A conversation with Casey Liston of Patrón Spirits
By Joe Daily
Photos by Kathryn Harrington
Welcome everyone, and thanks for joining us this month for Daily Libations! We sat down to chat with Casey Liston this month, representing Patrón tequila. She has been quite the whirlwind in the Louisville market, spreading the knowledge and joy of drinking the more refined tequilas out there!
So, let’s jump right in. Why is agave so important to tequila?
Without agave, we wouldn’t have this incredibly unique spirit. It’s the source of all tequila and must be at least 51% Blue Weber Agave. There are tequilas made with 100% Blue Weber Agave like Patrón. The actual plant is enormous and has thick, spiky leaves that will cut you if you’re not careful. I remember watching a jimador uproot the plant, turn it on its side and chop all the agave with a shovel. He removed all the leaves in about a minute. It’s impressive to watch how quickly it’s done. It wasn’t until we arrived at the fields in Jalisco where Patrón Hacienda Distillery is that it made complete sense to me why it was called Blue Weber Agave—it was a beautiful sea of blue!
Tequila is super-hot right now. What separates Patrón from the pack?
Besides quality, Patrón has a genuine, authentic story. Our founders, John Paul DeJoria and Martin Crowley saw a need for a higher-end tequila and acted on it in 1989. Like any entrepreneur knows, it wasn’t easy and to add to the complexity before he founded Patrón, John Paul founded Paul Mitchell Hair Care with $700, at the time he was homeless and living in his car. He used the extra money from that success to start Patrón Tequila.
Wild, isn’t it? He became famous for what he built through the struggle, which is admirable. Now we have celebrities starting their own liquor brands. It’s interesting to see! Today, Patrón is in the ultra-premium category at 3 million cases a year. I think John Paul is the one you should be interviewing!
The packaging is unique and definitely stands out. What’s the scoop here?
It’s always fun to see the bright-colored boxes on the shelves. We have a different color box associated with each spirit in our core lineup: Silver, Reposado, Añejo and Extra Añejo. The brand really came to life for me when I saw employees at the hacienda writing the bottle numbers on a sticker and hand placing them on each bottle. I watched them individually wrap each bottle in the colored tissue paper and place it in the box. 60 hands touch each of our bottles before it gets to the consumer. I enjoy unwrapping a new bottle of Patrón. It almost feels like you’re opening a special gift!
Patrón is technically a roller mill and tahona wheel product. Mind to shed some light on that for our readers?
Absolutely! We essentially blend two different tequilas to create our beloved Patrón Silver. When I say two different tequilas, this means two separate processes of crushing the pina, the heart of the agave plant, with all the tasty juices. The first we call the roller mill method; I like to describe the process as if you’ve put the baked pina on the end of what looks like a conveyor belt with spikes. It shreds all the agave and incorporates hot water to extract all the juices. The other method is the tahona method, where a two-ton volcanic rock will rotate to crush all the agave in a circular stone pit. Patrón is the top producer of tahona tequila globally, with 14 rotating at the distillery. The agave fibers are used in fermentation and distillation with tahona, so the notes you’ll pick up on your palette will be more robust, earthy and spicy. At the same time, the roller mill method doesn’t incorporate fibers throughout the process and will yield a more sweet, fruity flavor. It’s the best of both worlds!
Patrón highlight’s a lot of marks on the green initiative. What are some of the steps you guys are taking towards sustainability and lowering your carbon footprint?
Patrón composts 100% of the leftover agave fibers, creating around 5,000 tons of natural fertilizer. We use it to grow food in the gardens at the hacienda for our employees and give additional leftover fibers to other distilleries and farms. Patrón is the first to have a natural gas pipeline as the primary energy source and uses recycled hand-blown glass for its bottles. There’s also a state-of-art water treatment process that takes the stillage after producing tequila and makes it clean throughout the facility.
When Patrón began expanding the distillery, they came across thousands of lime trees along the way, so they reforested the trees and planted them in another location, which took months. We didn’t do this because you need a lime to drink tequila (trust me, you don’t always need a lime, or salt for that matter, haha!), but it was the right thing to do. Patrón cares about the environment and its employees.
Patrón is huge on zero additives. Want to shine a light on this topic?
Yes, this is so important because consumers are becoming more conscious about what they’re putting into their bodies, and they should! I don’t think this is a “trend” going away. Patrón does not use any additives, and we never have from the beginning. We make sure to use high-quality agave because of our intentional selection of the best agave; why add anything to it? We don’t have to take those shortcuts or resort to less costly processes because we want to rush to the finish line; we stick to our true artisanal craft.
Patrón has been verified by Tequila Matchmaker as additive-free. It’s not legally required for tequila producers to put it on their labels, but you can have up to 1% of additives in the final product. That 1% can alter the look, taste and aroma significantly. Some of these additives include caramel coloring, oak extract, glycerin that can change the mouthfeel of a spirit, and jarabe, which are added sugars—talk about a hangover!
A lot of readers are going to want to know. What’s it like working for a tequila brand?
It’s fun and hard work, as I’m sure all liquor reps know! I’m fortunate to work for such a successful brand that continues to grow and takes excellent care of its employees. It’s refreshing to represent tequila in bourbon country because people aren’t as familiar with tequila production. It gives me the opportunity to break it down for people if they want to learn about it. I think people want to know and learn more about the Mexican heritage. I never pass up a taco and tequila night!
What are the levels of Patrón you offer? The readers typically won’t know the difference, so a quick breakdown here.
We have our Patrón Blanco or Silver. This spirit is unaged. It goes straight from distillation to bottling. I like to think of it as a blank canvas. Once we age our tequila, we paint on that canvas meaning the spirit characteristics change with interaction with the wood. Reposado means rested in Spanish and is aged anywhere from three to five months. We blend in five different types of oak: a used American Bourbon, Hungarian, French Allier, French Limousin and our Hybrid Barrels. The Añejo has aged anywhere from 12-15 months, and the Extra Añejo is aged at least three years. All impart different aromas and tastes. There is something for every type of drinker!
Do you have a favorite cocktail right now?
My favorite cocktail is the Patrón Extra Añejo Old Fashioned. When I order it at a bar, people look at me like I’m crazy. “An Old Fashioned with tequila?” I always laugh. Once they taste it, they’re amazed at how smooth it is. It stands alone well too. I pick up honey and oak notes on the front with citrus and peppery finish on the back end. It’s so good!
What’s your favorite part about working for Patrón in Kentucky (the Bourbon State)? Seems tough, ha!
My favorite part about working for Patrón is that we don’t cater to just one demographic, so no day is the same. I’m fortunate to work and learn from different people in the industry. I may work with a nightclub account who wants to collaborate on a bottle service experience, a pop-up event with our margarita bike at a taco spot, or a fashion show cross-promoting restaurants with featured cocktails on the runway. Whatever it is, I’m there! I enjoy creating brand experiences for the consumer. We know and drink our brown water in Kentucky, but others don’t prefer it. We’re also a tourist destination, so who’s to say travelers don’t come to town and expect our city to know about all spirits? Besides, it’s fun to bring something different to the table!
Casey, thank you so much for sitting down with us to discuss all things, Patrón. Extremely informative as always!
Patrón Extra Añejo Old Fashioned
2 oz Patrón Añejo
.25 oz Simple syrup
1 dash Bitters
+ Orange zest
1. Over a double old fashioned glass, use a vegetable peeler to take off two strips of orange zest, making sure to express the oil into the glass.
2. Add Patrón Añejo, simple syrup, and bitters.
3. Add ice—the biggest cubes you can find—and stir.
4. Adjust sweetness to taste.