Agave Spirits have seen volumes increase by 18% in 2021, following volume growth of 6% across 2014-2019 and expected to grow further at 7% volume over the period 2021-2026. Tequila in particular, has grown exponentially over the last 25 years with the USA remaining the key tequila market with a staggeringly large 77% share. So it should come as no surprise that some spirit brands from outside of Mexico have tried to access this demand, whether by drawing inspiration from Mexico or having it mixed with agave spirit.
Note that data is available for both production and sales from the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera (CNIT) and I have reported on it previously – link below.
For Reference – ‘Tequila Data – from México to the World’
The IWSR has also reported on the rise of alternative agave-based spirits, produced both in and outside of Mexico, by brand owners wishing to tap into the increasing demand for tequila and mezcal. As reported “brand owners are tapping into the growing demand for agave spirits in a number of ways, for example, by producing spirits using agave plants grown outside Mexico; by importing Mexican agave and distilling elsewhere; or even by investing in traditional Mexican agave spirits. Many brand owners are also innovating and investing in alternative agave-based spirits draw on tequila and mezcal’s heritage and production processes.”
“Alternative agave spirits are already being produced in countries outside Mexico – and, over a longer timescale, these could challenge tequila in meeting growing global agave spirit demand,” says Jose Luis Hermoso, Research Director, IWSR Drinks Market Analysis
Agave grows wild in places such as South Africa, Australia, India and along Mexico’s northern border with the US. There are also agave growers (and now distillers) in US states such as California, Texas and Arizona as well as Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and elsewhere, although California was the early pioneer. Their earliest experiments with agave distillation date back to 2007 when Lance Winters, master distiller at St. George Spirits brought agave from Mexico, then processed and distilled it at the Alameda distillery.
Ventura Spirits from California is another distillery experimenting with agave distillation in California. They have produced a number of limited edition batches of their agave distillate spirit and their project to develop this initiative has been reported on – click here for the full article.
In Australia, over 14 years ago the government experimented with Blue Webber agave as a potential new agricultural industry. The initiative was ultimately abandoned and the plants were left behind. This created an opportunity for Trent Fraser, one of the founders of premium Tequila Volcan de mi Tierra and now involved as the CEO of Australian spirit producer Top Shelf.
The Australian Agave Project is looking to create an Australian produced agave spirit category and will support the development of new agave spirit brands from outside of Mexico by companies such as Top Shelf.
Over in New Zealand, you can find TeKiwi 100% Blue Agave Tequilana. It is made with Weber Blue Agave Tequilana plants grown on their own Agave Farm and Distillery in Golden Bay, New Zealand. The plants thrive in their Pacific island home, growing at sea level in rich alluvium soil, using water drawn from the deep aquifers of Golden Bay, the same waters that feed the world renowned massive freshwater spring, Te Waikoropupū Springs.
In South Africa, Leonista Spirit was launched in 2017 by Sarah Joanna Kennan. “Leonista” means “Lion spirit” and the brand was the first 100% Karoo agave spirit in South Africa, made in the traditional Mexican way. The production process follows an old recipe used in Mexico to make agave spirits like Mezcal. It requires smoke and fire, hence Leonista has a smokey flavour similar to that of a Mezcal.
Taking a very different approach, one example of two distinct distilling practices meeting together in a glass is the Brockmans Agave Cut. This small batch release of the English brand Brockmans Gin cut with Mexican Agave spirit, creates a unique blend of gin botanicals and verdant agave flavours, all subtly enhanced with a hint of pink grapefruit.
Brockmans ‘perfect’ serve is an Agave Cut Paloma, consisting of the spirit added to a mix of lime juice, pink grapefruit juice, agave syrup and soda.
Holyrood Distillery in Scotland also looked towards Mexico for inspiration when launching a limited edition for World Whisky Day in 2023. The 60% abv New Make spirit is rich and smoky with Mexican lager yeast also used in the production process, resulting in layers of citrus with a sharp and bitter taste associated with agave spirits.
As reported on The Spirits Business magazine, Calum Rae, assistant distillery manager, said: “Experimenting and playing with flavours is a fundamental part of what we do at Holyrood Distillery. Each of our new make spirits showcase different ingredients not commonly seen in modern distilling, including heritage barleys, speciality malts, and a diverse range of yeast strains.”
Some brands have decided to look towards Mexican flavours for inspiration, such as Chamoy, a Mexican condiment that has spicy-sweet nuances that mix well with a tang of lime. It is usually used as a topping in fruits, drizzled on nacho chips, mixed into drinks, and served as a dip for meats. It is also popularly made into candy and although not indigenous to Mexico, it is an Asian invention that got a Latino twist.
This mix of sweet and spicy is what Alamo Distilling Co. had in mind when releasing their South Town Chamoy Spirit, a 37.5% abv liqueur from Texas.
Similarly, Stoli premium vodka has followed suit with Stoli Chamoy, a 2023 release made with natural chamoy flavours developed for the Mexican palate and recognising Latin America as the 2nd most important region for the brand globally.
“With Stoli Chamoy we want to bring a small piece of Mexico to the world. It is a “Mexican style” flavor that encapsulates the culture and flavors of our country. It is also a way to extend the Stoli portfolio, giving pleasure to different palates of our consumers, accompanied by new ways to enjoy a premium flavoured vodka” comments Ana Hernández, Business Unit Manager Mexico
The bottle design is inspired by traditional Mexican art and modern art trends with the main goal of artist Guillermo “Memo Malo” to show colours, patterns and symbols that create an emotional connection. He was inspired by the worldview of pre-Hispanic indigenous people and how through flavour you can make your senses explode.