It’s an autumnal Thursday evening and I am sitting amongst the largest collection of tequila outside North America – it can only be at the uber elegant Annabel’s Club in Mayfair. I’m here to meet the mavericks behind young British tequila brand Enemigo (which means enemy) which defines itself as the enemy to negative tequila stereotypes surrounding the iconic spirit of Mexico. Tequila Enemigo was founded in 2013, with an aim of creating the purest and smoothest liquid possible. Barely a year old, Enemigo have their sights set on international expansion into the US market.
Max Davies-Gilbert and Robin Clough, the two young British newbie disruptors of the tequila world arrive and with introductions barely over, and I am offered an Enemigo 89. With no salt to lick off my hand or lime wedge in sight, I had done my research and knew not to shot it down my neck! Enemigo is a sipping tequila and the second I tasted it I knew why. Its so smooth and delicate. I can see why Cuba Gooding Junior is a fan. Robin proudly says, “It’s aged for over a year and then a three phase filtration which gives smoothness and flavour.”
Their second premium tequila (Enemigo 00) is aged for 3 years in American oak barrels. Its rich and deep in colour with a flavour I can only compare to a fine aged Armangac. I asked why this was served in a champagne flute. Robin said, “The narrow bowl amplifies aromas and funnels the liquid to the tip of your tongue so the complexities are revealed and savoured.”
I ask, “What if I’m not in the mood to drink it as a short drink?” They have this covered. Max says, “Enemigo works well as a long drink and we have created an original recipe cocktail with it.” Before I know it, an Enemigo mineral 89 cocktail arrives made simply with Enemigo 89, sparkling water and lime. Its light, low in calories and has a warming smoky fresh character.
I am now intrigued about these two 28 year olds and what brought them here. Robin explains, “Whilst doing my MBA, a chance trip to Mexico to try some tequilas yielded this unexpected versatile, complex liquid. The tequila stereotype was then broken down and we saw a huge opportunity to continue that in the UK and further.” After a conversation with lifelong friend Max, they both left their jobs, emptied their bank accounts and Enemigo was born. Enemigo is proudly made in Mexico and their business partner there, Sebastian Gonzalez, is critical to doing business locally.
Almost exactly a year after launch, Max proudly explains that during London drinking hours (4pm – 4am), someone orders an Enemigo every 90 seconds. He goes on to say that “Most importantly, people like it. In blind taste tests, people recognise Enemigo straight away.” I inform them that they are thought to be one of the youngest heads of an international luxury spirits brand in the whole world. Robin smiles and says, “the fact that we were new to this industry has helped us think outside the box and be creative.”
The awards speak for themselves. Most recently, they picked up two top gongs and won double gold at the CWSA (China Wine and Spirits Awards) where 5000 spirits entered, judged by over 100 industry experts in a blind taste test. This is staggering considering China doesn’t really drink tequila. Robin said, “This is a true testament to the product development work we did to create Enemigo 89. The 89 stands for the number of recipes tried in creating it.” As well as this, they have won five international double gold awards across three continents. You can’t really argue with awards of this calibre.
Don’t just believe global accolades. Luis Simoes, Beverage Director at Annabel’s and the Birley Group, describes Enemigo’s tequilas as revolutionary in their taste and profile. Since launching in December 2017, Enemigo is now available in quality venues across London, including Annabel’s, 5 Hertford Street, The Connaught and Street XO. Max says, “We let the tequila do the talking.”
Pairing exquisite drinks with exquisite food is something we love at Arcadia. I asked what food Enemigo works with. Robin said, “Interestingly, we are talking to an Indian and Japanese restaurant in London. The tequilas go really well with these kinds of food as there are 750 flavour notes in tequila compared to wine where there are only up to 150 flavour notes. This is what makes tequila so versatile.”
Sustainability is increasingly important in hospitality. I ask the team about how sustainable Enemigo is. Max said, “All of the water we use comes from volcanic springs so the tequila is infused with many minerals. We don’t use fossil fuels at all and use leftover agave to fuel our ovens. We also pay our agave farmers a fixed set minimum price. Spirit brands need to be responsible. From field to glass, there is a huge supply chain which needs to work seamlessly and responsibly.”
I wonder what is next for Enemigo? They both look at each other like excited boys on Christmas Day and say in unison, “America!” Max proudly says, “We heard that a shop in the USA were buying bottles from the UK and then relabeling them so they can be sold in the USA. Tequila is the fastest-growing spirit in North America so the plan is to launch some special editions in New York before Christmas to introduce Enemigo to the American palate and then go from there.”
Enemigo are flying the British and Mexican flags for tequila globally where there is plenty of opportunity, especially in the USA. I can see why this young brand is creating waves and will watch with baited breath as to what happens next for this young, hungry British tequila.