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Like all good stories involving tequila, it started over a couple of drinks with friends. Bryan Tierce’s journey to becoming the owner of his award-winning tequila brand, Toro de Lidia Tequila, was born from hard work and a little bar in Laredo, Texas.
A born and raised Corpus Christian, Tierce has lived in Hawaii, Florida, and Park City, Utah. He entered the beverage industry as a marketing rep for Miller Brewing Company, and from there went to work for numerous liquor and wine distributors. After an invaluable stint in the logistics and shipping business, Tierce wanted to try again—but this time as the owner. He adds, “I always enjoyed the industry even when I was away from it.”
Tierce explains, “One of our customers was a small boutique distributor of a couple tequilas and mezcals. I was meeting him in Laredo. We met out one night and ended up talking for 3 hours! He teamed me up with a great distiller down in Mexico, and that was it.”
Culture and romance are two things that make tequila different from other spirits, Tierce believes. He explains, “There’s so much tradition involved in the tequila-making process. The familial tradition behind it is incredible. Jimadors, who are skilled agave farmers, pass down their skills and knowledge generation to generation—how to grow and harvest the agave takes a lot of work and a lot of expertise.”
Sitting 45 minutes outside Guadalajara, Mexico is the small, family-run distillery that produces Toro de Lidia Tequilas. “A lot of people don’t realize that tequila is one of the very few spirits that comes from a plant that has to mature a really long time. It takes about 6-12 years before it can be harvested. So, when you start drinking that tequila, think where were you when that agave was planted? What were you doing as it grew? That’s part of the romance to me.”
Right now is an exciting time to be in the tequila business. Like the craft beer movement, consumers want higher quality beverages. This demand gives birth to smaller, more artisanal brands. Tierce explains, “People will spend more for better quality. They want to know more about what they’re consuming and enjoying, like where it came from and that it’s made well.”
Tierce says that about 90 percent of consumers say the same thing—they’ve consumed tequila before, but haven’t known much about it. “This transition happened in tequila 15-20 years ago. It used to be made poorly. People got really drunk and then really sick. Then, those people never wanted to touch it again.”
In some sense, he sees it as mirroring the wine industry. “I’d say about 20-30 years ago, people started fine-tuning it. You started getting all these great types of wine and not just ‘Table Red’ but boutique Cabernets, Merlots, etc. That’s what has happened with tequila. Now, we get different ages of the liquor and smaller distillers that focus on quality. Consumers want to learn something about what they’re drinking versus just shooting it. It's a fun category right now.”
Toro de Lidia’s tequilas have won a number of awards from competitions like the “Best of the Best” Tequila Competition and the “Best In Texas.” Tierce plans to continue his consistent production of refined tequilas. “We only use one distillery. What happens with a lot of brands is that as they get bigger, they have to use more distilleries, which makes it harder to keep the same taste with each production. They have to neutralize a lot of nuances to get a consistent product. Small distilleries like ours are more controllable, more artisanal. We won’t do large-scale operations, because quality is the most important thing.”
Following Toro de Lidia’s success, Tierce plans to venture into other brands. “Tequila is one of those products that if it grows, it’s going to change. I’d rather grow with other brands and keep our tequila methods very true and not mass produced.” So what does the future hold? Another vibrant spirit—rum.
“Rum represents a certain lifestyle. It represents being on the water and in the sun, having that rich Caribbean history of going slow in life and enjoying it,” Tierce explains.
He continues, “My products have to represent what I love in life. Tequila represents fiesta, tradition, celebration, close to home. It’s a party! Sometimes it’s too much of a party,” he laughs.
So, try it again. Join Bryan Tierce in the fiesta, and give tequila just one more shot.