Revel Spirits Avila is yet another example of the diversity among blue agave spirits.
Avila is not Tequila, nor is it Mezcal. It’s a little bit of both. The innovative agave spirit also represents the people of Morelos, Mexico, and the area’s volcanic soil from which the blue agave grows.
Morelos lies outside the official Tequila-growing region of Mexico and Revel’s co-founders Hector Ruiz and Micah McFarlane did not want to create yet another Mezcal. So, they simply developed a new category: Avila, named after Revel’s master distiller Noe Avila. But it’s also a unique agave spirit because the process of making Avila involves techniques borrowed from both Tequila and Mezcal production, including steaming and roasting the heart of the agave plants (the piñas).
In the end, Avila enjoys a distinct taste that’s part Tequila, part Mezcal, and part Morelos terroir. So distinct, in fact, that one day people might not remark on how Avila is made outside the Tequila region; they might explain that it can’t be an Avila unless it’s made in Morelos.
One benefit of producing agave spirits outside the Tequila region involves land that hasn’t been overfarmed. The 100% pure agave spirit grows in mineral-rich soil on the plains below the Morelos hills, nourished by the Popocatépetl volcano (known as “El Popo”). The Avila farmers harvest, by hand, pure blue agave and shuck the leaves until only the pineapple-like heart remains. Agave hearts are roasted on volcanic rocks and then mashed into a juice before fermentation begins. Revel then distills it as many as three times before filtering it and placing it in barrels to age for two years. Meanwhile, other hearts get cooked similarly to methods used by Tequila makers. The blending of the two processes provides Avila with its unique taste. It’s all-natural. No additives. No sugars. Just a fresh agave flavor with a hint of smoke.
Héctor Ruiz, co-founder and restaurateur, and whose family owns the distillery, explained: “Avila, unlike Tequila with its earthy and peppery notes, and notes of citrus — a little lemony. It’s more gentle than Tequila, too. Bartenders don’t need to do a lot of infusion with Avila. They can take advantage of Avila because it’s such an easy spirit to work with.” The local Morelos terroir has a profound effect on the Avila flavor. Along with the volcanic-rich soil and natural pollination, Avila, like wine, expresses annual weather changes, allowing for different vintages to materialize.
One can enjoy an array of Avila offerings that include Blanco, Anejo and Reposado. Ruiz treats each one like any dish served at his restaurants. “I’m a craftsman. I like good things. The best ingredients. Sustainable. Healthy. Local. It’s not about making something just to make money. It’s something better than that. I’m more about the craft.”
Avila remains a relatively unknown spirit to most drink fans, but helping get the message out is award-winning actor Justin Hartley, known for such roles as Green Arrow on Smallville and Patrick Osbourne of This is Us. One night at a wine event, McFarlane confused Hartley for another acquaintance and proceeded to talk to Hartley as if they had known each other for years. After a confusing few minutes, McFarlane realized his mistake, apologized, and the two proceeded to laugh. But then the conversation turned to Avila and the people of Morelos. “I ended up tasting the product, and I immediately asked, ‘How do I get involved with this product? This product is amazing!'” And so in May 2020, the bartender-turned actor with a passion for the spirits industry entered into a partnership with Revel Spirits.
But, as Revel CEO & co-founder, Micah McFarlane explained to Chilled in a recent interview, the message is never just about Avila; it’s about the Morelos community. “We are letting people know their farmers and distillers make this amazing product. It’s about the soil. It’s about the people. It’s about the hands that are out there chopping that stuff down.” He added, “Those farmers and the distillers make the best agave spirit on this frickin’ planet.”