Tequila Enemigo Founders Explain How George Clooney Changed The Tequila Business

Bridget Arsenault

Premium tequila is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the spirit business. When Casamigos, the boutique tequila brand dreamed up by George Clooney and Rande Gerber sold to Diageo for $1 billion dollars last year, that deal reverberated through the entire industry. Designed to be sipped from long-stemmed Champagne flutes not shot, Tequila Enemigo is aged in custom-made oak barrels and within weeks of coming to market was already winning awards.  Luis Simoes, the group beverage director for the Birley Group, which includes Annabel’s, Mark’s Club and Harry’s Bar, describes Enemigo’s tequila’s as “revolutionary”. We spoke with the brand’s 28 year-old co-founder and co-director Robin Clough to understand more about the story behind the brand and where they’re looking to take it.

1. What makes Tequila Enemigo different from its competitors and who are the competitors?

Our brand is built around breaking existing tequila stereotypes, our name Enemigo directly translates to enemy or adversary. From the very beginning we knew that launching the next big luxury tequila required us to change the perception of tequila from the ground up. From flavour profile, to the elegant design of our bottles and labels all the way through to our iconic serving style, neat in long stemmed flutes, or simply with sparkling mineral water and lime in one of the lowest calories cocktails in the world – everything we do is to showcase what an incredibly versatile spirit tequila is and how it very much deserves its place at the table at the most refined bars, restaurants and events.

2. How is Tequila now being drunk in the UK and rest of world compared to a decade ago?

Ten years ago, the vast majority of tequila available in everyday locations were ‘Mixtos’ meaning that they were not made with 100% Blue Weber Agave. In Mexico these tequilas are known as the second rate at best and often referred to as ‘Gringo Wine’. These tequilas were the foundation of the negative stereotypes that we are actively breaking today. The vast majority of tequila served was as a shot requiring salt and lime to be tolerable or in incredibly sugary margaritas mostly focused on covering up the taste of tequila.

Today, 100% Blue Weber Agave Tequila is now available from nearly every drinking establishment throughout the country—from Michelin-starred restaurants,  exclusive members clubs, and the top bars in London, all the way to the rural country pub. Tequila serves and cocktails are now features on the vast majority of cocktail menus with most establishments having two to five brands of tequila available. And ‘Sipping tequila’ is becoming a term that the average consumer has heard and even tried for themselves. The best example of this is that exclusive members club Annabel’s opened their new establishment this year with a Mexican restaurant on the top floor with the largest tequila collection outside of Mexico – not something you would have expected 10 years ago. Lastly, other major tequila brands have now focused on the premium space, with premium tequilas being one of the fastest growing spirit categories worldwide. Most recently the take over completion of Patron by Bacardi for $5.1 billion and the acquisition of the George Clooney fronted Casamgios by Diageo in a deal valued at over $1billion.

3. Tell me a little bit about the story behind Tequila Enemigo and how you got started?
The Founding Directors of the company are Robin Clough, Max Davies-Gilbert and Sebastian Gonzalez. Robin (28) and Max (28) were childhood friends (from 6 days and 12 days old!) and were always looking for a project to work on together.Fast forward to 2012, when Sebastian and Robin were both doing their MBAs in California. They visited Mexico frequently, both  as part of their course and for time off (Sebastian is Mexican and lives there).

On one of their first trips to Mexico, Sebastian and Robin went for lunch at a very typical street-side restaurant for a late breakfast. The owner came to greet them and asked if they might try his tequila. Robin was apprehensive of sipping a tequila, let alone at that time of day based on the previous expectations and the spirit’s reputation, but what was tasted that day broke all existing stereotypes, and highlighted an incredible opportunity to build the reputation of tequila, starting with London, and then the rest of the world.

After that trip, Robin met with Max in London with samples of a similar tequila tried that day, with the tequila bringing out the same apprehension and then surprise from Max. The company began in 2013. With the brand focused on opposing marketing over product quality and to be the enemy of  shot culture, we called it Enemigo, meaning enemy, opponent or adversary in Spanish.

Between 2013 and August 2017 when we finally launched the company, there were multiple exploratory trips to Tequila (north of Guadalajara), hundreds of public and company taste tests, designing the bottle label, becoming experts on Mexican export law and tequila production licenses, to acquiring all the necessary licenses for the UK.

Days after launching in the UK,  Enemigo 00 Extra Anejo was awarded the Masters medal at the Luxury Spirits Masters – an accolade serving as justification that all the hard work, long nights, and instinctive decision making had paid off. In January 2018, the founding team closed an external investment round valuing the company at >$5million focusing on doubled efforts in the UK and Europe, and beginning preparation for an initial launch in the US.

4. Did you ever worry you couldn’t do it?

Before completing our MBAs, Sebastian and I approached our Entrepreneurship professor with the concept of launching a premium tequila company initially focused on the UK market. The professor was quick to reject the idea with brutal words: ‘This is the worst idea I have ever heard’ and some added expletives. Enemigo has come on leaps and bounds since this moment and has proudly offered said professor a lifetime supply of Tequila Enemigo.

5. What’s the most unexpected thing about the story behind this brand?

We would probably say its the founding team in relationship to how far the brand has come and plans to go.  All of us started this company while in our 20s, and Robin and Max (both now 28), and Sebastian (33) are the youngest premium tequila founders, and potentially the youngest premium spirit founders in the world. The drinks industry is dominated by relationships developed over decades of working together, and for such a young team to not only enter it, but win awards and win big accounts from traditional brands is a testament to the team and company ethos.

6. When you are chatting with someone at a dinner party, how do you describe what you do?

Simply:  founder of an award-winning luxury tequila company. Trust me, it tastes completely different to what you’re expecting.

7. What are your aspirations for the brand?

Our goal is to be the brand synonymous with luxury tequila, and known as the leader of the tequila revolution. A liquid known for its purity, and it never requiring sugary or overpowering mixers to be enjoyed.

8. How has Casamigos helped the industry and how has it hurt the industry?

Casamigos has been an incredible success story for the tequila industry worldwide, and any time that happens there is always a knock-on-effect, especially for younger brands like ours. Our job is to build off their success, be incredibly smart about where we invest our resources, and continue to bring an excellent product to market and let that do our talking for us. Casamigos hasn’t done any damage to the industry at all, if anything it has done the opposite. The scale of that benefit will all depend on their results over the next few years—if they continue to justify their large exit value, and win customers and accounts based on merit and not the significantly enlarged marketing budgets that many other spirit brands utilise then the industry can only benefit.

9. Finally, how do you drink your tequila?

Enemigo 89 Anejo Cristalino neat in a long-stemmed flute. Or, for a summer party combine Mineral 89 and Enemigo 89 Anejo Cristalino with sparkling mineral water and a dash of lime to taste.

Bridget ArsenaultBridget Arsenault

source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bridgetarsenault/2018/05/14/learn-how-george-clooney-changed-the-tequila-business/#5b7368455c3b 

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