What was the process of setting up the distillery?
CELIA VILLANUEVA MAESTRI We had to be here almost full-time; we were living in the office. It has been an adventure. We had to transform the distillery from the bottom to the top, which took almost five years. It was a good experience. We said that if we were going to do this, we were going to do this right and in the traditional way. Quality was our focus and we would never deviate from that, as it is quality that has made the company successful. Now, we have more than 100 brands in the market.
Why did the process of setting up the distillery take so long?
MICHAEL MAESTRI: Our goal was not to reinvent the wheel, but to roll back time and make tequila the way it was traditionally made. We tried to purchase every machine from Mexico so that all of our products would be 100% Mexican. All of our employees are from Mexico except for myself, which proved to be a key to our success. There are ways to make tequila that are less expensive; however, we do it the traditional way. We cook the agave for 50 hours, whereas our competition might not cook it at all, but rather use a diffuser system. It is a different process that is much more efficient and gets more sugar out of it, but the flavor is different. It is not bad or wrong; it is just not the traditional way.
What is involved in the process of developing a tequila brand for a private client?
JOSÉ VILLANUEVA The first thing to do is register the brand with the country's trademark office. Then, we determine what a client wants, how many bottles per case, and what alcohol content the client wants. Our engineers can make their flavor profile so that we do not have to ship samples back and forth. If they have a bottle and package in mind, they deliver it to us and we bottle it. Many times, though, customers do not have the time to purchase all of these materials and send it to us, so we do it for them. We present them bottles and caps and they choose and we price it all together. If they do not know what they want, we guide them. It is like a one-stop shop; we do as much or as little as the client wants.
How important is the Asian market for you?
CVM We entered the Asian market around four years ago, and we have been growing in China and Japan over the past two years. There is a great deal of potential there; however, it is taking a little longer. Interestingly, though, it is the women in places like Hong Kong or other Asian countries that tend to enjoy tequila more than the men.
MM The Philippines also has great growth potential because it has a Hispanic background. We are working with a group that has a small restaurant with the goal of teaching the local Philippine people about Mexican culture. We are selling a traditional spirit, but we are also selling the Mexican culture.
What are the next steps for Casa Maestri?
MM We want to enter the Mexican market. The first place we will try to sell will be in the tourist areas. We feel we have an opportunity there. It will probably be to hotels, bars, and restaurants first, while at the same time we will try to get into chain stores. We have a few open-ended invitations. As far as general distribution, I am not sure if we will ever do that. We are more of a production company, so distribution is not our expertise. We are confident that the Mexican people will start to recognize our products over the next few years.