Tequila and Mescal: poor image

Tequila and Mescal have a poor image and there is a lack of understanding, according to a Mexican government body.

Pro-Mexicopromotion is exhibiting at Vinexpo this week to start the process of improving the image and understanding of the country’s unique spirit categories.

This is the first time the organisation has exhibited at the Bordeaux show. It is showcasing six tequila and two mescal distillers.

The Tequila category is Europe is dominated by four brands, Sierra, Heradura, Cuervo and Patron, with significant promotional budgets. The smaller producers believe perceptions of Tequila are poor, and there is virtually no understanding of Mescal. They would like to promote a more positive image, improve knowledge and gain awareness of their brands with a view to grabing a larger share of export sales.

“We must create awareness of premium tequila in Europe,” said Carlos Hernández Pérez, Cofradia’s export manager. “Tequila is getting a bad image,” he says. “People drink it as shots. But 100% agave tequila should be discovered as a sipping spirit to delight the palate.”

Tequila is distilled from Mexico’s blue agave plant to produce two qualities: premium, 100% agave spirit and Mixto, agave blended with up to 51% other spirits. Mixto probably accounts for 90% of sales.

The smaller and medium sized distillers such as La Cofradia or Distillería Santa Lucia producing 100% agave spirit claim that Mixto damages the image of Tequila. Europe accounts for circa 10% of premium Tequila. Most of that finds its way into other European markets via Germany and Spain. Germany in particular is a large re-exporter; and the UK to a smaller extent.

Rodrigo Castro Vieyra, international sales and logistics manager for Distilleria Santa Luca, says Germany is a huge bulk importer of Tequila. “In many cases the spirit is rectified, mixed with other spirit and re-exported.”

Mescal, meanwhile, made from other varieties of agave using small artisanal methods, claims to be benefiting from the tarnished image of Tequila.

Mario Mendoza of family-owned Mezcal Sin Piedad brand sees Tequila’s image issue as an opportunity. “People want authenticity. Mescal is 100% agave and has a distinctive, smokey aroma and full taste. Chefs and mixologists are discovering it. Mescal is the coming thing.”

See Christian Davis’s feature on Tequila in next month’s Drinks International.