By Chris Meehan | Jul 08, 2014
Location: Englewood, CO
Employees: Colorado 8-10. Mexico 70-80.
Colorado isn’t the ideal place to headquarter a tequila company—after all Jalisco, Mexico, home to all tequila, is nearly 1,600 miles from Denver—but that’s what Arta Tequila did when Tony Mayer purchased the company in 2011.
“Growing up he [Mayer] and his father would travel to Mexico on father-son trips,” explains Arta Tequila President Randy Pierce. “They would bootleg or take back to Colorado fine tequilas that the tequila makers would make but not sell—basically their own private reserves. It was a really great experience he had with his father. He ended up wanting to buy a tequila company to sort of pay homage to him after he died.”
Family legacy is reflected in Mexico, where the tequila is crafted by a third-generation master distiller using blue agave grown on a single 11th generation, family-run estate, according to Pierce. “We’re one of the only tequilas that this family produces that they export,” he says.
The family in Arenal, Mexico, handles everything from growing the plants to aging, distilling and bottling the line of tequilas. “Everything has to be done in Mexico,” Pierce says. “Really it’s Chacho, his two brothers and his father. They are the key folks we operate with.”
But with more than 1,000 brands of tequila, how does Arta distinguish itself? “We do things quite differently since we’re artisanal and boutique from a craft standpoint. Our processing is very different,” Pierce contends.
“We have a proprietary water source. We don’t use pesticides. We have a fruit-based yeast versus a bread-based yeast that other companies use,” Pierce explains. “We can start claiming gluten free if we decide to take on that segment.”
Arta also goes the extra step. Where many silver or unpaged tequilas are double-distilled, Arta’s is triple-distilled. Its reposado is aged in used Kentucky bourbon barrels up to 11 months—just shy of becoming an añejo. Likewise the añejo is aged up to 30 months.
Barreling imparts flavor to tequila and is an important part of the process. “We have a barrel guy in Mexico that re-chars those barrels. That’s sort of where a lot of the art from comes into play where they re-char the inside of the barrels to enhance the flavor as the reposado and añejo age,” Pierce explains.
The company also is introducing an extra añejo, aged for about five years—two years more than the minimum, Pierce explains. The company ages its añejo regularly and then splits it, aging half in Spanish sherry barrels and the other half in French cognac barrels for an additional two years. “We end up blending both of those together so we actually have a triple-barrel five-year blend that is absolutely delicious,” he says.
The company also is pushing forth with some new partnerships stateside. “We actually formed a partnership with Fate Brewery in Boulder,” Pierce says. That produced Uror Gose, an aged sour mash ale that debuted at Cinco De Mayo this year. “It definitely has notes of tequila a hint of that oak within the beer format,” he says.
Arta is now in 12 states and seven countries. “We’re really penetrating the southeast,” Pierce says. “Strategically there are two seasons there: The snowbird season where you have lot of folks obviously wintering there and you have the summer season. It is a nice sweet spot to be in those areas south of DC in Virginia and in the Southeast.”
Challenges: “There’s the time-change barrier and the barrier of having to travel there to see the operations,” Pierce says. Time. “It takes between 7 and 10 years for that single blue agave to grow and be harvested.”
Opportunities: Education. “It is important to educate the folks that are coming up in the tequila environment so they stay away from mixtos [i.e., 51 percent agave, 49 percent sugar fillers] we educate them to 100 percent blue agave products,” Pierce says.
Needs: Growth strategies. “We need different strategies as to what sorts of resources we’ll put behind a certain market,” Pierce explains.