Friday, February 11, 2011

Behind the Scenes with Riazul Tequila

As one of our best selling brands, Riazul has certainly made an impression on the market with their distinctive bottles, fascinating history and, of course, their premium tequilas. We interviewed Iñaki Orozco, the founder of Riazul Tequila, and Nicholas Diamond, the VP of Operations for the Northeast, to bring you the true story behind the brand and show the hard work and dedication that is required to create this exceptional spirit.

What is the history behind the Riazul brand?

Nicholas: Some tequilas claim they have a family history steeped in rich folklore, however Riazul's claim to fame stems from the Mexican War of Independence, and the beautiful Maria Higinia Gomez who served courageously as high counselor to the Mexican Rebel Leaders. It was for her dedication that she became the beneficiary of 10,000 acres of land in the highlands of Jalisco, where the "tierra roja", or red soil, is fertile, rich and aromatic. After giving most of the land away to the revolutionaries who fought for Mexico's freedom, Maria was left with 620 acres. These acres passed down through her family, remaining untouched for two hundred years, until a precocious young man became the beneficiary of the land in the late 1990's.

Iñaki Orozco knew that the land could be cultivated and serve as farmland for raising agave plants, and seeing a value for the land, sought out the elders of the family for their blessing. Initially planting 100 agave shoots, the agave crop flourished and over time Iñaki worked to plant more than 175,000 more shoots. The high elevation, cool climate, and red volcanic soils known only to Jalisco, are the perfect combination of elements for the cultivation of the agave used for tequila. At first, Iñaki simply planned to grow agave as raw product for other tequila companies. It was much later that his "sueno" or dream grew, and he began thinking about launching a private label brand for restaurants and bars. The family thought he had lost his mind.

Riazul Blanco and Riazul Añejo were introduced at the end of 2008 as the first tequilas in the Riazul portfolio. Riazul Reposado launched in September 2009 and word is spreading fast about this barrel-oaked tequila that is aged for nine months.

What inspired the creation of Riazul Tequila?

Iñaki: I wanted to provide American consumers with a true, premium tequila iconic of my country. Well-sourced and processed agave should ALWAYS deliver a good product, but unfortunately there are a lot of expensive, low quality tequilas out there. This is clearly a sourcing problem, because although there are a few techniques to personalize the profile of the tequila, the production process is pretty straightforward. We at Riazul will never have this problem due to our favorable soil conditions and endless supply of quality agave.

What were some of the difficulties encountered while starting your business?

Iñaki: The biggest on-going challenge has been to find the right distributor for our products, as well as finding the right people to represent the brand in different markets.

What sets Riazul apart from the competition?

Nicholas: Riazul Premium introduces a sexy, elegant and classic presentation from the moment you first spot the bottle, to your first "responsible sip" of the product. Created from quality agave and expertly produced, it's the tequila itself, or "the juice", that makes Riazul an exceptional contender in the tequila world. There are at present, more than 4,300 tequila products in the market, of which 3,500 are being distributed in the United States. Few measure up to the distinctive, elegant presentation of the bottle and the perfect chemistry held within, that can only be Riazul. When one experiences the Anejo for the first time, the reaction is always "Wow". It is simply said, "unlike any other tequila on the market". Perhaps it is the American and French Oak barrels that the elixir is "rested" or aged in, perhaps it is the soil and the plants, or perhaps it is the ingenious idea that tequila should be relished, enjoyed and savored. The complete harmony of all of the afore mentioned and more is poured into every bottle, delivering the smoothest, most consistent and undoubtedly incomparable tequila ever tasted.

Nicholas, how and why did you get involved with the company?

Nicholas: I met Iñaki through a mutual friend here in NYC. Inaki, who had moved to the US from Mexico, attended Business School with my friend at Rice University in Houston, TX. After Business School, Iñaki was looking for investors to get Riazul off the ground. After meeting Inaki and getting my hands on the business plan, I immediately loved his passion and the idea behind launching a product like Riazul Tequila. I loved the idea that Iñaki and Riazul were integrated all the way down to the soil in Jalisco, and there was real history behind the brand.

Initially, I was just an investor in the brand, but just as the brand was ready to launch in October 2009, I decided to join Iñaki as a full time partner and started to learn more about the business, as well as growing and developing a brand - a task 8 years on Wall Street could never teach you. We just completed two full years of operations and I am happy to report that we are now sold in 11 states in the US and sales of Riazul are growing monthly.

Can we expect any new releases from Riazul in the near future?

Iñaki: An extra-añejo is our most likely addition to the portfolio at some point in 2011. We are also looking into a value brand.

Every sip of Riazul tequila is born from a land rich in history and a prideful people who value family, friends, and self-determination above all. So take your time to truly appreciate Riazul's complex balance of flavors, and always remember to "Flow Freely"!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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