what liquor privatization means to one ornery tequila lover

Monday, May 28, 2012

It's Memorial Day, and the unofficial start of summer. There are summer wines, of course, but also summer drinks, and many of them involve tequila.

My very good friend and music buddy Jef Jaisun, among his other talents, knows more about tequila than just about anyone north of Jalisco. Never shy with an opinion, he wrote the following letter in response to an article on the potential high cost of privatizing liquor that ran in yesterday’s Seattle Times.

With Jef’s permission, I am running his opinion piece unedited and unexpurgated. (Note: if you feel you must expurgate, please do it somewhere else.) Do I agree with every single statement that follows? Not completely. But for this one day, I turn the PG blog over to a different voice.

Here is Jef’s piece, beginning with this quote from the Times article.

“Dick Montoya, who has owned Señor Frog's restaurant and bar in Lake Chelan since 1978, said prices to restaurants and bars from one major distributor, Southern Wine & Spirits, are about 17 percent higher than the state's, and considerably more in some cases. For example, a 1.75-liter bottle of Silver Patrón tequila, he said, is going from $80 to $105.”

JJ: "Citing Patron is a really bad example. One of the world's most over-hyped and overpriced tequilas.

1. First of all, it's not really very good tequila. It's been dumbed down and smoothed out for gringo tastes, then heavily (and successfully) branded and marketed as an "ultra-premium" tequila. Anyone who knows real tequila (and I'm a serious tequila geek) knows that's a pile of agave.

2. In September 2007, I stopped into the SFO Costco and checked out their liquor prices. Their tequila prices were ridiculous! The 1.75L of Patron Reposado was $80 RETAIL, a 1.75L of Sauza Hornitos for $34. That was less than half of what we’re paying up here.

3. Two weeks ago I came back on the Victoria Clipper, which had a duty-free shop. A 750ml of Patron Silver was $37, overpriced (IMHO) even at that discount. In State stores, however, the same bottle is $55. But at Asturiana, one of Jalisco's better liquor outlets, Patron is still way overpriced. It's an astronomical 600 pesos, which is in the $50 range. Ridiculous. Why so expensive? Because it's marketed mostly to gringo tourists who don't know any better. Mexicans not only can't afford it, they know better tequilas at 1/3 to 1/4 the price. I do, too, and that's what I buy and bring home. One of my current faves is Pueblo Viejo reposado, which sells for 107-130 pesos... $8.50-$9.00. You can get the more gringo-y Carmessi from San Matias for 230 pesos... $18. Wal-Mart Mexico cut a deal with Don Roberto Tequila to get 1.75L bottles of their 100% agave Reposado, sold exclusively in Wal-Marts and their mini-bodegas for 99 pesos. That's $7.80! You betcha I brought one of those back. It's not my favorite tequila, but it's perfectly fine for casual drinking and making margaritas.

4. The current retail for a 1.75L of Patron Silver is $110. Class H gets it for $80. Which means every time they charge us $10 a shot we're getting hosed. ~34 ounces in a liter, ~60 shots per 1.75L. So, if restaurant cost goes up to $105 the poor bastards are only making $495 profit per bottle! Instead of the $520 they are now. Boo freakin' hoo!

I'm so tired of hearing the scare crap and the whining. The wholesalers have been bending us over forever, and it's no different now. They're acting like the oil companies because, for the moment, they can get away with it. But when outfits like BevMo start showing up here the market will change.

Either way, I'll still be buying 90% of my tequila in Mexico. It's better, it's cheaper, and, despite what you may hear about Customs, there's effectively no limit or duty on booze you bring back for personal use."

PG: Thanks Jef, for a well-researched and sure-to-be controversial piece.

The image pictured is Mayahuel, the many breasted Goddess of fertility and the Goddess of the Maguey plant, the plant from which tequila is derived. On the blog from which it is taken, it explains that “She is the mother of many rabbit gods and it is said that She feeds Her children from her 400 breasts, all of which produce the alcoholic beverage. Thus, they say that the rabbits are responsible for the many forms of drunkenness. She rules the Earth, the night sky, hallucinations, as well as drunkenness.”

Go here for more.


MagnumGourmet said...

Paul, do you know with the changes to the liquor distribution in Washington if consumers are now allowed to have spirits shipped in from other states? Might solve some of the local price gouging issues.

PaulG said...

MG - To the best of my knowledge, it remains illegal to ship spirits to consumers from out of state. But I think we can ignore all the BS in the media about huge price increases. They will spike up briefly; then competition will set in and correct things back down.

Hoke Harden said...

I counted only two on Mayahuel. And I looked very carefully.

Art said...

Two is enough! But how about a Top-10 list of fertility goddesses from Paul and tequilas from Jef?

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