We love a thoughtful craft cocktail on any given day, but we also appreciate a high-end spirit that can be savored solo.
Robin Clough is the 29-year-old, London-based entrepreneur who has debuted an award-winning tequila that is designed to be exactly that; savored rather than chased. Entering the premium spirits industry is no easy feat as tequilas are one of the fastest growing categories in a billion-dollar industry, with competitors like mega-distributors Diageo and brands with celebrity backing like George Clooney’s, Casamigos. But Robin and his team, which all together make up some of the youngest founding members of an international luxury liquor brand, are breaking onto the scene with their rebellious and ultra-sexy brand, Tequila Enemigo.
Clough, along with Mexican native, Sebastian Gonzalez and fellow British native, Max Davies-Gilbert initially launched in the UK in the fall of 2017. Their most recent launch late last year came after demand in the U.S was so strong that they simply had to give the people what they wanted. They partnered up with Park Avenue Liquor in New York City and debuted their 500 first-edition bottles branded exclusively with a sleek, black and gold design. Next up is there release in Mexico this spring, which will put their tequila on shelves in three continents in under three years.
‘Enemigo’ (Spanish for enemy) is a forward way to let the public know Clough and his team are challenging the standards of what tequila should be. A reminder to ditch the mixtos (agave and sugar) for a 100-percent, agave-derived spirit from Mexico’s western state of Jalisco. This bold move in the spirits game is a strategically savvy play that has quickly secured them awards of excellence across the board. Tequila Enemigo has won five International Double Gold awards, more than any other tequila brand in 2018.
The company’s top-tier bottle of Enemigo 00 Extra Añejo has a long maturation time in American Oak barrels (never reconstituted barrels) leaving the consumer with a balanced amber spirit with notes of caramel and orange. Their Enemigo 89 Añejo Cristalino tequila is aged traditionally for more than a year, then put through a three-phase filtration system that purifies the spirit to create a clear and distinct flavor with hints of coconut and vanilla.
Tasting notes as described by the world famous Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero.
Enemigo 89 Añejo Cristalino
Enemigo 00 Extra Añejo
From the production of Enemigo to the distribution, they have tapped into a Mexican culture that celebrates shared experiences over a handcrafted drink, whether jubilating over the holidays or closing a work day. We caught up with the globe-trotting millennial to find out why tequila and why now.
Q: Of all of the spirits to venture into, why tequila?
It all came down to this one moment when I was traveling to Mexico right after business school, where Sebastian and I met, and we decided to taste some tequila at a road side café. I was very apprehensive to drink it because of my past experiences with the spirit. I had always seen tequila as a spirit that should be consumed late at night as a ritual punishment between friends.
After sipping this authentic agave drink, I was blown away! It was a subtle, complex and refined liquid that we tasted alongside our meal for a few hours. Since that awakening, we began brainstorming. When something changes your perception, it is an exciting moment that you want to create from.
Q: How did your professional career in Silicon Valley assist you in developing a successful spirits brand?
It was an incredible learning experience to be in the tech industry. As a project manager, I strengthened my entrepreneurial skillset by understanding investments, branding and product integration. I was able to oversee entire processes in business giving me a core foundation that has led us to get so much of this process right.
Q: What challenges have you faced, and do you think your age helped you or worked against you when building the brand?
I was based in San Francisco at the time, Sebastian was in Mexico City, and Max was in London. Our founding team was on three different time zones in three different countries with three varied perspectives on how to present and sell our brand. Being our ages that we are and being new to the industry, we were set up with challenges every step of the way.
Most people have been building their spirits relationships in the industry for years, and we chose to go in single-handedly to earn our place without that benefit. Maybe it is our youthful optimism that pushes us to take it all on. We aren’t jaded by the industry or intimidated by what is set out in front of us.
We are always open to communication with our competition and the top-shelf brands we are taking on, but we also want to let the liquid do the talking.
Q: You have created a completely unique recipe, hand-designed with your tequilero in Mexico. What sets you apart from other premium tequilas?
Many tequilas are designed around pre-made recipes from the tequileros instead of being custom curated. The Cristalino 89 is in a narrow category within a larger category of thousands of tequilas. Of these, about only 34 are aged and then filtered. Therefore, our Cristalino is a clear spirit with complexities of wood and a subtle ageing profile. The 89 represents the number of iterations that it took to get to the end product.
Our Extra Añejo has a full-bodied profile with a hint of agave, demerara, tobacco and a touch of vanilla. Developing for about 30 seconds after you sip it, it is a pleasant surprise for a tequila with this level of complexity to develop gradually and always with an undertone of velvety subtleness.
Alongside our tequilero in Mexico, we conducted blind taste tests to create both of our tequilas; bringing the best we could to the table.
Many tequilas are designed around pre-made recipes from the tequileros instead of being custom curated.
Q: People asked you: “How the hell are you going to take on Diageo and George Clooney?”
That was the fun of it. That was what made it more of an adventure. We saw it as a benefit being outsiders to the industry. It means we can come in and do things different. As the underdogs, we wanted to impress and make a mark, while always bringing quality tequila to the forefront.
Q: What are the barriers you are breaking with your brand?
The best part of my job is that I get to see consumers, both friends and strangers alike, who have a controversial past with tequila, and I watch them become shifted by their experience with ours. I can’t tell you how many bars in NYC I have walked into and invited the manager to try Tequila Enemigo on the spot. After a rather apprehensive look, they pour a small bit into a glass, and then their expression says it all. Genuinely surprised.
Q: How are sustainability and loyalty to your tequileros an important part of your brand?
Sustainability is at the front of everything we do. For example, the first time we got down to Jalisco, there was an agave crisis, and it has become an endangered species because of the demand on the blue agave. They are no longer on the endangered list, but that put things into perspective for us. So, we make environmentally conscious choices through each process. Because of modern technology, we use 50 percent less water at our distillery, and we use leftover agave husks to fuel our ovens. In addition, we ensure fair treatment of our farmers. Because the price fluctuates for agave every eight to 10 years, we have set a minimum price for what we pay our farmers, ensuring they will always get paid what they deserve, no matter the shift in industry price.
Q: Who can we expect to see on the shelf next to yours?
We are right up there with Casamigos, Don Julio 1942 and Clase Azul Tequila. The most important part of our journey is bringing an experience to our consumers each and every time. I want them to have a moment like I did in Mexico. A moment of appreciation and surprise for what this incredible spirit has to offer.
Taking a note from the well-known wine glass company, Riedel, our tequila is recommended to be sipped out of long-stemmed flutes in order to savor the spirit with intention. Clough really does not want to tell you how to drink your beverage (there isn’t really a wrong way), but he prefers utilizing this style of glass that is designed for the spirit to be tasted first on the tip of the tongue than pulled slowly from the deep-bottom.