Shots No More: The Premiumization of Tequila

Whisky has always been the spirit of choice for collectors. Many people are willing to shell out hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars to purchase a bottle of rare or limited offering of Scotch. The explosion of the spirits industry in the last decade has led to the premiumization of other many other spirits including: rum, gin and even tequila.

Thinking back twenty-five years ago, it would have been absurd to think a tequila could be just as sought after as a scotch or cognac. “It’s commonplace today, and Patrón is widely credited with changing that perception of tequila,” says Greg Cohen, Patrón’s Vice President of Communications.

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Photo: Patrón Spirits Company

Brands like Patrón, Jose Cuervo and Don Julio are the reason the ultra-premium, high-end tequila category exists today. “Before Patrón was introduced in 1989, there simply wasn’t much of any 100% agave tequila that was exported from Mexico,” says Cohen. Most of the tequilas available at the time were “mixto” tequilas, which are produced from only 51% agave. “It hasn’t taken long for consumers to discover and appreciate the significant difference between a high-end, high-quality tequila and the 51% agave tequilas that used to define the category.”

For the most part, the tequila category is divided into two segments – the 51% agave “mixto” tequilas, and the higher-quality 100% agave tequilas. Tequilas made from 100% agave are very much leading the global growth of the category.

Lately, consumers are turning to tequila as opposed to their usual whisky. Spirits drinkers today have a repertoire of different spirits and different cocktails for different moods and occasions. “My grandfather had his drink – his only drink – and that’s what he enjoyed and he rarely ever considered trying something else.” Today, consumers embrace choice, experimentation, and appreciate a wide range of different tastes. “Ultra-premium tequila has very much benefited from that evolution.”

Cohen has also seen an increase in the purchase of limited edition tequilas. “A good tequila is just like a fine scotch or cognac, and just like those spirits, increasingly people are seeking limited edition offerings. For example, we recently introduced a limited edition extra aged tequila called Patrón Extra Añejo 7 Años.” The newest offering was aged for seven years– quite unusual for a tequila. “When it’s gone it’s gone. We can’t make more.” People who truly value and appreciate luxury tequila, offerings like this are a real find.

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Photo: Patrón Spirits Company

Time will tell if limited edition bottles of tequila will actually increase in value. “In the case of our Patrón Extra Añejo 7 Años, that’s a special bottling, created from barrels that were aged in the perfect conditions for seven years. We can’t, and won’t, make more.”

Years ago, tequila was a spirit you’d only put in a Margarita or maybe a Tequila Sunrise, if you weren’t shooting it with salt and lime to kill the taste. “But an ultra-premium tequila is a sophisticated, flavorful, high-quality tequila that is delicious on the rocks (without the salt and lime), and also mixes perfectly into any number of cocktails.” Pretty much anything you can typically make with vodka, tastes great with premium tequila instead. “When we look at the premiumization of tequila, it’s being led not just by consumer awareness of the spirits, but also by bartenders who are creating some truly inventive and delicious cocktails.”

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