“Isn’t this absurd?”
That’s the question I’m good-naturedly asked by a rep for Volcán de Mi Tierra as I sit in a cabana at Ayu, a daytime club in Las Vegas, trying to write down tasting notes.
Sure, it’s absurd that I’m testing out a new premium tequila while Tiesto is literally performing a few dozen feet away. And that bikini-clad cabana girls are circling around in a cart, dropping off mixers and shaking bottles in the air while artificial rain showers arbitrarily crash down on thousands of partygoers basking (well, baking) in the 100+ degree Vegas heat.
It’s a fun time. But it’s also my third “luxury” tequila launch in a week — just days after trying Patron’s four-figure new entry and Casa Noble’s more modest Marqués de Casa Noble Añejo Tequila (under $200, though the brand has certainly released more exclusive offerings). I expect big ideas and big prices from those two distilleries — but Volcán’s release offered something different.
Some background: Volcán de Mi Tierra was launched in 2017. It’s Moet Hennessy’s entry into the “premium-tequila” world and a collaboration with the Gallardo family. The agave is grown in the shadow of a volcano in Las Regiones Valles y Altos where the soil is rich (you’ll see that volcano design embedded within the bottle’s design). The liquid is 100% Blue Weber agave, sourced from both the highlands and lowlands, and comes together at Agrotequilera de Jalisco, S.A. de C.V. (NOM 1523) — the only tequila produced at this Jalisco distillery.
The brand might be young, but it’s a solid, zero-additive tequila with a good field-to-bottle pedigree and modest pricing ($40-$70). At first, X.A marks a radical departure: It’s a blend of reposado, añejo and extra añejo tequilas in a long and heavy decanter that’s only available at about 250 clubs and high-end restaurants globally — the kind of places where bottle service or late-night, expense-account sips are the norm. Think Baccarat Hotel in New York, Tao in L.A. or LIV in Miami.
Or a Vegas club hosting Tiesto on a Saturday afternoon in July.
Tequila puritans and those on limited budgets aside…why shouldn’t the brand go for something bold? Volcán lacks historical recognition or the celebrity power of other new agave spirits, but in the burgeoning high-end tequila market, they stand a chance. In the first quarter of 2022, tequila achieved a whopping 63 percent annual growth rate according to the Luxury Brand Index (LBI), a tool created by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) to analyze sales of spirits brands by volume at the top end of the distilled spirits market (think $50 or more). And luxury spirits brands, in general, grew 37 percent year-to-year. For people who only know Don Julio 1942, Volcán X.A now offers another luxury option. (And given how every other spirits category has a luxury market, tequila deserves their own.)
How’s it taste? What’s with the blending process? What is this “Grace” barrel the brand is using to bring out different notes? And why aim for a crowd that may not appreciate all the nuances of this (spoiler alert: very good) tequila?
It was too loud and sweaty at Ayu — and later that night at Zouk, where the tequila’s launch got another bacchanalia to the sounds of Zedd — to get all the details behind this release, so a few days later we had a much more relaxed email exchange with Julien Morel, the President and CEO of Volcán de Mi Tierra.
InsideHook: One of the differences between X.A and other tequilas, as you note, is the use of the “Grace” cask. What is that?
Julien Morel: The Grace Cask, a proprietary cask, is made from a multiplot of American oaks, using wood from different trees and different plots and toasted gently to create a unique tasting profile, bringing smoothness and natural sweetness.
How did you come up with this formulation — reposado, ańejo and extra ańejo, all together?
The notion of blending has been instrumental in this creation, leveraging the expertise which is at the heart of the Moet Hennessy Savoir-faire, in Cognac and Champagne, and we are proud to bring this knowledge to the world of tequila. At Volcán, we’ve often found a harmony between blending agave sourced from the highlands and lowlands, but now, we’ve created an unreplicable blend of ages. The Reposado base brings just the right level of sweetness and smoothness, while the Añejo and Extra-Añejo add aromatic balance and complexity.
If you have ańejo and extra ańejo tequila, why not release them on their own?
We explored that idea, but our goal for X.A was to further push the boundaries of this rapidly growing category and honor Volcán’s fusion of centuries-old tequila-making traditions and innovative techniques. X.A allowed us to reimagine the art of blending and craft an expression that is thought-provoking, complex and extremely desirable.
What was the original inspiration behind this? Did you start with the idea of putting this in clubs and then figure out a profile, or was it the other way around?
The latter! Volcán X.A is the result of several years of hard work and research in our distillery. We were driven to craft a world-class tequila that embraces innovation while still paying tribute to the Tequila Volcano, which erupted over 200,000 years ago and fertilized the lands of Jalisco, and centuries of Mexican tequila-making traditions.
It takes years to craft a single bottle of X.A, so we knew that we’d have to be very intentional about where it’s available given its extremely limited quantity. Considering the price point, quality and our target consumers, those who seek out ultra-premium and rare offerings, we opted to focus our distribution on high-energy nightclubs and top restaurants worldwide.
How do you see people drinking this in a club? I was given a bunch of mixers, oddly, but I preferred it neat.
I recommend enjoying X.A solely neat or over ice, as opposed to mixing it, to ensure you get to fully enjoy the tequila’s depth of flavor and aromatics. It was important to us that X.A be incredibly smooth and easy to drink, with no after-taste or burn, so that consumers would opt to drink it by itself instead of mixing or using a “chaser.” Given the bottle’s price point, quality and rarity, it’s meant to be sipped and savored, while our core range lends itself more to cocktail creation.
Do you see more limited-edition, luxury tequilas coming from other brands?
Premiumization across every spirits category has accelerated in recent years. The tequila market continues to grow at a remarkably fast pace, providing increasing levels of taste and quality, and increasing visibility and desirability in the trendiest bars, restaurants and clubs worldwide.
With the return of nightlife, events and social gatherings, consumers are excitedly seeking out ultra-premium, exclusive offerings and experiences they were devoid from during the pandemic. This insight, coupled with the current consumer trend of ‘trading up,’ will contribute to the number of limited-edition, ultra-luxury tequila offerings on the market.
The brand is only 5 years old. Besides X.A, how do you make Volcán stand out in a field of literally thousands of tequilas (and many backed by celebrities)?
We pride ourselves on our portfolio of uncompromisingly crafted tequilas, distilled and bottled by hand with no shortcuts, synthetics or additives utilized in the process. We are also one of the incredibly small number of tequila brands produced in its own dedicated distillery.
So how does it taste?
Morel is absolutely correct in noting that you should not drink this with anything more than ice, but really…drink it neat. It was fine as a mixer — particularly with OJ but definitely not with Red Bull, as I unfortunately learned by experience — but you’ll appreciate this more on its own, where the grassiness of the agave thankfully isn’t lost among the sweeter notes of vanilla, the hint of spice from the wood (very mild) and some dried cherry notes, complete with a short and dry finish. Even the tequila geeks seem to really like it.
I’d prefer this served neat in a stemmed or Glencairn glass, but you might be stuck with plastic Champagne flutes if “Maximal Crazy” is your backdrop.
While you can’t buy this in a store, a rep tells us a bottle of X.A roughly costs about $1,900. So if you’re somehow in a situation where you can actually enjoy a sip, ordering one probably won’t seem so absurd.
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