Suerte Tequila is the brand, which was developed and launched by Laurence Spiewak and Lance Sokol. The word “suerte” means “luck” in Spanish, and its label bears the image of the happy hare that a farmer’s wife supposedly discovered drunk on fermented agave.
Suerte is being marketed as a premium brand made by hand using traditional methods, Spiewak said. They are hoping to sell to a growing number of tequila fans who seek something better than the current top-selling brands.
People such as Spiewak and Sokol.
“We have a true passion for tequila, and we thought there was room on the shelf for something different,” Spiewak said.
Spiewak is the chief executive, and his resume includes time as chief operating officer at Pangea Organics, which is in Boulder. Sokol is the chief operating officer, and formerly was director of operations at Longmont-based Madhava Natural Sweeteners and Pangea Organics. The duo started the company with an undisclosed amount of capital raised through family and friends.
Suerte grows the ingredients and produces and bottles the tequila in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Distillers produce small batches by hand using a tahona wheel to extract the juice from 100 percent pure blue agave that was grown on a single estate, Spiewak said. The entire growing, distillation and aging process follows traditional methods, he said.
The process makes for a better tasting tequila, Spiewak believes, because flavors get muddled when modern industrial processes are used.
Using traditional methods, “you’re preserving a lot of the qualities and flavors of the plant itself,” he said.
Suerte produces three varieties of tequila: blanco, reposado and anejo. All three have been honored as among the best of their variety in 2012 by online magazine www.tequila.net.
Suerte is headquartered in Boulder, where it handles sales, marketing and branding.
Quality and tradition are two selling points Spiewak hopes to capitalize on to break into a crowded market dominated by major brands such as Jose Cuervo. To be more competitive, the tequilas are being introduced at relatively low price points. The blanco and reposado have suggested retail prices between $30 and $36, while the suggested price of the anejo is $61.99.
Since launching about three months ago, Suerte now is available in 90 locations around Colorado, ranging from large-format liquor stores to neighborhood stores. Because of Spiewak’s and Sokol’s marketing strategy, it isn’t on the “top shelf,” but they think it has top-shelf quality.
“We priced it aggressively so it will sell, but we also priced it so we can make money and run our business,” Spiewak said.
Aside from the major brands, Suerte faces competition on two other fronts. The craft spirits industry is booming, and more producers are making craft tequila, which has been a bit of an overlooked niche. Competitors such as Tequila Ocho already are in the market, have built distribution networks and are drawing rave reviews.
There also is tequila’s often less than sterling reputation, which Spiewak said is a real issue. There are passionate fans who know quality tequila, but there also are many people who’ve had a bad experience –– almost always in high school or college, suffered the infamous hangover and have sworn off the drink.
“I think people, thanks to large brands like Patron, have started to come around and to understand that tequila’s not about getting messed up and having a hangover,” Spiewak said.
“We do get people we have to actually convince to even smell or taste it.”
Technically, Suerte is the brand name, and Colorado Spirits Importers LLC is the company’s legal name. It is an importer and because of Colorado liquor laws it needs another company to distribute the product. Suerte relies on Denver-based CTS Distributing Inc., but Suerte otherwise oversees the process from start to finish, Spiewak said.
Currently, Suerte only is available in Colorado, but its executives are meeting with distributors who could sell into New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. They also are reaching out to West Coast distributors.