this tequila. As it ended, they met the owner who had literally started the brand a couple of years back and had done an incredibly beautiful job of developing a concept, a bottle, and a blend that was absolutely fabulous. Iin 2014, we ended up buying the brand from him. Since then, we’ve become the most awarded brand in the entire industry since its release. And Tequila Comisario, along with the industry overall, has been on this incredible roll. Tequila as an industry now is on track to be a $12 billion category. It’s going to bypass every category and it’s going to be bigger than vodka. As a matter of fact, in two years time, we’re going to pass vodka sales revenue wise, not volume wise. It will be the number one revenue producing category in the industry.

LS: I spoke with someone from the vodka category that was saying that tequila is the most competitive market right now, next to vodka, which has without a doubt always been the leader. But now tequila is one of their biggest competitors as a whole category.

LC: People don’t think about it, but, usually either you’re a brown spirit – you’re a scotch, bourbon, or whiskey, or you’re a white spirit – a gin, or vodka. Tequila competes in both segments. We have two age expressions, Reposado and Anejo. We have a Blanco that is becoming a darling of the mixology world. People love the spiciness, the pepperiness of our Blanco. And people can be so creative, these young bartenders, with what they can do with our Blanco for cocktails is truly impressive.

LS: Tell me some of the awards that you guys have won over the years because I’ve seen a lot of your accolades and it seems to be one of the most sought after tequilas in the world.

LC: As you well know, we’ve gotten a plethora of golds and double golds in 98 point ratings over the last couple of years. We’ve now got a total of 14 double golds. A double gold means that every single judge in that competition unanimously chose that particular brand as the best of the competition. And we’ve got 14 of those, which is unheard of. Nobody’s ever done that before. So, we’ve been very blessed to be able to have that kind of execution and that kind of quality. As a matter of fact, twice in one competition we’ve won double gold with all three expressions. So, that’s an incredible achievement. We’ve been very, very blessed with that. But that speaks to the quality of Tequila Comisario.

LS: Can you tell me about some of the incredible growth that I know you guys have been experiencing over the past year specifically?

LS: What do you think separates Tequila Comisario from the other tequila brands that are currently on the market today?

LC: This is an interesting question. Celebrity brands are a wonderful thing because they sell off of the shelf because of the celebrity that they are associated with, so those brands get tons of initial sales. I’m not so sure about the repeat sales for some of those brands, and they may not get a lot of repeat sales, but in our case, once somebody tastes Tequila Comisario, they are in love with it. We make a product that is really well made, really well balanced, and that competes globally with the best scotches, Bourbons or whiskeys.

LS: We were talking earlier, and you mentioned Tequila Comisario being not small batch, not boutique, but instead that you wanted to keep the integrity of the product, is that correct?

LC: Very much so. I think of Tequila Comisario as a tequila based on a fine wine program. Everything about what we do is incredible. The fruit sauce, for example, we’re still averaging seven years of age of the agave we harvest. When we take the distillate, we put it into a large tank, and we oxygenate it for 36 hours, and that oxygenation takes every drop and breaks it into a thousand molecules. And when it gets reconstituted, it’s got this slightly creamier, softer, more softer flavor. But, it doesn’t dilute the nature of agave, pepper, spice, and earthy flavors. So, the result is a combination of a fruit sauce with a beautiful mouthfeel. And then we age purposely in 2 to 3 year old barrels. So what you end up with is this beautifully well balanced tequila which has a touch of the creme nougat vanilla honey you want from the barrel, and it’s beautifully, well balanced. It’s got a great mouthfeel, and I think that creates a tremendous amount of repeat loyal consumers.

LS: We were talking earlier, and you mentioned Tequila Comisario being not small batch, not boutique, but instead that you wanted to keep the integrity of the product, is that correct?

