Never afraid of hard work, the brothers started their own tequila company, 3 Amigos Tequila. It is family owned from farm to bottle. It's grown, harvested, and distilled by the Gonzalez family. Their company produces a mere 7,000 liters of tequila per day, compared to 150,000 liters that larger companies average. The Gonzalezs produce far less volume but the quality of their product is unsurpassed because 3 Amigos distills their tequila twice.
There are three types of tequila: blanco, reposado, and anejo. Blanco is double-distilled tequila that is put straight into a bottle. Reposado is blanco tequila that is aged for a minimum of one year in white oak barrels. Anejo is aged for two full years in white oak barrels. "We are without a doubt the best tequila out there," Santiago says. "It's easy to say when it's true."
Unlike the larger companies, 3 Amigos doesn't focus only on the bottom line. Of course, success is important-and money is a part of success-but it's only one part. Pride in product and family unity are equally, if not more, important to the Gonzalez family's success.
Santiago warns of other labels that boast 100 percent agave. The claim could be entirely true, however, 100 percent does not guarantee a good quality. For example, when a large company buys a product, they buy it all-the good, bad, and the rotten. High-quality tequila can only be achieved by using ripe agave. At 3 Amigos only ripe agave is used. Fruits that are not ripe enough are left to reach their potential. Fruits that are overripe are discarded. This is the only way to ensure a smooth taste without the harsh aftertaste that so many people associate with tequila.
Santiago says 3 Amigos cares about the product that they put on the shelves and they care about the farmers who harvest the agave, the vendors who buy the tequila, and the person who ultimately enjoys it. He wants his customers to be able to sit back and truly enjoy the blanco tequila. He wants them to savor the sweet aftertaste of the liquor like he does-an aftertaste that only comes from using ripe agave. Santiago would like his customers to be able to take pleasure in sipping the anejo tequila, like his brothers do. He wants consumers to notice the "woody taste," only accomplished by aging the tequila in white oak barrels for two full years.
"You have to care," Santiago says. "You have to care about what you're going to sell. I think about all the people who are going to consume the products I grow and it matters." What also matters is making a first-rate product that everybody can afford. Santiago says that 3 Amigos makes the best tequila for half the price. He comes from humble roots and doesn't believe that only the wealthy deserve the luxury of enjoying premium products. "We are just working people," he says. "Our product has to be accessible to everyone at a fair price."
Though it started selling in the United States less than two years ago, the family owned company is enjoying success-3 Amigos Tequila was the official tequila of the Fiesta Bowl. The tequila can also be found in many restaurants and bars, as well as large chain stores, like Albertsons and BevMo. It could be argued that 3 Amigos has achieved mainstream success without succumbing to mainstream shortcuts.
Santiago recognizes the company's underdog status, but he's not worried. He says he wouldn't trade places with the larger companies if given the choice because he's confident 3 Amigos Tequila will triumph because the core of the company is true. They don't compromise on the quality of their product or the quality of life.