For the past ten years, I’ve been writing about tequila–just tequila.
At first, writing was a way for me to promote my own tequila tasting events in my home state of New Mexico. In those days, everyone was still drinking tequila from shot glasses and tequila tasting events didn’t exist. There was no such thing as Social Media, let alone websites where I could post information on my shows.
Fortunately, I discovered TequilaAficionado.com and its owner, Alex Perez. He willingly allowed me to publish my articles onto his website with complete editorial control. Every year for four years, I added another colorful tell-all about the mishaps and misadventures of organizing a growing tequila event.
one day, one of my faithful first customers, and someone who is now one of my most trusted tequila compadres, told me that my event had been the subject of conversation on something called a forum.
My friend explained that this was a site where you could communicate with other ardent tequila geeks in virtually real time!
While I had done a year’s worth of research on tequila using a then tender, young Internet (remember dial-up?) before launching my first event, I had never heard of a forum. In fact, I was still somewhat attached to their forerunners, the email list. I had been a member of Yahoo’s then lately dormant Tequila email group and even started one of my own called Tequila Aficionados.
At the invitation of my friend, I enthusiastically joined the Mumpsimus forum and was met with open arms. It turned out that many of the tequila-philes and tequila legends that I had met through Yahoo’s email list had already migrated there. The forum’s owner, Ian Chadwick, was also responsible for constructing what is still considered today as the Internet’s most complete tequila information website, In Search of the Blue Agave.
The exposure to multitudes of passionate collectors, connoisseurs, brand owners, importers and distillers was a tequila nerd’s dream. Not only was his site extremely valuable to me during my due diligence before tequila events, it was also the place where I refined my tequila education.
Continually improving his website, Ian eventually upgraded the forum to include a hot item on the Internet–a weblog–to each of his members. He gave everyone a space to voice his opinion, views, experiences and thoughts about the spirit we loved–for free!
I blissfully jumped in with both feet. My new weblog became the vehicle where I explored the stories behind the tequila labels. It was also where I documented the first epic excursion by a tequila forum to the distilleries of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico. I still refer to it as “the largest tequila blind date” ever assembled.
As I gained more experience in the tequila and spirits industry, and more confidence in my abilities to research and ferret out the truth, I noticed that my forum posts were becoming longer and more authoritative. This didn’t escape the watchful eyes of other web-entrepreneurs, including Al Escamilla, the founder of CocktailMatch.com.
A website built on an idea that I still think is ahead of its time, Al asked me to join CocktailMatch and not only provided each of his members with free blog space, but also a virtual bar, or vbar, where cocktail recipes could also be shared. That’s when the Intimate Tequila Bar Blog was born.
Around the same time, Chris Zarus, the CEO of the famed Tequila Rack, contacted me. I had always been a big fan of his tequila tasting kit concept for bars and restaurants, which has now expanded to include a take-home version. It’s an easy and elegant way to provide tequila flights and education to increase customer loyalty for any food or liquor establishment.
Moreover, in support of the kit, Tequila Rack’s website provides learning modules with accurate and comprehensive information on just about all aspects of the tequila making process including some of its rules and regulations. Even if you think you know all there is to know about tequila, I dare you not to take the fun quizzes at the end of each module more than once to try to improve your final score!
Chris offered me the opportunity to guest blog on Tequila Rack’s blogsite on any subjects that might be more hard-hitting, controversial and industry specific. How could I resist?
Almost simultaneously, Alex Perez launched a rejuvenated version of TequilaAficionado.com complete with, you guessed it, blog space for his small but mighty team of writers. My blog, Fermentations, bubbles up there.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Facebook and Twitter exploded onto the scene and I was dazzled by the social media craze. With the easy accessibility to hundreds of thousands (millions?) of folks from all walks of life, age ranges, countries and varying levels of interest in tequila, these two services have become my primary platforms to continue to try to educate and inform on a global scale.
Facebook is perfect for posting news reports, reviews and anything tequila related. Twitter allows me to network, to communicate and to reach out to others in or out of the industry, both in real time. If you’re interested, you can “friend” me on Facebook and “stalk” me on Twitter.
Then, one day last year, my wife pointed something out to me that I had never noticed. Denise, who among other things is a gifted graphics artist, was working on some materials for my personal press kit when she had me take a look at her computer screen.
“Do you realize,” she asked, “that you are the top ten results on Google when you search for ‘mike morales tequila’?”
“No,” I said, dumbfounded. “Really?”
She entered the same search query on both Yahoo and Bing with similar results.
“You’re everywhere,” she said. “You’re practically famous!”
Evidently, everything I had done up to then had inadvertently turned me into what social media measuring services like Klout called an influencer.
Having studied tequila branding, marketing and social media campaigns, one thing that stood out for me about achieving this virtual status is that I had accomplished it without ever having a blog of my very own.
Most marketing experts agree that you must have a blog as a hub to launch any sort of successful social media campaign. Like a hermit crab slips into abandoned shells once it outgrows its old ones, I had simply wandered from site to site trying on different blogs.
The time has come to claim a tequila place of my own, I thought.
But, like a hermit crab, I tend to guard my privacy. Sure, once in awhile, I’ll voice my personal opinion on any subject concerning tequila on the above mentioned sites and services, but I post almost nothing about my personal life. Even on Facebook and Twitter, there are very few photos of me or my family that I’ve personally posted. More often than not, I’m tagged in photos posted by others.
It’s not that I’m concerned about the usual safety and security issues that arise when using these social media sites. It’s just always been about business for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to use TequilaJournalist.com to ram my political views down your throat, post inspirational quotes by anyone living or dead, or upload whimsical photos of my pets (although they are cute!). And, no, I don’t write tequila 101s, reviews, or tasting notes, either.
I’ve never been the kind of writer who would describe a tequila as tasting yummy when it really tastes like crap just to get on someone’s good side to make a buck. (Hell, I don’t even use the word yummy!) And defining what a blanco, reposado, añejo or extra añejo tequila is, over and over again, gets boring.
That’s not to say that some of what I’ll write here won’t be instructional, politically charged or controversial. Not everything in the tequila industry is hunky dory, no matter what a brand’s marketing material and PR says. And while I don’t write reviews, if I happen to be in a notable tequila hot spot, or, I’m intrigued by a lively new tequila and there’s a unique story there, you can bet I’ll tell you about it. I can also guarantee that some of the subjects I’ll cover will be inspirational in nature and even whimsical, but never dull.
Frankly, I’ll write about anything that grabs my attention. Part of claiming a tequila place of my own is allowing myself to write about whatever I damn well please and to do it often.
Not only will TequilaJournalist.com be a blogsite containing new material, but also a collection of my earlier tequila blogs and articles from all over the Web under one shell…er, roof.
Will I still be posting on the above mentioned sites? Of course. Do you really think I’d give up the kind of web presence that took ten years to build? Besides, unlike hermit crabs, I do like to revisit my old haunts and favorite virtual watering holes from time to time.
Finally, when tequila dynamos spend millions of dollars more on measured media than they do on their tequila production just to be foremost in your mind, you come to the conclusion that it’s not about market share anymore, it’s about “share-of-mind”–your mind.
I’d always felt that it was my responsibility to help consumers see beyond the marketing, the hype, and the slew of deliberate misinformation bandied about like gospel verses, to get to the truth. You can count on me to continue to do that here.
Bottom line, just like in the beginning, it’s still the real stories behind the brands and labels that turn me on. Thank you, ahead of time, for letting me share these stories with you.