Since its launch in 2019, Cierto Tequila has become the stuff of legends. The bottle that drove drinkers crazy as they watched it take home every major award possible, yet getting their hands on it was nigh impossible. It seemed like a cruel joke that would never end.
Luckily, those times have passed, and the nationwide rollout of Cierto Tequila is here. It’s doing precisely what its founder Todd Chaffee, a Forbes Midas List venture capitalist, wanted it to do. Disrupt the entire luxury tequila market.
As an investor with numerous successes, Chaffee spends a fair amount of time on the road. A tequila lover himself, it was during his travels that he became convinced that there was an opportunity in the high-end tequila market. Even though he had no experience in the spirits world, he dove in with the stated goal of creating the greatest tequila in the world.
While researching the industry, he came across Master Distillers Sergio Mendoza and Enrique Fonseca, his uncle. The two men were prominent voices in leading the additive-free tequila movement that focus on making true tequilas that taste like agave, as they feel all tequila should be made. Free from additives and artifice. As fourth and fifth-generation agave farmers themselves, they had a massive library of over 30,000 barrels of natural tequilas, some as old as thirty years.
The word Cierto means “true” in Spanish, and that reflects its heritage. Cierto is made with hand-cut agave that’s distilled in alembic copper pot stills, the type usually used to craft fine scotches and whiskeys, and Coffey column stills at the La Tequileña distillery in the town of Tequila. Their aged expressions are then matured in rare French Limousin casks that previously contained fine wines and cognacs. They are then blended with liquids from the Fonseca family’s private library.
While all of that is impressive, what is even more remarkable is how Cierto created an aura around themselves. Instead of introducing their product to the public, they kept it under wrap and stayed private. Friends and family could buy their bottles while they dialed it in, but no one else. All of this happened while they continually entered every major competition.
It became the unicorn of tequila, the bottle that teased drinkers. But it wasn’t due to spite; it was all part of a well-designed plan.
“Essentially, Todd set out to create the greatest tequila in the world. He always knew that he wanted to introduce it to the broader public one day. But in his early exploration days, he was working with a small team and wanted to ensure that his product was up to his expectations,” says Jim Ruane, the chief growth officer at Cierto. “By entering into all of the major award competitions over the years while the brand was private, he was validating the liquid and earning advocacy and credibility from the most discerning palates in the world.”
As someone not born from the spirits landscape, Chaffee was unencumbered by previous expectations. Instead of slowly introducing Cierto to the market, he held it back and created a massive buzz around it. Unlike the stream of celebrity high-end spirits hitting the market touting their liquid as the best, he decided to let the liquid speak for itself. The tequila itself was the celebrity, and its backstory was that every judge seemed to love it.
According to Ruane, only 3% of the over 3,000 tequila brands can claim to be certified additive free. Many have flavoring, coloring, and other such enhancers added to their tequilas. Especially since the tequila market has blown up over the last few years, it is this message and its numerous accolades that Cierto is counting on to quickly propel it to the top of the luxury tequila market.
“I think what sits behind the success of Cierto and our commercial partner’s enthusiasm at carrying it is its disruptive, differentiated nature. There are many actors in the tequila space that aren’t making true tequila, “ says Ruane. ”As consumers’ awareness of additives, immature agave, and other shortcuts in the luxury tequila space becomes known, they will seek something pure. That creates a white space for Cierto to thrive in. We’re building a brand with substance and a story based on the product and its culture that’s quickly gaining attention and notoriety in the market, driving demand.”
The brand is being distributed by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, one of the largest alcohol distributors in the world. Launched in nine states in February of 2023, it is now in forty with plans to be in everyone by the end of the year. Its four expressions, Blanco, Reposado, Añjeo, and Extra Añjeo, start at $89 and head north.
If things go the way the brand hopes, chances are that you will soon see their tequila featured on back bars and drink menus across America and soon the rest of the world. One thing is for sure. After teasing drinkers for years, it seems that Cierto Tequila is here to stay and keep winning awards and fans.