Tequila: Never a dull moment

24 October, 2018

Jordi Xifra, marketing manager for Beveland Distillers, with Tequila Tres Sombreros in its stable, has a similar view. “The consumer doesn’t yet know the differences between mezcal and tequila. They know they both come from Mexico, from the agave plant,” he says.

“Mezcal is in a very different category to premium tequila, with a number of inherent differences,” points out Patrón Tequila chief marketing officer Lee Applbaum, although he adds: “The interest in agave spirits can only be a good thing for tequila.”

For Claes Puebla Smith, founder of Stockholm-based Mexican spirit distributor Alias Smith, the issue lies rather with a growing consumer trend towards hand-crafted spirits in general, and tequila’s place within this.

“You’ve got a global trend where people are less interested in buying industrial products. They want to know where it was made, and how, and are willing to pay more for hand crafted. The tequila industry is dominated by industrial businesses that looked upon the growing mezcal industry with interest, saying they had no chance to make a business out of it,” he says. “But the mezcal industry has proved them wrong, and it has been clear in making a distinction between industrial and hand-crafted production.”

As a result, he believes, the focus is moving away from tequila, which may represent significantly more volume than mezcal, but isn’t growing at nearly the same pace. “Until six years ago tequila had the monopoly on attention from media and influencers talking about Mexican spirits, but it doesn’t have that anymore,” Smith adds.


Meanwhile, the thing everyone else seems to be talking about – and drinking – is gin. Cocktail culture is undoubtedly important to tequila globally, as are simpler spirit-and-mixers, and these are the arenas in which gin and similar categories are having so much success. But Mexico’s main spirit has a few advantages of its own – not least its home country.

“I do like my gins, but tequila has great history and a big identity. When you talk about tequila you talk about Mexico, which is not the case with gin, which is made widely around the world,” says Eduardo Gomez, founder and director of Tequila & Mezcal Fest UK. “The dynamism and quality of 100% agave tequila, together with the great work of the Mexican government promoting Mexico as a tourist destination means that more people around the world are encountering tequila in a different setting, away from the shots and slammers of the past,” he adds.

“Cocktail culture is booming and so is tequila, for it proves a diverse ingredient to create appealing drinks – new ones or twists on classics,” says Ingwersen-Matthiesen.

Londoño agrees. “You only need to go out anywhere in the UK, one of the fastest-growing markets for the past 10 years, to find tequila more often on cocktail menus, with better ranges in places such as pubs and non-Mexican restaurants too,” he says, adding: “Tequila and mezcal can compete with gin any day, neat or in mixology.”

Speaking of neat, there’s relatively untapped potential at the very top end too, where tequila has the añejos and extra añejos to compete, but yet remains to truly take its place among the prestigious cognacs and whiskies on the top shelf. Smith agrees there’s potential here, but thinks there’s still work to be done. “It’s another challenge. There are phenomenal products, but the packaging is generally very poor,” he says.

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