How Enemigo is making tequila the spirit of choice for discerning dinner guests
Tempus talks to the founders of luxury tequila brand Enemigo about their first year and the future of tequila.
In its first year alone, Tequila Enemigo has become the winner of five prestigious international awards and created a sipping spirit designed to be drank from a champagne flute. The 28-year-old mavericks behind the British luxury brand, Max Davies-Gilbert and Robin Clough, are now setting their sites on the US market as they continue their ambition to re-educate the public on the versatility of the Mexican drink.
"In Spanish, Enemigo means enemy," says Davies-Gilbert of the brand, which, since its launch in December last year, has expanded into 75 of London’s top venues – including Annabel’s, The Ritz, The Connaught, Street XO and 5 Hertford Street. "We want Enemigo to define itself as the enemy to negative tequila stereotypes surrounding the iconic spirit of Mexico."
Here, Davies-Gilbert and Clough tell Tempus about life as the youngest spirit brand owners, how they are re-educating the market and where the future of tequila lies…
How did your venture start?
Clough: A chance trip to Mexico to try some tequilas yielded this unexpected versatile, complex liquid. The tequila stereotype was then broken down and we saw a huge opportunity to continue that in the UK and further. After a conversation with lifelong friend Max, we both left our jobs, emptied our bank accounts and Enemigo was born. Enemigo is proudly made in Mexico and our business partner there, Sebastian Gonzalez, is critical to everything we do. Enemigo’s distillery is located in the centre of the town of Tequila in Mexico. There are only a few distilleries that are able to call Tequila their home and we are lucky to be one of them. The town of tequila is surrounded in the distance by hills, but most importantly the Volcano of Tequila which stands high and very close to the town. Our agaves are grown in the surrounding hills and our water flows through the volcano before we use it- this imparts a huge amount of minerals into both, helping to create Enemigo’s unique taste. >>
What makes Enemigo different?
Davies-Gilbert: Enemigo is a sipping tequila. Its smooth and delicate without the need for licking salt and biting into a chunk of lime. Enemigo 89 is aged for over a year and then a three phase filtration which gives smoothness and flavour. The 89 stands for the number of recipes tried in creating it. Enemigo also works well as a long drink and we have created an original recipe cocktail with it called Enemigo Mineral 89 cocktail made simply with 50ml of Enemigo 89, 100 ml sparkling water and lime. Its light, low in calories and has a warming smoky fresh character. It also works great in a Tommy’s Margarita, shaken with lime and agave syrup.
We heard that your second tequila is designed to be drank from a champagne flute. Why is that?
Clough: Our second premium tequila (Enemigo 00) is aged for 3 years in American oak barrels. Its rich, smooth and deep in colour. The narrow bowl of a champagne flute amplifies aromas and funnels the liquid to the tip of your tongue so the complexities are revealed and savoured. That makes it a versatile dinner drink as well. We are currently talking to an Indian and Japanese restaurants in London. The tequilas go really well with these kinds of food as there are 750 flavour notes in tequila compared to wine where there are only up to 150 flavour notes. This is what makes tequila so versatile.
A year into trading, what’s been the highlight?
Davies-Gilbert: The highlight by far has been the reaction to people when they taste Enemigo. During London drinking hours (4pm – 4am), someone orders an Enemigo every 90 seconds. Most importantly, people like it. In blind taste tests, people recognise Enemigo straight away. That makes us really proud.
Clough: It’s certainly becoming a choice for the more discerning drinker now. Ten years ago in the UK, doing ‘shots' of tequila was only seen as a source of ritual punishment between friends combined with salt and lime and this was a testament to the tequilas that were available outside of Mexico even just five years ago. Now that people are incredibly savvy with their selections and seek quality - true tequila like ours is now available and thus tequila is now getting the reputation it deserves and we feel very proud to be leading that revolution. >>
What is it like competing with other massive drinks brands?
Clough: Competition is great. We picked up an award within the first few weeks of launching. Most recently, we picked up two top gongs and won double gold at the CWSA (China Wine and Spirits Awards) where 5000 spirits entered, judged by over 100 industry experts in a blind taste test.
Davies-Gilbert: This is staggering considering China doesn’t really drink tequila. This is a true testament to the product development work we did to create Enemigo 89. As well as this, we have won five international double gold awards across three continents.
The production process sounds complex. How sustainable is Tequila Enemigo?
Davies-Gilbert: We don’t use fossil fuels at all and use leftover agave to fuel our ovens. We also pay our agave farmers a fixed set minimum price. Spirit brands need to be responsible. From field to glass, there is a huge supply chain which needs to work seamlessly and responsibly.
What is next for Enemigo?
Clough: We heard that a shop in the USA were buying bottles from the UK and then relabeling them so they can be sold in the USA. Tequila is the fastest-growing spirit in North America so the plan is to launch some special editions in New York before Christmas to introduce Enemigo to the American palate and then go from there.