On the phone with Tomas Estes
Tomas Estes is one of the most influential persons in the Tequila industry, apart from the distillers themselves. Tomas was chosen by the Mexican government to be the face of Tequila in Europe. Awarded with a life time achievement award from Theme Magazine, he is still putting in work, paying the dues, by talking to me on the phone.
I got the idea to write about some of Tomas work when i spent yet another night sleepless on the computer searching for answers of everything and nothing. I have for a while felt i a bit stuck professionally, and been trying to figure out where to go from here. And Tomas came to mind, the times we have met he always seemed like a very down to earth guy, and i really do admire all the work he put in for Tequila.
I sent a email asking if he was interested in answering a few simple questions, and a few emails later we figured out that no matter how good email is today, nothing beats a good ol’ conversation. The following day Tomas called me, and the conversation flowed from beginning to end and before we knew it almost an hour had passed, Tomas ran out of battery and i completely forgot to ask most of my questions. So taking it from there it just came quite natural to kind of sum up the conversation, so it goes a little something like this.
B) When did you fall in love with Tequila?
T) I fell in love with tequila early on , when i was about 19. I used to go to Ensenada in Baja California and dig Mexico . I loved [and still do] Mexico because it is immediate and real, there is a sense of life there that gets to me.
B) So it started out as a good time, the surroundings, but it is quite a big step from there to where you are today, what was it that gave you the urge to spread the word about Teuila?
T) I got the urge to spread the word when I realized how important Tequila was to my restaurant/bar business. This was about 1996. At this point I got focused and serious about studying and developing my relationship with Tequila. Tequila at the time did not have the recognition it deserved and I had a feeling inside me that i could do this. I could help change people’s wiev on Tequila.
To change the thought to action, I realized that if i wanted to really be involved with tequila [and be a person central to all things tequila] i would need to ‘pay my dues’, do the research, visit tequileros, take notes , be there, listen, ask questions, write, talk, be tequila. From there I tought my bartenders first of all, made sure that they knew a lot about the brands they were serving, and the differences between them, so that they could sell them to the public in a very responsable way, personalise their choice of tequila, by asking questions around the customers prefered flavours. Explaining what tequila is, and the difference between them. To do this every way possible from face to face in bars, media or via blogs. I organised tastings where the guests got to play a bit with Tequila. I got them a little bit drunk, I let it have some life, energy and passion and not at all like a school. I was trying to get people to write about Tequila, but that seemed impossible at the time, so i did it myself. The problem now was to get i published. I called in all favours i could to get it out there.
B) Being out there living the Tequila life sounds like a great amount of time invested, a lot of good times i am sure. You must have an endless amount of stories to tell about this time, but what is it that makes Mexico and Tequila so different?
T) My first trip to Old Mexico was in 1966 to Mazatlan. After that I was to make numerous trips to Baja and Old Mexico, living there during the summer months, camping on the beach, digging just about everything Mexico had to offer, its food, drink, people and especially its way of life. I was feeding my fantasy, giving myself into my inspiration.
What Mexico is, its romance, its edgy adventure, its otherworldlyness are all embodied in its national drink, tequila. Tequila is Mexico. The energy of so many days, years under the powerful Mexican sun accumulates in the agave and transmits this and its earthly struggle through the fermentation and distillation processes into the glass and into the heart, the psyche of the drinker. In tequila remains the sorrows, the joys, the dark longings of Mexican existence. In tequila is life, your life, tequila will show you your inner state.
B) When you look back at your accomplishments today, what do you see?
T) I am proud of my accomplishments. I have dared to go out in the wildlands in front and explore. This I have done for my personal challenges, for my own growth [the same reasons why I went to mexico]. My goals were to follow my creativity and inner independent stirrings and not to gain money.
B) Last but not least Tomas, what does the crystal ball of the future say?
T) More and more Mexican owned companies will sell to foreign giants. This has and will continue to have profound effects on all aspects of Tequila production, marketing, sales and consumption. think about what this means. the tequila industry would do well to work more closely together for world-wide pan-category promotion. This means individual brands working together to promote tequila as an entire category, to gain market share from other spirits categories such as vodka, gin, rum etc.
B) Thanks a lot for your time Tomas!
T) Carl, all the best to you and the bar family there with you in Copenhagen, Tomas.
We got to talk about a lot more than this, but it was kind of the idea i had for this in the first place. Tomas is at the time writing a book with the working name ”Tequila – The Drinkers Guide” which will be a book from a Tequila drinkers point of wiev. ”Kind of a scrap-book full of Tequila related stories, experiences, recipes etc.” The book will be slightly different to most books written about alcohol, it will be controversial and a bit ballsy, ”What would a book be if we couldnt write what we wanted in it?”. This is all in collaboration with Simon Difford, and a release is thought to be in spring 2011.
Buenas Tardes Amigos y Amigas!