Although times are changing, there’s still something rare and wonderful when you encounter a female entrepreneur and CEO … but then add “in the consumer luxury goods industry” to that description and respect goes up a notch. Add “for high end tequila,” and what you have is Bertha Gonzalez Nieves, a women who truly stands on her own.
She’s been named “the First Lady of Tequila” by Los Angeles Times and Forbes recently called her out as one of the most powerful women in Mexico. But when we met up amidst her friends and colleagues here in Los Angeles, it was her warmth, excitement and robust humor that had me enchanted.
Bertha is a rare gem of a find amidst the “kill or be killed” mentality that can exist in the business/CEO world. The truth is, she doesn’t need those tricks to dominate. As I discovered in our chat over her signature tequila, Casa Dragones Blanco, (which had this gin-drinker converted within minutes) she’s already proved you can be powerful, female and fair to boot.
Teresa Archer: So tell me about stepping into such a male-dominated field; what was it like when you first began working?
Bertha Gonzalez Nieves: I was 28 years old, I had just finished a masters at Northwestern and my dream was to work in the tequila category and take this big job. They moved me from Chicago to Mexico to introduce me to the entire company. So I’m standing there wearing my glasses with my portfolio at the oldest tequila company in Mexico. I walk into the room and I’m like, “OMG, there’s only men in here.” It didn’t ever occur in my head that there was only going to be men. I was attracted to and obsessed with that category, but I never thought that the only people in the studio would be men.
Later on I just decided that I don’t want to approach a category from a minority point of view. You know, being women, sometimes we perceive ourselves as though we get the short end of the stick. I’m not saying that it’s easy, but I just think that we need to approach it with our point of view. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself just because I’m a woman. If you truly have a point of view, it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man. As a gender, we do still have a long way to go, but let’s focus on what we came here to do.
I don’t want to pigeonhole myself just because I’m a woman. If you truly have a point of view, it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man.
TA: What drew you specifically to tequila?
BGN: I had the chance to have a scholarship sponsored in my early twenties and, as part of my training, I had to learn all about Mexican industries. One of them was a tequila industry. I spent three days there when I was 22 and I told my parents, “I know what I want to do, I wanna go into the tequila industry.”
What attracted me is it’s firstly something that’s a part of our culture, and the whole process of transformation – it just enamored me. A plant that we transform into a spirit that people actually drink for flavor and for experience … The more that I learned, the more I felt attracted to it.
TA: What is specifically unique about Casa Dragones tequila?
BGN: There are a lot of tequila producers that are doing tequila like it was done 250 years ago and we are trying to expand the repertoire of tequila through innovation and modern process. We truly believe that, first of all, the category lends itself to have a very wide repertoire. There’s so many decisions you can make in the production process.
What we aspire to do is to deliver extraordinary quality through very innovative processes. So right now you’re drinking our blanco, which is a second part of what we produce but our joven is a rare style of tequila. It’s a master blend of two styles — 100% blue agave silver and a five-year-old, extra aged tequila; at the end of the process we filter the color out. We’re dedicating ourselves to deliver tequilas that were made for occasions.
So, one is for sipping and pairing with food and the other one is more versatile. It’s beautiful on the rocks, which is what you’re drinking now, which has a very beautiful profile that lends itself to do special signature cocktails. We are a small batch producer and believe that tequila has all the credentials to compete with single malts and whiskeys and cognacs.
I believe the consumer falls in love with a spirit through taste, so that’s kind of like our main focus: to provide a taste that is really surprising to the consumer, that has the least amount of alcohol notes and the most complexity, something you really savor. Our product is all about the freshness; it’s very green, herbaceous, full of citrus. We want the flavor to be something so memorable.
… that’s kind of like our main focus: to provide a taste that is really surprising to the consumer, that has the least amount of alcohol notes and the most complexity, something you really savor.
TA: At Darling we talk a lot about competition without comparison. So, you can be competitive, but you shouldn’t be comparative …
BGN: … [jumps in] 100 percent, I agree with you. Our philosophy — you can ask my team — we define ourselves by who we are, not by saying what we’re not or that we’re “better than.” In our category we’re all giving it our best shot, so we really need to be respectful of each other. And someone that builds their name by criticizing others, it’s not a long-term strategy, I don’t think. I can only talk about my journey and my products.
TA: If you could spotlight one person, movement or brand that you’re personally inspired by or that you would say is excellent or that you love, who would it be?
BGN: There’s someone that I have been very inspired by, from a creative point of view, and it’s Sofia Coppola. As a young film producer, and that feminism and complexity – I was just reading ‘Gentle Woman’ the magazine and she’s on the cover this month. So I was reading the article and about how her feminine – without being like, as you were saying – a negative thing or a minority thing, how she has created this genre of film that is very powerful and very original. Very creative and super elaborate, you know, you can pinpoint some of her movies. But very feminine.
So that’s a very good example of someone that’s leading with a very strong feminine point of view, right? Because she’s leading with her craft, and in terms of film, she has a very unique point of view.
For our 21+ readers, learn more about Casa Dragones HERE and also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @casadragones.
Images provided by Casa Dragones