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Riazul Founder Iñaki Orozco Honors Mexican Ancestry, 'Reclaims the Spirit of Tequila' as a High Quality Elixir

First Posted: Jun 20, 2015 08:45 AM EDT
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It was 4 a.m. in 1999 when Mexico City native and Riazul founder Iñaki Orozco found himself with his sleeves rolled up among the rich soil in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, at his family's ranch. He could hardly wait another minute to plant agave and begin the harvesting process that would eventually launch his high-end, coveted tequila production.

"As soon as we made it back to the ranch I was so filled with excitement.  My little babies (agaves) were in the back of the truck and they were like 'great, we entered our new home!'" he joked. "I started digging a hole in the dirt without knowing what I was doing. At least I picked different areas around the plantation to give the plant a different opportunity based on the slope, the concentration of air, the exposure to different climates and soil, etc. ..."

In what seemed like wishful thinking, Orozco eventually did the unthinkable. He revived his treasured great-grandmother's land "that stood as a pivotal battlefront in the war for Mexican independence."

Orozco's great grandmother, Maria Higinia Gomez, served as a high counselor to the Mexican rebel leaders. "For her service, she was granted 10,000 acres of land -- most of which she gave away to revolutionaries who fought for Mexico's freedom," he said. "The remaining 620 acres was handed down from generation to generation and virtually untouched until Orozco inherited the land in the late 1990s."

Initially he planted 100 agave shoots, which eventually flourished. He then worked tirelessly, day and night, to plant more than 175,000 more shoots.

"It's was like my grandpa who passed away was knocking on my head, saying 'Somebody use this land! Profit from the land!'" Orozco told Latin Post in an exclusive interview.

Despite the initial skepticism from his living elders, Orozco discovered his calling through cultivation.  

It turns out that those initial agave shoots would eventually unearth a new-found spirit in the MBA-educated, urban guy and prove that he could hold his own as a farmer with the guidance of a plantation owner and a Master Tequilero. It would also utilize his business savviness that would bring him to the big leagues of tequila making.

Blessed with agave that is rich in sugar and complex in its fibers, Orozco was floored by the results that could create more aromatic tequilas with sweeter tasting notes and complex flavors. Orozco realized that he really was onto something special and that he to take the process further and create a premium brand.

"I was blown away with what I had tasted," he said. "I had never tasted anything like that, and that's what got me interested."

"Agave is a succulent (not a cactus) that grows wild all over Mexico and Central America. Blue agave is a specific type of agave that must be used to make tequila. All Tequila must be at least 51 percent blue agave and most quality distillers use 100 percent."

Hence Riazul, "a silky, smooth tequila made from 100% blue agave," was born.

Riazul offers Añejo, Reposado and Plata (Silver) that vary in flavor profiles based on the aging process.

Añejo has "caramel, agave, mild clove, almond, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon" flavors. It's considered the No. 1 tequila in a blind tasting of 164 Añejos and No. 3 out of more than 900 total tequilas.

Reposado is "light and fruity" with "a good assortment of flavors" and is "heated, light agave and chocolate."

Plata is among top 10 tequilas in a blind tasting of 190 Blancos. "This traditional Tequila is bold in flavor... the ultimate blanco experience," Riazul said. "It's "earthy and herbal, buttery, agave, hint of vanilla, floral with mild chocolate aftertaste."

"Tequila is such an amazing spirit in the way that it has progressed because if you would right now, look back and see how Tequila was in the 1940's to today, it would be like night and day," he explained. "Tequila was consumed by blue collared workers that had absolutely no affinity with the higher classes. Just like everything else that has good substance and a good foundation, you know, trying to make it through the ranks, and tequila is no exception."

Today, you can savor Riazul Premium tequilas in hundreds of restaurants, bars, and retail outlets throughout Texas and in parts of New York, Illinois, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada -- there's market expansion underway.

While many Mexicans tend to stay loyal to the brands that their parents or grandparents grew up with, the landscape is changing, Orozco points out. In the U.S., more consumers are savoring and appreciating high-end tequila. There has also been a shift in branding and focus.

"What I see is a real appreciation for brands that have a foundation. It's not about marketing. It's about emotional ties with a brand especially with Millennials, they are really trying to grasp conceptuality..." he explained.  

"In that sense, tequila has really gone up in strides, up the ladder from being that raunchy kind of night-cap, shooting devastation drink to actually being a high quality, sippable elixir, which butts heads against the cognac and the scotches of the world.  And that is my mission, through my legacy, through my history, through my family, is to bring out something that is iconic to my country that has the highest quality that anybody can find in a liquor."

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