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Taylor Steele is renown in the surf world for his approach to the sea. He grew up in Southern California with an immense love for the ocean and spent his younger years surfing, but his eye for the ocean’s deep beauty drew him into the world of filmmaking. After a few years, his combined passions of surf and film established Steele as an award-winning filmmaker who brought surf culture to the masses.
For the past two decades, Steele has grown to celebrate communities through dynamic storytelling, producing films for National Geographic and even serving as creative director of Corona Australia. After a move to New York, he embraced these experiences through a new lens, and spent an evening with an artist friend who introduced him to premium sipping tequila. It was a new ritual, and Steele was inspired by the possibility of bringing pleasure to people in yet a new way—drinking to connect, and slow down to savor each moment. From there, Solento Organic Tequila was born.
Through Steele's background in capturing raw beauty up close in his filmmaking, he was naturally drawn to the sharp nature of agave plants and the complex chemistry behind premium tequila distilling, now found in Solento.
The award-winning, USDA-certified organic tequila is named after the loose Spanish translation of the words “slow sun.” To celebrate the slow moments and embrace their fleeting meanings, Solento is made from agave that grows under the Mexican sun for seven years and harvested in small batches from a single estate in Jalisco.
For a field-to-sip craft that’s rooted in organic farming, Solento’s partners have been producing tequila for over 60 years, practicing in a way that respects the environment and celebrates quality over quantity. By harvesting in small batches from just one estate, Solento’s jimadors can be meticulous. One element that’s special to the estate’s slow approach is removing bitter stems by hand, keeping only the organically sweet parts of the agave.
The product is then bottled into a container made of 100 percent recycled glass, harnessed in a box made of 100 percent recycled cardboard, and sealed with a label that is FSC-certified, made with 100 percent renewable energy. Additionally, the brand’s dedication to its community moves beyond the field and into the organizations that protect its farmers and biodiversity. For every Solento bottle sold, a portion of proceeds is donated to a Mexican non-profit working in Jalisco.
Whitewall spoke with Steele about his creative evolution in filmmaking and tequila, why sustainable measures were non-negotiable for Solento, and how he’s embracing the slow moments today.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about how you took your background in filmmaking to creating tequila?
TAYLORE STEELE: I started making films following my interest in surfing. That evolved to movies that focused on travel. All following my interest at the time. Then selling DVDs disappeared and I had to reinvent myself. A natural progression was into commercials. I liked the idea of learning how to be a better filmmaker via this short form of storytelling. Then as I got better at it, I had the moral dilemma of selling something I didn't believe in.
So I again pivoted into creating something that I wholeheartedly stood for, whether that be the taste, the design, the give back or simply how people interact with it. That's when I started looking at the elements of my life I really valued. One part was sipping tequila with friends after a good day. As I researched turning that into a brand I fell in love with everything about the idea of a tequila company. The history, farming process and how the end product affects others
WW: What were other brands doing or not doing that you wanted to change in the market with Solento?
TS: I think about how people experience Solento and what that is like. I want a positive effect. Not escaping reality but an excuse to be more present. It's a drink less approach. Sipping, not shots. Respect yourself, the quality, and the detailed process it took to arrive. I envision deeper conversations and more intimate gatherings.
WW: How does using American oak barrels impact the flavor?
TS: Solento’s aged expressions are left in American Oak Barrels to gain complexity in the flavor. Solento Reposado is aged for nine months and Solento Añejo for 18 months. Our American oak barrels were previously used for whisky, so by leaving our organic tequila to rest in these barrels we are caramelizing and slightly sweetening the flavor profile leaving us with a smooth, buttery sip.
WW: The brand has three expressions—Blanco, Reposado and Añejo—and they're crafted from certified organic agave grown in Mexico for seven years. Tell us about this process.
TS: Our friends, the Montes family, have perfected their farming and distilling techniques over three generations. Tucked into the Amatitan Valley in Jalisco, Mexico is the farm Las Americas. Here, our agave is planted on a single estate and grown slowly and without the use of pesticides for seven years. Once it reaches its perfect maturity and ripeness, the Montes jimadors will harvest the agave in small batches allowing us to preserve their family's perfected technique.
The agave piñas are steam cooked for two days leaving a soft, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth cooked agave, which is then pressed on a roller moll releasing the precious juices. The pulp which is left behind is loaded back onto the truck and used on the fields as compost for the next harvest. Next, we ferment—naturally. We don’t use any yeast or synthetic fermentation agents. After resting for two months in stainless Brite tanks, we are finally handed our flawlessly clear and effortlessly smooth, Solento Organic Blanco. Our aged expressions are created by transferring Blanco to American Oak barrels; nine months for Reposado and 18 months for Añejo.
WW: Beyond the tequila itself, how is the brand truly sustainable?
TS: Making sustainable choices wherever possible was a non-negotiable to us. I wanted to make sure we were not only creating a high quality product but making sustainable packaging choices. The Solento bottle is made from 100% recycled glass, the case boxes are 100% recycled cardboard and our label stock is FSC Certified, 100% PCW and was made with 100% renewable energy. The label inks used are water based which is both non-toxic and environmentally friendly. During the production process the pulp left behind is loaded back onto the truck and used on the fields as compost for the next harvest.
WW: What other aspects of the business are changing to meet new sustainable interests or demands from customers?
TS: We’re currently working to integrate some of our core brand values, such as sustainability, into our newly launched Solento Journal series and upcoming social media campaigns surrounding Earth Month to share with our audience in an authentic way. For us it’s table stakes to make sustainable choices but what we’ve learned is people love learning more about the sustainability of a product they are consuming.
WW: Tell us about the philanthropic element, giving back to organizations in Jalisco.
TS: A portion of the proceeds from every bottle of Solento sold is donated to a Mexican non-profit organization working in Jalisco (in partnership with local organizations) to protect farmers, women, children and biodiversity from pesticides and produce healthy food. The two most recent initiatives were focused on providing sustainable farming training and organic farming engagement in local schools.
WW: Solento encourages us to slow down and enjoy the moment rather than quickly drinking tequila. How are you enjoying your Solento today?
TS: Today I am sipping Solento on the rocks as I watch a sunset with my girlfriend and talk about our day. It's a nice ritual that helps me transition from work to personal time.
WW: What's your go-to recipe for your favorite Solento cocktail?
TS: The goal was to create a tequila that was perfect just on it’s own, so I’m usually just sipping Solento Blanco on the rocks with a slice of lemon. But a favorite among my friends is the Añejo Old Fashioned, it’s so simple and delicious. Combine 3 ounces of Solento Añejo, .25 ounces of agave syrup, and a dash of bitters. Serve it in a rocks glass over ice and garnish with an orange twist.