By most accounts, Tequila Avion is a modern cinematic success story. A longstanding friendship with Entourage creator Doug Ellin landed the brand front and center of the Season 7 and 8 storylines: PR that didn’t cost a penny. Even though the name Avion became widely recognizable in 2010, the public had its doubts about the silver screen spirit.
“It was very difficult for us because people didn’t even know to look for it in stores...they thought it was just made up,” Tequila Avion founder Ken Austin told us. And when consumers finally did discover it was real, things didn’t get easier right away. “People thought it couldn’t be good because it was on TV,” he continues.
Proving their legitimacy within the discerning bartender community was a challenge. Though Austin has always stood behind the quality of his product, he expressed the prejudice he experienced, likening it to a child attending a school where the father is principal. We may think that kid has it easy, but in reality everyone is harder on him because of his supposed privilege.
But public perception turned around for the “teacher’s pet” after the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, where they earned both the title of best tasting tequila and best tasting white spirit. Suddenly, some of the most distinguished mixologists in the world were taking notice of Turtle’s cash cow.
So after all the accolades, where does a young brand still trying to prove its spot on the liquor shelf go? According to Austin, the answer is skyward. On Cinco de Mayo, Avion announced that it would be selling “The World’s Most Expensive Tequila Tasting Flight,” an endeavor that seems to promote in equal parts the Avion name, tourism to Mexico, and Austin’s personal passion for tequila.
For $500,000, up to 10 guests will get a private Gulfstream jet to shuttle them from anywhere in the US to Jalisco, Mexico, where they will have a full security detail, on call photographer, and butler as they tour the Avion Distillery.
Call it a publicity stunt if you must, but don’t assume they’re pocketing from the hefty price tag. The program is roughly priced to cover the costs, with private airfare and luxury hotel accommodations being major contributors. “If we wound up making $25,000, who cares? It’s not what it’s about. We’re doing this because we thought it was a great idea to show people how to make tequila,” Austin states plainly. And it’s easy to believe him. He paints a picture of the sun setting over a field of blue agave, with jimadores singing after a long day’s work, sharing a drink in the waning moments of a satisfying day.
It’s not hard to get caught up in the romantic vision, but perhaps that’s part of the point. “I want Jalisco to become the Napa Valley of Mexico one day,” he says. “I want people...looking at the blue agave on their honeymoon, as opposed to looking at the vineyards, because it’s spectacular.”
At the heart of it all, beyond providing awareness of the natural beauty of a developing area, there’s a clear respect for Austin’s work of passion; sharing a product of value of with the world. Will an over-the-top experience help sway one lucky group? Perhaps. Austin seems well aware that such an endeavor could be seen as a frivolous waste for the one percent. When pressed what he’d say to such critics, the response was simple: “I would tell them that they shouldn’t buy it.”
But if you’ve got roughly the price of what it would take to send two kids to private universities, Ken Austin and Avion are committed to providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And though most of us will never live to tell the tale of such an opulent excursion, there are no doubts you would never forget a trip like this one.
Photos by Avion