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Ultra-premium tequila is winning over wealthy Americans

December 7, 2016
Produced at this vast hacienda in the highlands of Jalisco, Tequila Patrón is the ultra-premium market leader.

Produced at this hacienda in the Jalisco highlands, Tequila Patrón is the ultra-premium market leader.

Long belittled as a cheap party drink to be downed with lime and salt, tequila has fought hard to rebuild its image in recent years. At its best, it’s now recognized as a refined spirit comparable to Cognac or single-malt Scotch. High-end, limited-edition bottles sell for well over $1,000 and it has even become a trendy venture for celebrities, with the likes of George Clooney, Justin Timberlake, and P Diddy all launching their own luxury brands.

The top end of the market is where the strongest growth and biggest profits are found today. While total tequila sales increased by 106 percent across the US from 2002 to 2015, ultra-premium sales grew by a staggering 652 percent in that period, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. But with every new brand that enters this crowded market the harder it becomes to distinguish between tequilas of genuine quality and not-so-cheap imitations.

A jimador demonstrates how to cut the leaves from the agave piña at Tequila Patrón.

A jimador demonstrates how to cut the leaves from the agave piña at Tequila Patrón.

With competition intensifying, leading brands are turning to increasingly lavish, experimental creations and even high-tech collaborations in a bid to stand out.

Casa Noble, an ultra-premium brand founded in 1997 by José “Pepe” Hermosillo, just launched a limited-edition extra añejo dubbed Alta Belleza (“highest beauty”), which retails at $1,200 per bottle. Triple distilled, aged for five years in French white oak and finished off with six months in To Kalon cabernet sauvignon barrels, it is limited to just 563 bottles. A single serving at one of the few bars that stocks it will set you back up to $300.

Casa Noble is produced at La Cofradía distillery in the town of Tequila, Jalisco.

Casa Noble is produced at La Cofradía distillery in the town of Tequila, Jalisco.

“We wanted to create something special, something with character and punch,” Hermosillo tells me at the 27-acre La Cofradía estate where Casa Noble is produced in the town of Tequila. Mango seeds crunch underfoot as we walk past rows of blue agave, cacti, mango, and lime trees to the barrel room, where the inimitable guitar licks of Carlos Santana—Hermosillo’s friend and business partner, who was born here in Jalisco state—drift over the sound-system…

Click here to read this article in full at Munchies. 

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