ForTequilaLover’s Exclusive Interview with Stephen Morocco from Tepoz Tequila
ForTequilaLover’s is all about bringing unique and rare tequilas to our tequila-loving community. We are excited to announce a new segment on our website in which we will be conducting exclusive interviews where we will profile the craftspeople behind our featured tequilas. We had the honor of getting to know Stephen Morocco, founder of Tepoz Tequila, by having a one-on-one conversation about his unique tequila!
FTL’s Interview with Stephan Morocco
Questions about Tepoz Tequila
DS: What did you do before you stated Tepoz, when did you start Tepoz, and what made you want to open it / become a tequila brand owner?
SM: I had been a senior executive at several major consumer products companies such as Kraft/General Foods, PepsiCo, Duracell and Gillette. While living and working abroad for these major companies, I always thought it would be fun to own and manage my own brand after leaving the Corporate World. I became an entrepreneur about 15 years ago by running a small software company. Over the years, I had been to Mexico many, many times and had the chance to meet some agave farmers. As someone who made wine with his father from the age of about 7 and continued this into my adult life, I was not intimidated by the making of a spirit. One thing led to another and I got the idea to make a superior tequila that few others were making.
DS: Why choose to make a tequila at all and why only a blanco?
SM: Since I had lived and worked abroad for over eight years introducing well-known U.S. brands to international markets, I was keenly aware that tequila was big in the U.S. and nearly non-existent abroad. I see the International market as a terrific opportunity to grow tequila. For example, when I first started working in China in 1990, it was almost impossible to get a bottle of red wine that was drinkable. Today, China consumes more red wine than any other country in the world. My thought on blanco is that it is the toughest style of tequila to make as you cannot hide behind wood or charcoal or whiskey in the flavor profile. TEPOZ is made from two ingredients: 100% agave and pure spring water. Winning a double gold medal at the world’s largest, most prestigious blind taste contest with this formula is not a “walk in the park”.
DS: How well has your tequila been received and any plans to expand your range?
SM: TEPOZ Tequila gets rave reviews from nearly everyone who has a chance to try it. TEPOZ has won a medal at every single tasting contest it has entered. The most coveted came from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition with a Double Gold Distinction. Indeed, TEPOZ’s best customers and biggest fans are people who consider themselves tequila aficionados or who only drink tequila as a spirit. TEPOZ is quite new in America, but we are currently in conversations with potential distributors in New York, New Jersey, California, Florida and Massachusetts. In addition, we have created a beach head in Southeast Asia in Singapore and are talking with people in China and Thailand about distribution. In Connecticut, TEPOZ is distributed by Gathering Harvests. At some future date, we will also have reposado and anejo in our lineup.
DS: Tell me about the actual still, design and capacity
SM: Again, I am not allowed to discuss capacity but I can tell you that agave is steamed and fermented in an old-style clay oven for about 66 hours to both release and absorb all the complex flavors of the ripened agave plant. We make a point to include all of the “bagasse” or plant roughage for an authentic agave aroma and flavor profile. Then, the juices are sent to modern copper and steel stills where it is TRIPLE DISTILLED before being put into steel storage tanks.
Questions about TEPOZ Tequila
DS: Tell me about your Tepoz
SM: TEPOZ Tequila in named after the Aztec god of alcohol. The Aztecs had a fondness for gods and actually had hundreds in their heyday. When they realized they could ferment the agave root ball and make a “spirit” with it, they decided to make a god that they called “TEPOZtecatl”. I shortened the name and had it registered as a U.S. trademark.
DS: What makes it special/different from other tequila’s?
SM: A couple of things make TEPOZ unique/different. First, it is triple distilled. Very few companies do this because it dramatically lowers yields, adds time to the processing, adds costs and “wastes” what some consider perfectly good tequila. We feel strongly that this extra distillation creates a pureness and smoothness to the finished product that is incomparable. In addition, we use natural spring water instead of ionized or distilled water. Again, what we use is pure and natural and untouched by humans. Lastly, we put the triple distilled liquid into a proprietary centrifuge filter at zero degrees to further purify and smooth out any potential foul-tasting matter that may remain in the spirit.
DS: Tell me about Agave.
SM: By order of the Tequila Regulatory Council, only blue weber agave can be used to make tequila. While there are many types of agave plants grown in Mexico and around the world, only blue weber agave grown in the Mexico tequila zone can be used to make tequila. The Mexicans copied the strategy from the French using the champagne model as their guide. Mezcal can be made from any kind of tequila and, agave sweetener uses agave syrup to be used in place of sugar. In fact, agave sweetener has the lowest glycemic index of all the natural sugars in the world and can be taken by diabetics and not cause a health problem.
DS: You give several cocktail recipes on your website – do you feel that it’s an ideal style of tequila for cocktails?
SM: TEPOZ Tequila was intended to be made as the smoothest and most pure tequila on the market. We have succeeded with that goal as evidenced by the awards the brand has been given by professional tasters. Consumers love to make and drink cocktails. While we feel that enjoying TEPOZ neat or on the rocks or with a slice of lime truly brings out it best qualities, we are confident that the purity and smoothness of the product will not take away from anything that a consumer would like to pair it. Also, requests are constantly made to us for recipes through our Facebook and Instagram accounts and we like to oblige these requests.
Get to Know Stephen Morocco!
DS: What is your favorite word?
SM: Wow, because it is the most used word that a person uses after their first taste of TEPOZ.
DS: What is your least favorite word?
DS: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
SM: Overcoming obstacles.
DS: What turns you off?
SM: People who do not do what they say.
DS: What is your favorite curse word?
SM: Ay Caramba!
DS: What sound or noise do you love?
SM: Ocean Waves
DS: What sound or noise do you hate?
SM: Car Horns
DS: What profession other than distilling would you like to attempt?
SM: Though more of a vocation than a profession, I would love to be more of a philanthropist.
DS: What profession would you not like to do?
DS: When you aren’t drinking your own spirits, whose are you drinking?
SM: I like to share a gin martini with my father-in-law a few times a year.
DS: What inspires you when you are making a whiskey or other spirit? Are you influenced by other whiskey makers and, if so, by whom?
SM: The opportunity to surprise and delight people when they taste TEPOZ Tequila. I am interested in how tequila makers market their products. I find this endlessly fascinating.
DS: Are you inspired by other artists like chefs or musicians? If yes, who are they and why/ how does their work find its way into your whiskey?
SM: My nephew, Christopher is a classically trained French chef and food editor at Bon Appetite Magazine. His work at the magazine and the products that they cook and photograph continually inspire me every month.
DS: How will you measure your success?
SM: Already measured. I invented and trademarked a brand and a logo, a website, a spirit that has won professional accolades and have gained distribution in both the U.S. and Asia. All this has been done without big-corporate sponsorships, private equity investors or crowd-funding.
DS: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
SM: I thought you’d never get here.