LC: Very much so. I think of Tequila Comisario as a tequila based on a fine wine program. Everything about what we do is incredible. The fruit sauce, for example, we’re still averaging seven years of age of the agave we harvest. When we take the distillate, we put it into a large tank, and we oxygenate it for 36 hours, and that oxygenation takes every drop and breaks it into a thousand molecules. And when it gets reconstituted, it’s got this slightly creamier, softer, more softer flavor. But, it doesn’t dilute the nature of agave, pepper, spice, and earthy flavors. So, the result is a combination of a fruit sauce with a beautiful mouthfeel. And then we age purposely in 2 to 3 year old barrels. So what you end up with is this beautifully well balanced tequila which has a touch of the creme nougat vanilla honey you want from the barrel, and it’s beautifully, well balanced. It’s got a great mouthfeel, and I think that creates a tremendous amount of repeat loyal consumers. LS: Out of the Blanco, the Anejo, and the Reposado, how do you recommend people drink each?

LC: I tell people to drink their spirits the way they like it. I think a lot of people are purists. I’m one of those. I like mine on the rocks. I think our Anejo neat is an incredible experience. As a matter of fact, when I do tastings, I start with the Anejo first. It’s got such a beautiful, well balanced, softer, creamier flavor without losing the barrel and the agave. So I started with Anejo because it’s got beautiful sense of balance. Then, I go to Reposado because all of our fruit is highlands Agave, which tends to grow in a very porous clay soil. So, you get this agave that is sort of a floral forward fruit. And so our Reposado, which is my favorite, by the way, it’s really, really well made. And even though the Blanco hasn’t lost its pepperiness, it’s got a beautiful mouthfeel to it as well. Highlands Juice has a lot to do with the kind of quality we are.

LS: You guys also have a very special Extra Anejo, right?

LC: Our Extra Anejo, not only was it eight years old when it was harvested, but it was aged for eight more years in the barrel, so the project had 16 years in it before we released it. And so it’s been a really beautiful achievement. We only released 1000 bottles in December, sold out in 90 days, and at a $1,000 retail, you think, wow. When we did it last year, you know it’s going to be too high of a price today. The quality of our extra anejo is incredible. As a matter of fact, we’re going to release 2000 more bottles probably after the first of the year. We may have a few more before that, but we’re targeting for the first of the year 2000 more bottles. That will be a unique package, full crystal hand polished. It’s going to be a gorgeous package that’ll be in that segment. LS: And how will people be able to get that bottle when it comes out?

LC: Certainly I think it’s going to be very highly allocated, but it’ll certainly be available on our website of course, and select retailers. LS: What do you think we should expect in the next 3 to 5 years from Tequila Comisario? LC: One of the things that I’m working on is to do a whole program on Extra Anejos. We bought $2 million worth of aged stocks from a distillery that chose to get out of the branded business. So, we’re going to take all of it and we’re going to let them age a little bit longer. We’ll be developing a whole new package. Our logo is going to change slightly to become TC very stylized, very simple, very elegant, reflecting Tequila Comisario and or the collection of Tequila Comisario as well. There’ll be a selection of Extra Anejos at five, ten, fifteen year olds. A beautiful, simple, elegant Burgundian style label.

LS: How long does it be considered extra anejo. What’s the minimum years in this age? LC: By law in Mexico, you have to have at least 36 months of aging in the barrel to be Extra Anejo. You can have a lot more, but as you know, the more you age something, the more the barrel overtakes the fruit sauce. So, the critical trick is how do you age something for 8 or 10 years and still maintain a sense of what the earthiness, pepperiness and the spiciness of agave is all about. So far we’ve done that. LS: So, my last question is this – why should I buy Tequila Comisario?

LC: If you want the ultimate taste experience of what a true tequila should be like in a very elegant, well balanced way, try Tequila Comisario. It’s got a great mouthfeel bar none. I mean, yeah, we’ve got a pretty package and got lots of awards, but the ultimate experience is in your mouth. That’s why you should buy it. Tequila is by far and away the fastest growing spirits category. And within it, the ultra premium category of tequila is by far and away producing the most profit. We are in the heart of the ultra premium category, and the most awarded brand in that ultra premium category. Salud!

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