CEO and Co-Founder, Republic Tequila
Texans and tequila have always had a love/hate relationship. The base component for innumerable, sickly-sweet Day-Glo frozen ‘ritas and Sixth Street shot contests has lately come to be recognized as a world-class spirit, with an ancient pedigree and a subtlety that rivals the finest cognacs and wines.
Imparting a Lone Star identity to a purely Mexican product is a neat trick. Tom Nall, who helped build Wick Fowler’s Two-Alarm Chili mix into a national brand, teamed up with Ken MacKenzie, a longtime student of tequila history and technique to come up with Republic Tequila and its unique, Texas-shaped bottle.
“I had retired from Wick Fowler’s Two-Alarm Chili in 2009 after helping build the brand for 36 years. That retirement lasted Saturday and Sunday. Sunday night, Ken and I met and started talking tequila and I was back at work on Monday.”
“Strictly speaking, we’re an importer. Tequila has to be distilled in Mexico. There will probably never be a distillery stateside. It’s one of the most regulated products I’ve ever come across. They want to make sure it’s done right.”
“Things happen for a reason. We traveled to Mexico and met with about eight different distilleries. The last distillery was La Quemada, near the town of Arenal, in the state of Jalisco. They were making organic tequila.”
“I’ve always thought that if you could be first in your category, it was to your advantage. Two-Alarm and Pace Picante Sauce were that way. Then I thought, ‘Why does the world need another tequila? Do we have an organic tequila?’ Well, there’s not one. Oh, yes, now there is – Republic Tequila.”
“Patron and Sauza and the other big brands are not organic tequilas. To meet that standard, the distilleries and the fields where the blue agave are grown have to be certified organic. La Quemada is certified organic both in the U.S. and Europe.”
“The other distillers have to buy agave on the commodities market, all over the state of Jalisco. Those growers could be using pesticides. What do the distillers do with their byproducts? How is their equipment cleaned? The certification people can come into your distillery at any moment unannounced, and not many people want to put up with that.”
“We’ve got a young team, but they’ve got a tremendous work ethic. They’ve bought into our values. Our priority every day is to build the best company we can build. If you do that, everything else falls into place.”
“The Texas-shaped bottle is a headturner! A guy we met with from GSD&M had visited the Greek isles and seen bottles shaped like the islands. He thought, why not a Texas-shaped bottle? So he came home, designed one and put it aside. Just mothballed it.”
“It’s one of those things that people will buy one time, because of the bottle. But what makes them buy it the second time? It’s got to be what’s in the bottle. I feel like we can sell anything once. But the trick is to sell it a second, third and fourth time.”
“I don’t want this to become a collector’s item. I want them pouring that tequila out of the bottle!”
“I remain optimistically scared to death.”