Tequila fascinates me. Its taste is unlike any other spirit in the world — rich and herbaceous but at the same time floral with notes of citrus. The palate is both intense and beautiful. And, as I carry on my 30-year journey exploring this category, I find the variety of styles is nearly endless. Of the many brands I have worked on, one stands out from the rest: El Tesoro de Don Felipe, the “treasure” of Don Felipe.
Back in 1996, I was hand-picked to lead a new marketing portfolio — a set of luxury brands that represented the best in each of their respective categories. The tequila selected? El Tesoro.
To better understand the brand, I naturally visited the distillery. La Alteña, in Mexico. (If you read my last blog, you know how I feel about experiences).
The distillery was unlike any other I had visited. It was rural, at the heart of a small community. As I approached, I was surprised by what I saw: a large stone wheel, what I learned to be a “tahona,” being pulled in a never-ending circle and crushing the agave plants in the pit below it. (This process is thought to be nearly half a millennium old!)
The ovens stood open, waiting to receive the piñas (heads/hearts) of the weber blue agave, each being faithfully trimmed and split by the jimadors. The fields lay adjacent to the distillery and just beyond the ovens I could see the copper stills and open fermenters where workers diligently watched over their tasks like doting parents.
Sunlight lit the distillery and a breeze flowed through it, stirring the exotic aromas of fermenting agave and distilled tequila. You could almost taste the essence of the spirit through the heat of the air. Electricity ran for a mere two hours a day, only to allow fax orders to come in. Otherwise, the only way of work were the traditional hand-crafted methods started by the founder Don Felipe in the early 1900s. El Tesoro was a tequila made as it had been for generations. The distillery was a “living history” that time seemingly hadn’t touched.
It was there that I met Don Felipe and his son, Carlos Camarena. Two gracious hosts that lived, breathed, and loved what they did: creating the world’s best tequila. They introduced the workers as family and explained the tequila making traditions handed down from generation to generation — Don Felipe’s laborious and meticulous methods for trimming, cooking, crushing and distilling agave.
THIS is what lights my world on fire as a spirit’s marketer — the passion of the people who create spirits, the communities that thrive because of brands like El Tesoro, and the living history of the processes that they continue to embrace and protect.
Over the eight years I worked with El Tesoro, I sought to celebrate the traditions that defined the unique taste of this spirit. I recall a visit to New Mexico with Don Felipe who regaled us by singing old Mexican folk songs at dinner. The heart of the family is truly in each and every bottle of El Tesoro.
Today, El Tesoro de Don Felipe continues to be a beloved tequila on the back bar of the top accounts in the United States. And sometimes, when I’m lucky, I am able to hear a Camarena family member speak about their family legacy. I listen, once again, to the stories of Don Felipe and his father, and celebrate the gift of having a place in the birth and life of this storied brand.
El Tesoro De Don Felipe® 100% agave tequilas, 40% Alc./Vol. © 2022 Fielding & Jones Ltd., Chicago, IL.