Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
The Jalisco-based luxury brand Clase Azul is renowned for a product that reflects its Mexican heritage and culture. First, that’s visually seen through its decanters, which are hand-painted by local artisans. Then, that’s experienced through taste. Sweet aromas and rich flavors swirl in savory notes from the agave plants, changing slightly for its varieties: plata, reposado, gold, añejo, and ultra. At last, there is the feeling—a sensation Clase Azul continues to perfect today, created by the warmth, care, and passion of the people who work for the brand.
One director at helm of this process is the brand’s Master Distiller, Viridiana Tinoco. A studied biochemical engineer, her responsibility is to align the tequila’s smooth taste through each season, variety, and limited-edition label. Under her direction is also a new research and development arm of the company, rooted in the aspiration of becoming a more sustainable company. As a guide, the brand looks to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations, implementing practices whenever possible.
But for Clase Azul, responsible production introduces itself as circular economy. Hyper-local programs and production sites allow the brand to invest back into its community, creating a long-lasting business approach to both the people and the plant. Today, the brand hires locally, reuses an array of materials, and even investing in local culture through its own non-profit foundation, Fundación Causa Azul, which protects and promotes Mexican folk arts.
To learn more about creating Clase Azul’s sumptuous tequila, Whitewall spoke with Tinoco about the distilling process, and how it aims to be even more sustainable in the future.
WHITEWALL: Clase Azul is a statement-maker in the world of tequila. What identity markers do you feel make that possible, from a distilling standpoint?
VIRIDIANA TINOCO: At Clase Azul, we have unique characteristics that make us the brand that we are. For me, distillates are like music. Everyone plays a role to make the perfect harmony. The collaborations, the teamwork…it’s very important for us. But most importantly, we have a purpose, and that’s what sets us apart. We want to captivate the world through the magic of Mexican culture while transforming ourselves into better human beings. We are also passionate about what we do. For us, this isn’t just work. And lastly, our method. We care about quality, and we don’t take shortcuts to achieve the quality we strive for. Our DNA is time and quality, the perfect match for us to continue producing outstanding tequila.
WW: You mentioned the word “passion.” Where did your personal passion for tequila, or the distillation process, come from?
VT: My passion for tequila started when I arrived at Clase Azul. Before Clase Azul, I had experience in other products. I’m a biochemical engineer, so I’ve always worked in the food and beverage industry. I specialize in fermentation, and I wanted to study the scientific part of this process, so I decided to do my master’s degree in tequila. This is when I delved further into the process. As I was studying, I was also developing the process we now use in Clase Azul. The processes we have now are because I was studying, developing, and trying everything at the distillery. During this time, I truly started becoming passionate about distillates.
WW: How does the brand consider sustainability in production?
VT: Sustainability for us as a luxury brand is very, very important because we want to give back to the environment. This is a top priority for us and we’re working in different ways to achieve our goals. We’ve developed a new department, to research all the innovations that we can to reuse the waste we produce—in distillates and also in the ceramic factories. We’re working on our goals, because climate and resource management is very important, and we’re aligning our objectives to the sustainability development goals that the UN has. We are always thinking of new ways to reuse our waste and we’re looking for new methods to recycle, make compost for our fields, and reintegrating waste into the chain.
We’re trying to have a circular economy during the distilling process and with the ceramic waste as well. We are finding new ways to reintegrate ceramic waste back into the process. At Clase Azul, we are implementing new “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repurpose” goals because we want to add more waste back into the chain. We want to generate new products with old waste. Obviously, we want to reduce the carbon footprint. The objective is to reduce 50 percent by 2030.
WW: What is the typical creative process like behind distilling Clase Azul tequila? What’s a day in the life like?
VT: I have two creative processes. One is for our icons—plata, resposado, gold, añejo, ultra and our mezcales Durango and Guerrero—making sure all the processes and quality controls are running smoothly. We have many markers during the processes, and quality is the main one. My department makes sure that we are keeping these markers during the process.
I spend about five hours, twice a week, trying all of our products to check for aromas, colors and taste, making sure we are distilling and aging them properly.
I’m also busy with the creation of our limited editions, which are in collaboration with our creative department. With our limited editions, we look for new ways to share our exquisite Mexican culture with the world and we love for our distillates and decanters to tell a cohesive story.
WW: What does it feel like to be one of the only female master distillers in the industry?
VT: I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have a job that I am so passionate about. When I was deciding on my career, I loved that this was something different, not too simple and that was generally dominated by men. It was a welcomed challenge. I was very blessed to have the support of the company when I decided to go back and study, which is rare. It feels really good to know that Clase Azul empowers me, and women in general, this way.
WW: Last fall, the brand launched La Terraza in San José del Cabo, Mexico—a first-look at the brand’s foray into the lifestyle field, featuring a boutique, restaurant, bar, omakase counter, and private tasting experience. Here, food is paired with tequila nd vice-versa for the brand’s new “A Taste of Culture” offering at Clase Azul. Are you considering how the tequila is paired with the food?
VT: Once I create the distillate, our Chef decides the pairings accordingly. I give a list of aromas and flavors to the chef so they can create the perfect pairings. Distillates have 40 percent alcohol per volume, so it’s not as easy task to pair with food. While pairings are common with wine, it’s very rare with distillates, so we had to really study how to do it the right way.
WW: With this, Clase Azul branches into the luxury lifestyle sector, rather than just spirits. How does the brand creating a 360-degree brand experience emphasize its roots in tequila-making?
VT: We're motivated and inspired by our roots as Mexicans, so we strive to create experiences which authentically share the magic of our culture. We want to strengthen our clientele’s connection to our Country, which is another reason the food and hospitality is so important. We're known for these things, especially our amazing cuisine and hotels, so it makes sense for us to move in this direction.