Drink Life Beverages

What’s In a Name? How the ‘Agave Spirits’

While the tequila category has seen explosive growth for the last couple of years, slowly but steadily

But it is also a term that is starting to show up more frequently on bottles in

and Mexico, not only as descriptors of regional spirits (including raicilla and bacanora), but as a category

“The initial growth of mezcal brought more interest in other agave spirits from Mexico,” says Andres Moran,

Indeed, Zack Romaya, owner of Old Town Tequila in San Diego, CA, has watched this trend up

This interest is perhaps due to the fact that tequila’s popularity has led to more industrial

This is underscored by the booming sales of products like Casamigos and Cincoro

“For the moment, the answer seems to be ‘agave spirits’,” he adds

Her great grandfather began the mezcal-making tradition, and in 1978 the family bought their first palenque, before regulations

Earlier this year, Real Minero decided to decertify, with recent bottles no longer labeled as mezcal; they

Graciela Ángeles Carreño and horticulturist Isaac Arianes in the greenhouse at the Real Minero palenque in

”For me the word mezcal has lost its meaning because it does not respect the culture or

“Instead of fighting over the word mezcal, they embraced this other path,” says Garrone

This now cult brand is produced by the Jiménez family, who also started making tequila long

In fact, the Jiménez family is related to the founder of Herradura tequila, stretching their tequila-making

They stopped using the word “tequila” on their labels in 2018

(Both the CRM and the CRT charge a tax on each liter produced, meaning high-volume producers contribute

“The work we’ve done over the last 20 years gave us some comfort in believing that consumers

“We produce everything ourselves, including the raw materials… and we have built up trust over the years

Of course, the semantics of agave spirits distract from a deeper conversation about what makes a product “

“Not following official rules for the tequila category means that we can play with our products more

George Spirits in the San Francisco Bay Area, which first produced its “Agave Azul” products in 2008, using

And more recently, spirits maker Top Shelf International announced it was taking advantage of an abandoned Australian

It harvested hijuelos and bulbils from agaves the government planted a decade before, and used them to

Production will begin in the second half of 2023, when a new distillery is finished, and the planted

“The world does not need another tequila brand,” says Trent Fraser, who heads Top Shelf’s Australian

“There has been absolute saturation since the celebrity movement and unfortunately with that, credibility in product creation

Until recently, Fraser was the president of Volcan De Mi Tierra, the premium tequila made by luxury

“We have an entirely blank canvas,” Fraser says, adding that although they will include the best of

“There is a small, relatively affluent niche market that has been educated mostly via social media about

That niche is large enough to make a real difference for small, traditional distillers,” he says

“This is not a bottle you find in Walmart,” says Jiménez

And, as Szczech points out, there’s a certain cachet that both producers and consumers can claim

As for the rest of the market, exposure to agave spirits will likely depend on the influence

“It’s really the bartender that guides the customer to new products and gets them excited about

“If the bartender grabs a bottle and says, “I have a great new mezcal for you to