How Did the Tequila Barrel and Agave Collective Get Started?

At least once a week, I get someone who sends me a private message on either Facebook or Instagram that asks me what this group is all about.  Is it a way to make money?  If so, how are you monetizing it?  Does it cost anything to join or participate?  You know, all the questions people ask when there is a catch.  The answer I give is always the same theme:  “It’s a way for people who wouldn’t normally have access to amazing agave spirits like this to get something really special, really exclusive, delivered to them for a great price, throughout the United States.  It’s way for a group of people with an interest in common to share their love for such amazing spirits.”  To shed more light on this, let’s talk about how this group began …

How the TBAC Began

It was only a couple of years ago when my love for tequila really started to bloom.  While participating in several tequila themed Facebook groups I was in, I heard about these opportunities that were just starting to be offered to bars and restaurants and wondered if there was a way to offer something like this to a group.  After making some industry contacts I found out there was.  This is where the journey began.  I created the Tequila Barrel Collective group on Facebook and it quickly started getting more and more people joining the group.

The Challenges

Retail Partners

After finding out that there was a way for a group to get access to these barrels I was presented with the challenges involved with a project like this.  In order to buy entire barrels of tequila, you need to have someone who would be willing to take the entire barrel in after it comes to the United States.  This someone has to have a valid liquor license that allowed them to sell liquor off premises (outside of their establishment).  Essentially, it had to be a liquor store or online retailer.
Since this Facebook group of interested participants was made up of people from all over the United States, this retailer had to have the capabilities to ship our product nationwide.

The Three Tiered Liquor System

For those of you that don’t know about how the alcohol system works in the United States, here is an explanation and one of the other challenges with putting together projects like our buys.  Our alcohol system consists of three tiers.  We have the importer, the distributor and the retailer.  All liquor in the United States has to go to the retailer through a distributor.  Each State has different distributors that can distribute to that particular state.  Sure there are some larger distributors that have licenses in multiple states but the trick is finding a distributor that will bring your product to the retailer for you.  The politics involved is ridiculous.  Plus, with three different levels to the process, you are relying on three different organizations to act in a timely manner to get the product to the retailer in a timely fashion.  These are the challenges I struggle with everyday.  Thank goodness for the good people I have that are helping me navigate this process.

The Trip to Mexico

After all of the initial challenges are out of the way, the fun (and expensive) part comes next … the trip to Mexico to visit the distilleries to select the barrel for the group.  This is where my passion for bringing these projects to the group really exploded.  The people of Mexico were amazing.  From my first trip to Guadalajara on I have established some amazing relationships with the master distillers at the distilleries in both Tequila and in the Los Altos region.  The passion and pride they put into every batch they make shows and energizes you to want to learn more.

In the picture to the left, I am at Casa San Matias working with them to select barrels for our first Lote that we brought in for the group.  This lote consisted of 3 barrels.  One barrel of Corazon blanton’s aged añejo, one barrel of Corazon Eagle Rare aged reposado and one barrel of Casa San Matias Gran Reservs extra anejo.  The pressure was on for me to select the best of each range and something that would appeal to most if not all in the group that would buy it.  If I didn’t select the right ones, I could lose all of our participants in the group.

Presenting the Barrels

After the barrels are selected, it’s time to head back home and present these barrels to the group.  With detailed tasting notes in my hand, I head back to the Facebook group to try to convince people in the group that we have some very special tequila coming our way.  Since most of the people in the group only knew me from my participation in Facebook groups, I knew this was going to be a challenge.

When I started the process, most of the people were interested and willing to participate.  I had time to work on this as it was going to take time for the distillery to bottle the barrel and for Sazerac to import it.  Many people in the group were willing to give it a shot and I was very appreciative.  I did have some people who started rumors that the barrels were fake and that I was a con man looking to scam good people out of their money. Thanks to the good people from Sazerac that joined the group, I was able to verify that these barrels were indeed real and all three barrels were fully subscribed.  Keep in mind that because all three levels (importer, distributor and retailer) have to make money on this, I do not make anything on these sales to keep the pricing down for the buyers.  All the travel and expense for putting this buy together was completely funded by my wife and I.

The Barrels Arrived

Finally, the barrels arrived after a fairly long wait due to some logistics issues with the distributor, and we were able to get the cases of tequila out to all of the participants.  I was there the entire time helping the members with their tracking information and following up on their shipments. As many of the original members can tell you, I was always there to help ensure everyone got what they ordered.

The response from the members was amazing.  Everyone posted in the group that they got their cases and loved their tequila.  Sharing that they had received their tequila in other groups led to the group getting bigger and to some people showing their true colors when participants were banned for sharing that our barrels were indeed real and the tequila was great.

Since the original three barrels, we have since organized three additional barrels.  Because of the success of the group, we have more brands and even other kinds of agave spirits contacting us about presenting their spirits to the group.  This year we are presenting our first blanco and have other spirits like Mezcals and Raicilla in the works.

For those of you that are new to the group or wondering if you should participate, I hope this gives you some confidence in the group and what we are trying to do.  I want to ensure you that I am working to ensure you get everything you were promised and more.  I don’t ask for anything in return except for your patience as we go through these processes to get you the tequila.  It will be worth the wait.