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WHITEWALL PRESENTS WITH The Craft of Clase Azul
Clase Azul Mexico.
WHITEWALL PRESENTS

A Master Distiller with a Sustainable Mission

Clase Azul Mexico.
Clase Azul

A Master Distiller with a Sustainable Mission

The Jalisco-based tequila company Clase Azul is renowned for a product that reflects its Mexican heritage and culture. First, that’s visually seen through its decanter—a tall, white ceramic vessel, hand-painted in Mexican patterns of blue 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, and añejo. 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.

Clase Azul Courtesy of Clase Azul Mexico.
Courtesy of Clase Azul. Courtesy of Clase Azul.

Viridiana Tinoco Shares Details on Distilling Tequila

One director at helm of this creative 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 special-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 physical and chemical materials, and even investing in local culture through its own non-profit foundation, Fundación con 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.  

Clase Azul Mexico. Viridiana Tinoco, portrait courtesy of Clase Azul Mexico.
Clase Azul Mexico. Viridiana Tinoco, portrait courtesy of Clase Azul Mexico.

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: In Clase Azul, we have some unique characteristics that make us the brand that we are. For me, distillates are like music. Every one plays a role in order to make the perfect song. The collaborations, the teamwork…it’s very important for us. But also, we have a purpose. This is the most characteristic part. We want to captivate the world through Mexican culture while transforming ourselves into better human beings. This is really, really important. We also have three other characteristics, like passion. This isn’t just work. We are passionate about what we do. The attitude when we work. Another important thing is our method. In our process, we care about quality, so the method is important to have the quality we need because we don’t have any shortcuts about time. Our DNA is time and quality. This is the perfect match for us to maintain our product that we are producing. This is our main principle characteristics about our identity.

“Our DNA is time and quality,”

—Viridiana Tinoco
Clase Azul. Courtesy of Clase Azul Mexico.
Clase Azul Courtesy of Clase Azul.

WW: You mentioned the word “passion.” Where did your personal passion for tequila, or the distillation process, come from?

VT: Everything started when I arrived to Clase Azul. Before, I had experience in other products, I’m a biochemical engineer, so I’ve always been working in the food and beverage industry. But in a fermentation process. I wanted to study the scientific part of the process, so I started my master’s degree in tequila. I went further into the process. When I was studying, I was developing the process we have now in the brand. The profile we have now is because I was studying, developing, and trying everything in the distillery. At that time, I started becoming passionate about distillates. 

Clase Azul. “We want to go further,”
—Viridiana Tinoco
Courtesy of Clase Azul Mexico.

“”We want to go further,”
—Viridiana Tinoco”

WW: How does the brand consider sustainability in production? 

VT: Sustainability for us as a luxury brand is very, very important because we want also to return to the environment that we’ve taken. We’re worried now because it’s an important topic around the world. So, we’re working in different ways. We’ve developed a new area, R&D department, in order to research all the innovations that we can to reuse the waste we produce—in distillates and also in the ceramic. We’re working on our goals, because the climate and resource management is very important, and we’re aligning the objective to the sustainability development goals that the UN has. In that perspective, we’re trying to search for new ways to reuse our waste. We have two important wastes that go into the distillates—the fiber, after we extract the juice, so we’re looking for new methods to recycle, make compost for our fields, etc. But also, we obtain liquid that is called vinassis, when we distill. It’s a contaminant, but we’re looking into new ways to reintegrate it back into the process. We’re improving our methods so we can treat that liquid and obtain biogas in order to put it back into the process, and obtain water from the treatment and re-use it in the process.

We’re now trying to have a circular economy with that. And with the ceramic waste, too. We’re reintegrating that back into the process. In Clase Azul, we are implementing new “Reduce, Recuse, Recycle, and Repurpose” goals because we want to put 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.

“We want to generate new products with old waste,”

—Viridiana Tinoco
Clase Azul Courtesy of Clase Azul Mexico.
Clase Azul Mexico. Viridiana Tinoco, portrait courtesy of Clase Azul Mexico.

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 the icons—plata, resposado, anejo, extra anejo—and a day in my life is to carry the process. We have some specifications during the process, and quality is the main part. The department assures that we keep the specifications alone the process.

But I also try a lot of distillates, about twice a week. I need to try to be sure that the produce we’re distilling and aging and processing has the same characteristics. So aside from quality methods, I also need to taste it and realize it. It’s very important.

I dedicate five hours a day twice a week only to taste the products we’re creating. I’m checking aromas, colors, all those parts. In another way, we have for example special editions that we create. These are in collaboration with the creative department, because we want to tell to the world the exquisite culture of Mexico. We want to share through our products and bottles, to tell the history. We create a process together. They had an idea, for example, for Dia de los Muertos—the day of the dead. In Mexico, it’s a specific day. We want to celebrate with this innovation. What we want to tell the world is how exquisite Mexico is with the colors, the flavors. We want to share all of that in a bottle, a decanter. And then distillate, of course, which has a story behind it. 

The idea was calaveras, the skulls, for our las ofrendas—our offerings. We put this school in our offerings, and it’s made of sugar cane. I decided to wash the distillate that previously contains Rum of Matinique. Why? Well, we are aligned with artisanal methods, and in Matinique, they produce rum in an artisanal way—with 100% sugar cane. I tried to match with the message of the decanter, but also with the distillates. When you taste it, you can find the sugar cane. This was my creative process, starting from the history we wanted to share to the world, ending with this creative way to design the decanter.

WW: What does it feel like to be one of the only female master distillers in the industry?

VT: I can’t believe it when I think about my profession. It’s really interesting how I was creating my passion. When I started deciding my studies, I really said to myself, “This is something different. Something that’s not too simple.” It’s an industry supposedly for men, you know. When I decided to study, I had the support from the company. I don’t think that’s too common. But that was part of my decision, and having the support of the company was important, too. I feel blessed and grateful that Clase Azul trusted in a woman to have this responsibility. I love the icons and the new editions, and my work.

Clase Azul
Courtesy of Clase Azul Mexico.

“”

WW: Last fall, the brand launched Clase Azul Destinations 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: Not necessarily. It goes in steps. When I have the distillate, the creative part of the Chef decides its pairings accordingly. I give a list of aromas and flavors in the distillate—like for Dia de los Muertos, it was green apple, sugar cane, oak, and chocolate. I also give a sample to the chef so they can start making pairings. Bu it’s not too easy. Distillates have 48% alcohol per volume, so it’s not easy to pair with food. This is another special thing we studied, how to take distillates with high contents of alcohol and pair it with food. In wine, it’s most common to have pairings with food. But with distillates, it didn’t previously exist before Clase Azul.

We’re also studying which components of the distillate and food match, and how to work with those together. 

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 heighten its roots in tequila-making? 

VT: Our roots are our purpose. With that in mind, we are developing experiences, like the one you mentioned, because we want to share the exquisiteness of Mexican culture through distillates and decanters. That’s why we’re creating these experiences, and in all destinations. We want to go further.

It’s also about the work with our artisans. The decanter takes around 7 days to make. Also, food. We have a lot in Mexico—special ingredients and dishes—that we are pairing with our distillates of agave. We are very proud of our Mexican culture, and doing this work to transmit this special magic to the world. 

EXPLORE FURTHER

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Clase Azul's Master Distiller, Viridiana Tinoco, reveals how she creates the brand's iconic tequila profile.

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