Agave-based spirits have been hitting the UK in a big way over the past year, with premium brands like El Destilado introducing us to exceptionally rare and unique spirits from remote villages in Mexico, and last year’s Tequila & Mezcal Fest boasting record numbers of visitors eager to find out more about this blossoming category. We catch up with one of the newest entrant into the sphere, El Rayo, at Dalston’s agave spirit bar, Hacha, to see what their take is.
Childhood friends, Tom Bishop and Jack Vereker, are themselves very new converts to the joys of agave, previously – like many of us – associating tequila with salt, lime and nights that ended slumped over the bowl of a toilet. However, this all changed for them one fateful evening in 2017, when they’d run out of beer and decided to open a bottle of Seite Leguas Añejo tequila that had been gifted to Tom by his brother, recently returned from a business trip in Mexico. “It completely smacked us around the face”, says Jack.“It was soft, delicate, smoky…I can taste it still, even today, that’s how memorable it was. It really got us interested in tequila and we started ordering more at restaurant and bars when we were out, and began reading about agave and Mexico.”
This revelation coincided with the Mexico Tourism Board’s big budget sponsorship of the World Travel Market, which saw a huge increase in the coverage of the country throughout the UK. As the British public’s interest in this spectacular paradise peaked, Jack and Tom noticed that the drinks they were finding were stuck in the past and not expressing the vibrancy of the diverse and rich culture of Mexico that the media was filled with.
“There was a massive disconnect”, Jack recalls. “There was no excitement or creativity in the category”, so the pair decided to go about creating their own brand, El Rayo, to liven up the market.
However, their backgrounds weren’t exactly in the spirits industry – Jack was a tech consultant and Tom an insurance broker. Luckily for them, they were introduced to Jaime Celorio, an industry stalwart based in Jalisco, who became their third business partner and who, along with Maestro Tequilero Oscar Garcia helped, facilitate their goal.
Whilst coming from worlds far removed from the F&B sector, the duo sees this difference as a strength, one that means that they have attacked the challenge from an unusual angle to create something distinctive that they hope will be a disruptor in the category. “We are an online, digitally focused and consumer-facing brand”, states Jack happily. This can certainly be seen from their use of brand imagery and their social feed, that brings tequila out of the problematically stereotyped realm of sombreros and moustaches, and into the modern, slick, graphic-led domain of the UK trend-seekers.
The bottle certainly has enough to it to catch the eye of the non-tequila-drinking consumer, but does the liquid inside have what it takes to make them a convert?
Tasting Notes: El Rayo Product Range
Made from Blue Weber agave, twice distilled in 105-year-old copper stills.
The aroma is lightly vegetal with a hint of pineapple, caramel and burnt miso
Celery, earthy black pepper and ashy notes come through over the ripe agave and are held together by a flinty minerality
In El Rayo’s signature serve the “T&T (Tequila and Tonic), garnished to your taste. A fresh Summer alternative to a white wine sprizter
This is El Rayo Plato after 7-months resting in ex-Jack Daniels casks.
Full caramel accents and a hint of spice
Sweeter on the palate with a rounded mouthfeel and a lingering end note of pepper. The Reposado isn’t altogether than much different from the Plata but the fuller, richer mouthfeel creates a textural difference that opens up the baked, syrupy inclinations of the agave
This lends itself to a more expressive T&T, or a lightly spicy Tequila and Fever-Tree Ginger