The popularity of agave distillates surged over the last five years—and knowledge consumer levels surged alongside the new interest. At points, these two trend-lines conflicted with one another. Increasingly educated customers craved tequila, but often found themselves with additive-heavy juice that fell short of their standards. Fortunately, a new initiative is separating the wheat from the chaff pina from the plant.
Scarlet and Grover Sanschagrin, the wife and husband team behind the Tequila Matchmaker app, just launched a pioneering program to verify tequilas as free of additives such as Glycerin, caramel coloring, Oak extracts, and sugar-based syrup.
Tequila’s governing body, the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT), closely monitors all aspects of production from agave to bottle. Yet, the agency does not include additives among their famed labeling requirements. Enter the Sanschagrins.
Verifying Additive Free
To many hardcore agave-heads, the Sanschagrins are familiar names. Boasting 80,000+ users, their Tequila Matchmaker app is a key reference tool providing and decoding information—including the NOM—about nearly every expression on the market. However, the additive free program is a new facet to the enterprise.
“About two years ago, it [additive free demarcation] began as a little addition to our database. We weren’t sure if anyone cared; so, we just added a little line onto some brands that we knew were additive free,” recalled Grover. “And people started using it and emailing us. We realized that it was a hot topic that needed to be addressed.”
Inspired by input from the community, Grover and Scarlet began to scale up the endaevour. “We get a lot of direct emails. We try to answer every one.Until COVID, we were also doing tastings with bartender groups every month. We felt like we had a lot of info input what was going on the ground,” said Scarlet.
“We reached out to brands and they came onboard. Some ambassadors said that they couldn’t sell to some clients without an additive free designation and then we realized that we needed to make it even bigger.”
Shortly therafter, the Sanschagrins were not just labeling tequilas as additive free, they were also verifying the distillates’ designation. The label was based off information provided by the CRT’s lab as well on-site distillery visits. During those inspections, the team inspected logbooks, checked agave purchase records, and took samples of blanco during different stages of the process.
The scientific approach as well as the reach of the outlet soon impressed many in the industry. Yet, to the creators, it still felt incomplete.
Onboarding A Big Brand
“We weren’t really sure at first. A lot of people that we already inspected said this is great but no one is going to care unless you have a big, big brand sign on,” explained Grover. “Then we approached Patron as a long shot [and they signed on] and then I said, ‘Now I think we really have a program’.”
With years of development complete and solid partners in place, the verification program officially launched mid-July. According to Scarlet, twenty distilleries requested verification visits within 24 hours of the launch announcement. Still, there is work to be done.
A Shifting Standard
“Ultimately our goal is a labeling requirement and more info on the label,” mused Grover. “Odds are pretty close to impossible.. The best we can do right now is raise the issue.”
Scarlet said that the industry is already shifting towards unadulterated tequila. “A lot fo these are family owned businesses and the younger generations taking over. And they’re really committing to do it the right way.”
Grover posited that the shift in production will also create a paradigm shift in epistemology. He pointed at a well heeled cousin as a potential parallel.
“In wine, no one expects every year to be the same, but in tequila they do. So, one of our objectives is that—just like wine—tequila changes. That’s what opens the door to the additives: unrealistic expectation of consistency.”
Check out more info at Tequila Matchmaker.