Stateways March April 2018

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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merican consumers have developed a thirst for the exotic, and they are searching the globe for new and novel spirits to taste, aided in their quest by innovative importers and producers. The phenomenon is driven by a number of factors and trends: wider-ranging travel, expanding interest in ethnic cuisines and immigrant communities longing for a taste of home. Much of the interest in exotic liquors is generated by the cocktail renaissance, as bartenders investigate new ways to wow customers. On-premise explorations lead consumers to replicate those intriguing cocktails at home, and drive them to retail stores. We have identifi ed three regions where local liquids are angling for center stage in the American market: Mexico, South America and Asia. Of the spirits from these areas, some are virtually unknown in the U.S. market, while others have established footholds here. AGAVE'S APPEAL "What hot right now? Three words: Mezcal, mezcal, mezcal," quips retailer Joe Keeper, owner of Bar Keeper in Los Angeles. The shop, which caters to cocktail afi cio- nados, stocks about 50 different mezcals and has to re- plenish stocks weekly. "We've carried mezcal for a while, but in the last year or two, consumers have gotten inter- ested in the variations—espadin, tobala, pechuga." Of course, Tequila has long enjoyed strong growth in the U.S. Supplier revenues were up nearly 10% last year, ac- cording to the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS). Now another agave-based spirit has emerged; mezcal grew from fewer than 50,000 cases in 2009 to approximately 360,000 cases in 2017. "The explosion in Tequila has been good for mezcal," noted DISCUS's chief economist David Ozgo at the council's recent economic brief- ing. "What's driving growth is consumer demand for variety." There is no doubt that American consumers are intrigued by Tequila's smoky cousin and, observers say, that curiosity may carry over to other agave distillates such as bacanora, raicilla and sotol. "We see the mezcal category doubling over the next fi ve years to exceed 1.2 million cases. Double-digit growth will likely continue for the next 10 years plus," says John Beaudette, president and CEO of MHW, Ltd., a Long Island, NY-based importer. "A great indicator of the confi dence in growth is that industry giants such as Bacardi, Pernod Ricard and Diageo have taken positions in mezcal brands over the last two years." "Consumers, especially Millennials, are always looking for the next trend—something new and exciting. Mezcal is a mystical magical spirit, rich in tradition and part of the Mexican culture. With the rise in popularity of tequila over the past decade it would make sense that the time has come for a new agave favorite," says Lisa Marcus of Riv- iera Imports and Tres Papalote Mezcal. The company will promote Cinco de Mayo this year with a logoed copper mule cup. Tres Papalote has also added a new expression StateWays | | March/April 2018 42 by THOMAS HENRY STRENK

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