Women-Led, Additive-Free Inspiro Tequila Brings Innovation to Reposado and Beyond
The founder behind the first rosé barrel-aged reposado tequila discusses what sets the brand apart
When Mara Smith launched Inspiro Tequila in 2021, she saw how premium tequila was typically marketed to consumers. More specifically, she noticed how brands weren’t focusing on women who are looking for premium, additive-free tequilas that are approachable and easy to drink.
This is despite the fact that in 2023 to date, women make up just over half of the share of tequila sales on Drizly.
“We’re focused on the consumer who is generally overlooked and show that in everything from our packaging to our taste profile, our messaging, and being women-owned,” says Smith. Inspiro also financially supports and mentors other female founders and entrepreneurs through its Purple Bicycle Project initiative. “Retailers care about having diversity on their shelves and bringing a female perspective to the industry, and we’re distilled, owned, and led by women.”
The interest in women-owned brands is growing on Drizly. The share of total sales of women-owned brands on Drizly grew 16 percent year-over-year from 2021 to 2022, while the number of women-owned brands grew one percent in the same time period and women-owned SKUs increased by over four percent.
It’s also an exciting time to be a tequila drinker as interest in high-quality, premium tequilas has grown exponentially in recent years. It doesn’t show signs of slowing, either.
“In 2023 to date, tequila accounts for an 18 percent share of the liquor category compared to a 17 percent share during the same time period in 2022,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “This suggests the rise is poised to continue this year.”
The reposado subcategory is an especially bright spot within tequila. Reposado tequila makes up a 29 percent share of the tequila category so far in 2023, compared to 27 percent at the same time in 2022.
After bringing Inspiro’s blanco tequila to market, Smith saw an opportunity to innovate with a new reposado called Rosa. It’s the first reposado tequila aged in rosé wine barrels, and has a rose gold color and sweeter flavor profile that all come naturally from the barrels.
BevAlc Insights spoke with Mara Smith to learn more about Inspiro’s innovation and leadership, and how it stands out in the ever-popular tequila category.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
BevAlc Insights: What inspired you to start a tequila brand and bring innovative expressions to the category?
Mara Smith (MS), founder of Inspiro Tequila: Approximately half of tequila drinkers are women, and women make over 80 percent of purchasing decisions, but I didn’t think brands focused on this consumer in how they market to female consumers in the ultra-premium category.
I was also looking for cleaner drinking options, and I thought now was a good time to introduce additive-free tequilas that are approachable and easy to drink.
How important was it to be additive free from a brand perspective?
MS: I was fortunate that right when we started production, Tequila Matchmaker started its additive-free program where they were confirming that tequilas are additive free by coming and testing the product. Before, people didn’t really know if tequila had additives or not because it doesn’t say on the bottle and regulations allow up to one percent.
This is an area I think people are just starting to look at. I think there’s a lot of room for people to learn what it means to be additive-free and what the types of additives are. Maybe you care, maybe you don’t, but I think we’re just starting to get educated about it so there’s a big opportunity to really educate consumers.
How did you come up with the idea for Rosa?
MS: I was trying to figure out a way to age tequila in rosé wine barrels because I happen to love rosé wine but don’t love all of the sugar and aftereffects. Our blanco is rested in barrels for a short time too, and that was the first step in finding the right barrels for our tequila. Our master distiller Ana María Romero Mena is legendary in Mexico, and she knew exactly what barrels she wanted to create natural sweet-tasting notes by resting the blanco for a short time without using any additives.
For our Rosa reposado, I knew I wanted rosé wine barrels and I scoured the planet for them. I called vineyards everywhere from Argentina to Spain. Very few rosé wines are barrel aged, but we finally were able to source barrels in the south of France, and I love that because I happen to love French rosés.
How does Rosa stand out in ways that other tequilas can’t?
MS: A bit of a differentiator is we don’t use additives to create color. It’s just from the wine barrels. People are liking it because they’re looking for expressions that are aged a little bit differently, and the color makes it appealing on shelves. Our Rosa is a great introduction to aged expressions. For people who typically only drink blancos, I think this is a really good, approachable entry into aged tequilas.
How do you suggest people try Inspiro for the first time?
MS: We advise people just to taste it neat first. People are a little intimidated by that and often they think, oh I normally drink it in a cocktail. Just try it and taste the quality of the product first. My preferred way of drinking, really the only way for me, is with a splash of soda and one big ice cube.
Our signature drinks are spritzes. We suggest really simple, light cocktails using fresh, seasonal ingredients at home, like muddling some cucumber and mint into the tequila and topping with a little soda. You can make it a little fancier by putting it in a wine glass, and that’s how we suggest serving it. But you don’t need mixers or a lot of sugar, you can just add some fresh herbs and fruit. We want people to still taste the tequila and let it come through. You don’t need to mask it.
Premium spirits can sometimes get pigeonholed as special-occasion drinks. Is there anything that makes Inspiro different?
With really high-quality tequila, you don’t need to order it from an establishment that mixes it into a cocktail that’s more complicated than what you can make at home. I say that Inspiro tequila makes every occasion special, no special occasion needed. Based on the price point, it’s not something you have to set aside and only serve when you have your favorite guests over, yet it elevates any occasion from just getting together with girlfriends to bigger parties to being at home and cooking dinner.