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The story of Clase Azul Tequila

Clase Azul is known for its beautiful decanters as much as the liquid inside them. This is luxury Tequila, the kind collectors love, the type that people pay the big bucks for. There weren’t very many of what you could term ‘super-premium’ Tequila brands before Clase Azul. Here’s the story of how this intriguing brand came to be. 

Building the Clase Azul brand

Arturo Lomeli founded Clase Azul in 1997. He was a 23-year-old bar owner in Guadalajara and it wasn’t his first go at creating a Tequila brand. He had tried to sell Tequila with a friend before, but it failed to take off, so he went back to school to study marketing.

His initial attempt, by his own admission, was a disaster, as the early iteration sported a “terrible” sombrero and mustache combo. But he clearly learned about the need to stand out in a crowded market and the importance of provenance, because he would eventually create the Clase Azul decanter, a unique bottle that embodied traditional Mexican culture.

Tequila is changing and Clase Azul is part of that evolution

How Clase Azul Tequila bottles are made

Each Clase Azul bottle takes no less than two weeks to make. These ceramic decanters are meticulously handcrafted and painted by artisans in Santa María Canchesda, a quaint town in Mexico, with around 350 people dedicated to bringing each piece to life using age-old techniques of the Mazahua community. 

That means no two decanters are the same, and they are also reusable. Vase. Candle holder. Lamp. Glass. These decanters can be whatever you want them to be. Clase Azul’s iconic bell-shaped top was an unintended design quirk that resulted from trying to incorporate sustainable materials and has since become a defining feature of the brand. 

In 2007, the brand further cemented its commitment to Mexican culture by establishing Tradición Mazahua, a dedicated ceramic workshop where the Clase Azul decanters can be made. Over 80% of the artisans are women, often from impoverished backgrounds without schooling, and so Clase Azul provides childcare, school tuition, meals, and transport. 

The name Clase Azul, Spanish for “blue class”, actually derives from the initial decanter’s blue detailing and the Mexican Blue Weber agave plant, the essential ingredient in Tequila. 

Why is Clase Azul Tequila so expensive? 

Creating bottles like this doesn’t come cheap, however. Clase Azul Tequila’s high price is attributed to its status as a super premium brand, which is distinguished by the artistic, collectible nature of its bottles. These factors make it a sought-after choice for tequila enthusiasts. The brand has also sought luxury, bottling one of the world’s priciest Tequilas to commemorate its 15th year, a $30,000 bottle.

Lomeli personally visited bars across Mexico and the U.S. to introduce his Tequila but ran into a few challenges. One, the large decanter didn’t fit on many conventional bar shelves. Another, the price tag. The original $100 a bottle price was significantly higher than the average price of Tequila then, which was around five times less. 

Slowly but surely, Lomeli made his mark, however. Once people saw them, they wanted those bottles. As the market shifted towards more premium products, Clase Azul was well-positioned to take advantage. Matthias Ingelmann, bar manager at KOL restaurant in London, spoke to us last year for a feature on super-premium Tequila and said, “With the increased interest in agave spirits but also a trend towards luxury spirits I’ve definitely seen an increased interest in super-premium Tequilas… in terms of brand recognition the most popular these days is definitely Clase Azul reposado”.

No need for the salt and lime here

Fundación con Causa Azul

Beyond its Tequila, Clase Azul is dedicated to supporting and preserving Mexican art and craftsmanship through the Fundación con Causa Azul. This nonprofit organisation works with artisan communities throughout Mexico to safeguard traditional artistry techniques and promote Mexican folk art, ensuring the cultural heritage flourishes alongside the brand.

How is Clase Azul Tequila made?

As with any Tequila, the production of Clase Azul begins with Blue Weber agave grown in the Jalisco highlands or Los Altos de Jalisco. In this region of red-coloured earth, factors like minerality, elevation, and climate impact the character of the agave plant and, with it, the eventual Tequila it makes. Clase Azul uses organic agave, harvested between six and eight years old.

During the jima (harvest), the leaves of the plant are removed to expose the core, the piña, which is cooked slowly in masonry ovens and then milled to extract the sugars. A patented blend of yeast is used during fermentation which is then followed by double distillation in copper stills. The Tequilas are triple filtered and the Reposado and Añejo are aged in oak casks, while the Plata is bottled unaged.

Clase Azul is made in its own distillery, unlike a lot of Tequila which is sourced, by master distiller Viridiana Tinoco. A new distillery and visitor centre are being built in Guadalajara. Clase Azul has been known to create mezcal too. Its Durango expression, for example, was made with wild Cenizo agave which takes 12 to 15 years to grow before it can be harvested, and is native to the Mexican state that gave the mezcal its name.

The signature Clase Azul bottles

The Clase Azul range

Here’s a snapshot of the range, featuring the aforementioned Durango mezcal as well as the Reposado, Plata, and Añejo. Enjoy!

Clase Azul Reposado 70cl

Aged in very fine oak barrels and presented in those signature handsome decanters, Clase Azul’s incredible Reposado is a multi-award winner, scoring gold medals from the likes of the Beverage Testing Institute and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Clase Azul Plata 70cl

A beautiful, clean, sweet Blanco Tequila that you can actually sip and enjoy neat. It would make one fancy Margarita too… 

Clase Azul Durango 70cl

This mezcal is made with Cenizo agave from Durango and is presented in a dramatic decanter inspired by Mexican black clay pottery. The colourful top is made using beeswax, resin, a needle, and individually placed beads.

Clase Azul Añejo Tequila 70cl

A super-premium añejo Tequila from Clase Azul, presented in a decanter made using traditional Mexican unfired clay methods, before European glazing techniques and hand-painted designs are added. It’s said to signify the result of two worlds meeting, just like the spirit itself.

The post The story of Clase Azul Tequila appeared first on Master of Malt Blog.

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