Published on May 4th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Tequila Avión’s President Jenna Fagnan On Making A Globally-Respected Single Original Tequila
Voted the “World’s Best Tasting Tequila” and “World’s Best White Spirit” at 2012’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Tequila Avión is a world-renowned spirit. Many people first learned about Tequila Avión from its multi-season story arc in the HBO hit Entourage. Yet only eight years into its existence, Tequila Avión continues to grow on a global basis year after year; Pernod Ricard is rumored to have paid more than $100 million for control of the spirit in 2014.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Jenna Fagnan, the President of Tequila Avión, on behalf of The Hype Magazine. Ms. Fagnon opened up about what makes Avión stand out for all other tequilas, and much of that has to do with its “Single Origin” approach to tequila-making, as done in the Mexico’s Jesús María, Jalisco area. More on Tequila Avión can be found at www.tequilaavion.com.
A lot of people first learned about Avion through Entourage. Did that present any challenges?
Jenna Fagnan: Avion was only in New York and California when it first appeared on Entourage. We were a very small company and we were thrilled with the visibility on such a cool show. There was no product placement fee as the creator of Entourage and our founder Ken Austin had been good friends for years. Entourage came up with the great storyline with Avion that got an amazing response from the audience.
Overnight, it seemed like everyone knew our name. The issue was that since we were relatively new and still small, many people thought it wasn’t a real brand and questioned whether it was made for TV. That was really hard on us as Avion is so focused on producing the best quality tequila, using a single origin, small batch process and no one seemed to understand that. However, when Avion won “Best Tequila” and “Best White Spirit” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, then everyone realized that “wow, Avion is the real deal.”
Entourage aside, what do you wish more people knew about Avion?
Jenna Fagnan: People think of Avion as a very large brand, but it is created in a small batch, hand-crafted manner that we have not changed as we have grown. We will keep the process the same as Avion grows in the future. When we started the brand, we pledged to not automate as Avion provides many jobs in the town of Jesus Maria and that was important to us and to the Lopez family who are our partners in making our tequila. And it is exciting today to see how many more people are working at the distillery due to the brand’s growth.
What makes Avion tequila different from other leading brands? Is it in the filtration process? The quality of the ingredients?
Jenna Fagnan: There are many differences, but I think the key one is that Avion is Single Origin Tequila. Almost all tequila brands buy agave from the open market, and as a result, they don’t know where their agave is grown or how the land is treated. With Avion, it is just agave and spring water that we put in the bottle, thus the high-quality agave we use is key to our flavor profile. We only use agave that comes from the highlands town of Jesus Maria and from lands that the Lopez family owns or manages. That is important. We know that our land is being treated in a sustainable manner, that there are no chemical fertilizers being used — we used the agave fibers after extracting the juice as natural fertilizer — and that the jimadors who harvest the agave are paid a strong wage.
For Avion, our agave comes from the highest of the highlands and thus has a natural rich flavor and sweetness that our process is designed to protect & enhance. We are considered to be one of the most inefficient tequila producers and we take pride in that. I could go on for hours, but a couple of highlights are that we slow roast in brick ovens for three days and during our small batch distillation — in stills made locally is Jesus Maria — we remove so much of the heads and tails that it takes up to 30% more agave to make one bottle of Avion than other ultra-premium tequilas. Now that is inefficient.
Where did the “Single Origin Tequila” concept come from?
Jenna Fagnan: We have always been “Single Origin” and inefficient in our tequila production from day one. What we didn’t realize was how rare and unique our approach was. As we have welcomed more tequila experts to come and visit our distillery, they have been blown away with the care we take of our agave and the hand-crafted process at this family distillery that is unique for Avion. They told us we must tell the story more as it is important that consumers know where their tequila and more importantly, where their agave is coming from.
Do you have a favorite Avion expression?
Jenna Fagnan: It really depends on my mood. I love Reposado with a hit of soda water and a lime — it is refreshing and less than 70 calories — perfect for a warm day. Silver is great to sip on the rocks or make just about any cocktail with. And if you haven’t tried an Avion Anejo Old Fashioned, that is a must, so much more fun than the original recipe.
When did you first get into tequila? I mean, when it comes to alcohol, most people start with beer or wine.
Jenna Fagnan: I grew up working at a restaurant on the Oregon coast and I went to college in San Antonio, Texas. I worked at a Mexican restaurant there and of course had no choice but to love tequila. I really do enjoy sipping on good tequila. However, there wasn’t a lot of good tequila to choose from back then, now is the time to enjoy great tequila.
Does Avion have any New York-related events coming up?
Jenna Fagnan: There is always a lot going on. We will be supporting the upcoming Robin Hood Foundation Gala as well as the 19th Annual Free Arts Art Auction. We also have some great partners in the Hamptons so look out for Avion during the summer season.
When not busy with Avion, how do you like to spend your free time?
Jenna Fagnan: I’m not sure people who are obsessed like us doing much else, or have free time! But I love spending time with my two little daughters and watching the excitement of the world through their eyes.
Finally, Jenna, any last words for the kids?
Jenna Fagnan: You don’t need to become an expert, but ask questions about your products and you will be surprised how much you learn. For example on Avion, we don’t add caramel color to our Reposado or Anejo, thus they are much lighter in color than other brands who don’t age nearly as long. I was shocked when I learned that most everyone adds caramel color because they think Americans like to feel like something is aged. I believe in the movement towards all natural as people want to know what they are drinking and sharing.