Hayley Dixon, Proximo Spirits tequila specialist on where agave is at right now

Hayley Dixon, Proximo Spirits Tequila Specialist.

Hear from Hayley Dixon, Proximo Spirits Tequila Specialist, and get the low-down on where agave is at right now

What’s happening in the tequila space in Australia right now?
Luckily for me, people want to learn everything they can about it. Although tequila has one of the richest histories, it is still kind of the new, cool kid on the block here in Australia. 

I am seeing bars consistently expand their agave spirit selections, tequila cocktail listings and knowledge and that is having a very positive effect on the general consumer’s perception of tequila.

People are currently very excited by tequila and that excitement drives a demand for new products. So, keep your eyes peeled for some new products hitting Australian shores soon. 

How are you enjoying working with the Proximo tequila portfolio?
Explaining my job to people outside of the industry is one of my favourite hobbies. 

I get to fly around the country and share my passion for such an amazing spirit, host high-end dinners, organise hip-hop inspired events, create signature drinks, see people off with a Margarita at international departures and meet people from every single corner of our hospitality industry both here in Australia and Mexico.

I am incredibly lucky with Jose Cuervo because the portfolio has everything from entry-level tequila, right up to some of the highest rated in the world. I’m kind of the spoilt child who never gets told no because we have a tequila to suit every event or crazy idea I have. 

How did you get into tequila?
I was a cocktail bartender before landing a job in the world of agave spirits and I think when you look at cocktail creation, it is hard to look past tequila and mezcal because they are such unique spirits to work with. I never had that ‘bad night’ on tequila so instead of being scared to use it, I always reached for it first. 

I think the biggest part of it though can be credited to Jorge Cervantes who I was fortunate enough to get to work for. I already loved tequila, but he is responsible for sharing his passion and teaching me everything I needed to know to get started. 

What makes tequila so special?
I could write a book answering this question but if I had to narrow it down to just three things it would be the history, the families and just how incredibly unique it is from every other spirit category.

Our distillery at Jose Cuervo, La Rojena, is in its 224th year of continuous production, and on top of that, remains a family owned and operated business. As the number one tequila brand in the world, that is a huge testament to tequila and just how special it is, no other big spirit company can say that.

When you sit down with a premium tequila like Reserva De La Familia, you are tasting history and there really isn’t anything you can compare to that experience. 

What should people look for in a premium tequila?
A premium tequila drinks much like a fine whiskey or cognac. You are searching for body, texture and length. The big difference with tequila is that your silver tequilas are the true indication of a great brand. Whilst there is most certainly a time and place to sit and enjoy a delicious extra anejo, a silver will let those flavours of earth, agave and terroir really shine through. 

With a silver tequila you can’t hide any shortcuts in production. Jose Cuervo’s Platino is an incredibly good place to start, with a rating of 96 out of 100 from a blind taste testing conducted by the Beverage Testing Institute, it really sets a standard for what to look for in your premium category.

How are people drinking tequila right now?
The days of a shot served with salt and lime are slowly fading and the world of agave cocktails and premium, neat sipping tequilas is opening up.

Tequila cocktails are becoming a staple on most signature drink lists, and bars across the country are expanding their back-bar tequila ranges.

Just like other spirit categories, at Jose Cuervo we have seen a dramatic shift towards premiumisation and more specifically 100% agave tequilas.

One trend I have noticed when I jump behind any bar, whether it be a cocktail bar or club, is people opening up to the idea that tequila can be consumed with your basic mixers. Tequila, soda and lime tends to be the big one with the general consumer also becoming more health conscious. 

What are some of the more interesting ways of mixing tequila drinks you’ve been seeing? How have you been using tequila in different styles of drinks?
We had some great success with Tequila Spritzes over the warmer months, but we have just completed the first 1800 Tequila Winter Warmers cocktail competition in Melbourne and all I can say is, look out for the new hero spirit of winter cocktail lists. From flips, blazers and tequila teas all the way to mulled cider and Manhattans, the bartenders in Melbourne have really proved its versatility.

Personally, I have been experimenting a lot with stirred down, richer style drinks. I recently did some work with Ratio Chocolate and we created a beautiful cold drip cacao Manhattan with 1800 Anejo and I think it will remain a favourite for some time to come.