Two recent milestones have proven how far Scott Willis has come with the tequila operation he’s bootstrapped together since November 2012, when he started self-distributing Tequila 512’s blanco tequila to local bars and stores.
Just after releasing a new reposado, aged for nine months in charred bourbon barrels in the La Cofradia distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, where all Tequila 512 is produced, he got word that the blanco had received double gold and the “Best in Show” award at the prestigious 15th Annual San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
More than 1,500 participants in various spirits categories, a record, vied for the tastes of the 41 spirits experts who judged each one blindly. Once they determined the double gold winners of each category, these then faced off for the “Best of Show” honor. For Tequila 512 Blanco to take the top prize in blanco tequila, Willis said, was an “amazing” accomplishment.
“What’s inside the bottle has always been most important to me, so for a panel of expert judges with extremely sophisticated palates to unanimously vote our tequila the best in the world is just incredible,” said Willis.
“Best in Show” is the same award that Tito Beveridge’s Tito’s Vodka received in 2001 — making the win even more special for Willis, who was inspired to get into the spirits business in part because of Beveridge’s trailblazing influence.
It’s a safe bet that Willis will enter the reposado into next year’s competition, too. The reposado is currently available at Spec’s locations in Austin and will soon be in Twin Liquors and local bars as well.
He created the aged tequila by letting the blanco mature for nine months in an aging room above the distillery where mango trees stretch above the barrels, all the way through the ceiling. These trees, along with the stucco walls, regulate the temperature and humidity of the above-ground aging room, Willis said.
Throughout the aging process, he would stop into the distillery to check on the tequila, finally deciding that it was “perfect” at nine months. The result is “an ultra smooth tequila that is golden in color, with hints of vanilla, and a gentle woody character,” according to Tequila 512’s website. “It is a full body reposado tequila with a mellow richness.”
“For the reposado, I wanted there to be a big enough difference (between it and the blanco),” he said. “I wanted enough nuance and flavor from the barrels, so it’s a bit older of a reposado than others.” (To be considered a reposado, the blanco had to be aged anywhere from two months to less than a year.)
It’s going for $33-$34 in stores, Willis said. For more information about Tequila 512, visit the website at www.tequila512.com.