A Star is Born

Since its July 2010 launch, the new ultra-premium tequila brand Tequila Avión has skyrocketed to stardom, thanks to a few friends in high places and its distinctly smooth flavor. Company founder Ken Austin, who spent 13 years in the wine and spirits business, had a vision to create the smoothest and best-tasting ultra premium tequila—a product that wouldn’t cause what he calls the “tequila face.”

Shortly after its launch, the brand was featured as part of a liquid storyline on the popular HBO series “Entourage,” thanks to a longtime friendship with the show creator, Doug Ellin. In only a few months, Avión got the kind of exposure and star treatment that other brands only dream of.

Austin and company president Jenna Fagnan shared how the buzzed-about brand is only getting started.

Beverage World: What did the “Entourage” exposure do for the brand?
Jenna Fagnan: As an independent, small brand, you can take risks. Most brands never would have handed over control of their brand to a show like “Entourage,” but Ken knew to trust [Doug Ellin]. After “Entourage” hit, we got phone calls from distributors wanting to carry it, which is unheard of in this industry, with a distributor coming to a small brand.  
Ken Austin: When Pernod Ricard came knocking on our door saying ‘I want to be your partner and help distribute you all over the world,’ it was pretty unreal. And I’d be kidding myself if I thought it was only because of the liquid. The “Entourage” thing was like putting a rocket on the back of our shoulders. The Turtle and Vinnie storyline helped to make it a lifestyle brand. But it’s interesting, when Avión was on “Entourage,” mixologists dismissed it as a made-for-TV brand

BW: So there was a bit of a downside to the “Entourage” exposure?
Austin: If people asked me, ‘Would you do it all over again?’ You’d be crazy to turn that down. It was life-changing and probably a $50 million value in exposure, but we paid nothing for it since HBO doesn’t do product placement. But now it’s gratifying that the mixology community embraces it.

BW: Where do you stand right now?
Austin: We’re on our way to 100,000 cases very soon. We think we’re No. 5 volumetrically in the category and we expect to be the No. 2 in the space in the next two years.

BW: You have the Silver, Reposado and Anejo varieties. Any plans to add more?
Austin: Yes, we have plans to add to that, but I can’t give details. We’ll continue to innovate. We have some special things in the works to continue to make this brand, in two words, bigger and better.

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