The tequila world saw a living legend retire last month with former Patrón Master Distiller Francisco Alcaraz officially announced that he was stepping down. His replacement is his protégé of many years: David Rodriguez, formerly the director general of Patrón Spirits manufacturing operations in Mexico.
Rodriguez now becomes master distiller for one of the most recognizable tequila brands in the world. Patrón paved the way for the premium tequila boom, and continues to grow and innovate in ways that maintain loyal fans. For a look into what’s next for Patrón and Rodriguez, we recently reached out to the new master distiller.
Beverage Wholesaler: What are your goals in taking over as master distiller?
David Rodriguez: Innovation continues to be very important for Patrón. I plan to laser-focus on continuing this discipline through ever-evolving approaches to our sustainability efforts and care of our aged expressions, which are both near to my heart.
Sustainability is an extremely important pillar that all brands, small and large, should work towards. The impact we have on the environment will impact future generations to come, so we must be conscious of our footprint and work to improve, innovate and invest in this area. At Patrón, we work toward the goal of not only scaling back negative impact on our surrounding community in Mexico and the overall environment, but also — and most importantly — driving a positive impact amongst our employees, family and Patrón consumers. I’m excited to continue this through my time as master distiller.
At Patrón, we will continue to innovate and experiment with different barrel types and aging periods, while keeping quality at the forefront. Tequila fans should expect some exciting, new offerings.
BW: What are some of these innovations?
DR: Our most recent innovation, which also happened to be the oldest tequila Patrón has released to-date, was Patrón Extra Añejo 10 Años. We are very focused on growing our aged marques within the last year, and the results are outstanding: we saw over 26% growth in our añejo and reposado expressions.
While I cannot give too much away, I can say we are currently working on an exciting project with some really amazing aged tequilas to create something very special for people to sip and enjoy neat. Stay tuned for more details on this as we continue to experiment.
BW: How has the tequila category changed during your time at Patrón?
DR: Over the last few years, the world has welcomed tequila as a staple spirit across premises. During my time at Patrón, I have been lucky to watch the growth of this category at the helm of this ultra-premium brand, and especially the growth of Patrón over the last year, as we achieved our highest underlying depletion growth in the last 11 years.
I’ve worked in the tequila industry for nearly 26 years, and historically the biggest change that I have seen in the category is the shift from mixto tequilas to 100% weber blue agave. Patrón is the driving force responsible for this. Before Patrón came onto the market, the majority of the tequilas were mixtos and that is what everyone drank. However, when Patrón was born it was a leader and pioneer that created the pure, 100% weber blue agave tequila, and paved the way for the category.
The brand changed people’s perceptions of tequila around the world. Many years ago there was an impression that tequila was cheap and not something you could drink neat because you were drinking mixto tequilas. I am very proud how Patrón has shifted this perception in the industry and for our consumers around the world.
BW: What’s next for the tequila category?
DR: I think the world still has a lot to learn about the complexity of tequila both for blanco and aged expressions. Tequila truly has a niche for every type of drinker, and is even being more commonly enjoyed outside of traditional serves (e.g. a margarita vs. a tequila highball).
We are starting to see the aged sector of tequila become increasingly popular as consumers explore and educate themselves on how much is out there for them to try. At Patrón, we celebrate the aging process with a number of expressions, but at the top of the aged end, we have our extra añejo, which is aged for a minimum of three years in American, French and Hungarian oak barrels. This provides a nuance of flavors and is perfect to substitute in for grain-based spirits.
Over the next few years, we’ll continue to see an increase in unique barrel aging techniques, as aging tequila is a meticulous practice that has to be closely monitored, but when done right, barrels can add rich complexities and characteristics to the final product.
BW: Why has Patrón resonated so well as a premium brand?
DR: Patrón has grown to become one of the most recognized and respected ultra-premium spirits brands in the world, and it is still exclusively produced in the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, in the same small batches and with the same commitment to quality and craftsmanship that we have had since the beginning. Our recipe has never changed, and we have paved the way for the tequila category.
BW: What’s it like filling the shoes of Francisco Alcaraz?
DR: I’ve worked side by side with Francisco for almost 18 years, so it’s bittersweet to make this transition of becoming the new master distiller. Francisco is a true master of his craft, and it has been an honor to be at his side while we personally approved every batch of Patrón that leaves the distillery.
The vision that Francisco and I had from the beginning was to build a team at Patrón that was a family that works hand-in-hand every day to support each other and handcraft the best tequila in the world. That is exactly what we did, and I am incredibly lucky to still have this amazing group by my side, including: Antonio Rodriguez, our director of production, Miguel Escobar, senior bottling manager, and Isamel Soli, senior production manager.
At Patrón tequila, we have always been about the people and are truly a family. While we say goodbye to Francisco, I am incredibly lucky to still have core production and innovation team working with me to maintain our time-honored process and original recipe for Patrón tequila.
Francisco’s retirement is well deserved, and I’m so happy that he’s able to spend the time with his family after many years of helping to build this brand and its unparalleled legacy. We have all learned a lot from Francisco and myself and my team gratefully for all he has taught us, and we will continue on his legacy here at Patrón. I have big shoes to fill, but I’m confident that Francisco’s guidance and wisdom has set me and my team up for great success.
BW: What’s your favorite tequila cocktail?
DR: My favorite cocktail is a Mojito that uses Patrón Silver and Tamarindo Smoky. I enjoy a tequila mojito that I made with agave syrup — not cane sugar!
One of the great things about Patrón tequila is that it is such a versatile spirit that it can be enjoyed in any type of cocktail ranging from a Margarita to an Old Fashioned. I will say though, that enjoying the various Patrón marques neat is something that I love doing as well. While I’ll never pass up a great Patrón cocktail, it’s exciting for me to taste each spirit and appreciate the various nuances and characteristics of the many variants we create. They each embody their own personality, and that’s what I love about this job.
This interview has been edited and condensed for publication.