When is tequila not tequila? When it isn’t grown in Jalisco, for starters. Mexican law states that all tequila must come from this state (though Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas have a minor exemption). Agave spirits that come from elsewhere in Mexico are typically classified as mezcal.
Revel isn’t tequila or mezcal (or sotol or anything else along those lines). It’s “avila,” a new (and trademarked) classification of spirits made from the same agave that tequila is made from.
Confused yet? Let’s have Revel explain.
Revel Spirits, the maker of artisanal, award-winning agave-based spirits, is launching both its flagship brand, Revel, and a new category of distilled liquor, Avila®, made from 100% blue weber agave—the same plant base as tequila—but grown in the Morelos region, a small state in the south central part of Mexico. Founded by three partners with connections to Minnesota, the Revel Spirits team created the new Avila® category to differentiate its Revel agave spirit from tequila, which can only bear that name if produced in the Tequila region of Mexico.
With Avila®, Revel Spirits is setting out to lead and grow a full-fledged movement, educating trade and mainstream audiences on agave options outside of tequila. What’s more, the growing tequila shortage means Avila®, and spirits like Mezcal, Bacanora and Sotol are poised to fill a tangible need in the market, offering consumers an attractive alternative to tequila.
“There is a huge learning curve when it comes to agave-based spirits,” said Micah McFarlane, CEO of Revel Spirits. “Many consumers and even some industry professionals aren’t aware there is a whole world of agave spirits outside of tequila, each with its own distinct qualities and characteristics. We are excited not only to introduce this new brand and category but also to better educate the world about the larger agave spirits market and what is available to them.”
Unlike the over-farmed Tequila region, which has been in operation for 400+ years, Morelos is new to agave growing, boasting pristine, alkaline-rich soil. In addition, its farmers and distillers share an unwavering commitment to authentic processes and techniques like natural bat pollination and the use of volcanic roasting pits. Moreover, with this new category of agave spirit, Revel Spirits offers substantial, long-term economic benefits for the region, providing the farmers of Morelos with a steady and reliable source of income that will ultimately enrich the whole community.
The world’s first Avila®, Revel is an ultra-premium agave spirit handcrafted using both roasted and steamed piñas, a process that marries the old-world characteristics of mezcal with newer tequila-like techniques. Revel Avila® provides a truly one-of-a-kind profile.
So there you have it: This is 100% blue agave, but not grown in Jalisco. It even comes in blanco, reposado, and anejo expressions — though we only received the blanco for tasting.
So, with all of that buildup, what does Revel taste like?
Well, I am both happy and sad to report that it comes across a lot like tequila.
The nose is heavy with vegetal notes — not quite the pungency one gets with a top-shelf tequila, but close, showing more roasted character than the fresh and peppery greenery that comes with a typical blanco tequila. On top of the veggie character, I catch hints of peanut shell and brown butter and some white pepper, but nothing overwhelmingly out of the ordinary.
The palate is again reasonably aligned with blanco tequila. A somewhat buttery body offers plenty of herbal agave character, some spearmint, and some light chocolate notes emerging on the finish. On the other hand, there’s not much spice or heat here as you typically find in a standard tequila — so if you’re in the market for a more sedate experience than what blanco often offers, Revel isn’t a bad way to fly.
That said, for my palate, a more traditional tequila still sets the bar.