- Robin Clough and Max Davies-Gilbert are the 28-year-old British founders of luxury tequila brand Enemigo.
- The brand is taking on George Clooney’s Casamigos, which was bought by Diageo for $US1 billion in 2017.
- Enemigo was valued at $US5 million after just 5 months of trading in January.
- It’s already in 80 locations in London and is served every 90 seconds during drinking hours.
- It’s slightly more expensive than Casamigos, but the pair believes they have the better product.
- Enemigo will launch in New York in November.
With 206 million bottles of tequila sold in the US last year (and tequila cocktails even being served at royal weddings), tequila is quickly becoming the spirit of the moment – and there’s a new brand coming to town.
Robin Clough and Max Davies-Gilbert are the 28-year-old British founders of Enemigo, the award-winning luxury tequila taking on George Clooney’s success story Casamigos which was bought by Diageo for $US1 billion in 2017.
Enemigo has made quite the mark on the drinks scene since its launch in August last year.
In just over a year, it has won five awards across three continents – including Double Gold and Gold at the Global Spirits Comp in Las Vegas, The Master’s Medal in the 2017 Luxury Masters in London, and two Double Golds in the China Wine and Spirits Awards in Hong Kong.
According to the brand, an Enemigo tequila is served every 90 seconds between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m. in London, where the brand is stocked in 80 venues including The Ritz, The Connaught, and Annabel’s.
And it’s now heading to New York, where it says it plans to take on the likes of “Clooney’s Casamigos, Patron and Don Julio on their home turf of the US.”
Clough and Davies-Gilbert may be the youngest heads of an international luxury spirits brand, but they seem to be onto something.
Tequila is currently the fastest growing spirit in the US, according to the brand.
A $US20 million brand in less than 2 years
Enemigo itself was valued at $US5 million following a Series A investment round in January 2018 – and the pair told Business Insider they expect its value to hit $US20 million at the close of a Series B funding round in December this year.
Speaking at Annabel’s members’ club in London, Clough said that he and Max have been friends since they were days old – and added that they have both “always been entrepreneurial.”
While studying for his MBA in California, Clough met their third cofounder Sebastian Gonzalez, who took him on a trip to his home of Mexico to visit his friends and family.
“I was exposed to this liquid they called tequila, which was unlike anything we’d ever drunk, or even seen before in the UK,” he said. “It was a whirlwind story after that.”
He approached Davies-Gilbert – who had studied law before going to work in motor racing – about getting involved.
“I worked for a family office looking after the guys going out to the GP2 Series,” Davies-Glibert told Business Insider. “I was working there when Robin sent a message saying, ‘We need to get involved in this.’ About six months later I went down to Mexico. I said, ‘I’ve got to try this and make sure it’s as good as they say.’ It was, and I quit.”
Clough admitted that they “didn’t know much about the process” in the beginning, but the samples they brought back to London “went down incredibly well.”
In order to produce the liquid, they teamed up with Maestro Tequilero Enrique Legorreta, a close friend of Gonzalez’.
“Each recipe takes a significant amount of time to do,” Davies-Gilbert said. “It’s not just sitting there and doing one recipe every hour, [it] took us two and a bit years.”
The brand’s Enemigo 89 Añejo Cristalino was named because 89 different recipes were tried before they got the right one.
Davies-Gilbert added that the brand uses water that filters down from the Mexican volcano Tequila to produce the liquid.
“What that does, you have 200 million years of volcanic rock that diffuses the water, that minerality and slight taste on the mouth gives it that whole flavour,” he said. “It’s the entire process that creates this incredibly smooth, easy to drink, but also delicate and complex liquid.”
He also claims that the brand’s process is “one of the most environmentally friendly in the world.”
“We use 50% less water, 60% less power, and no fossil fuels in our production process compared to industry standards,” he said. “We burn the agave residue to heat the oven, we don’t use gas or oil, anything.”
He added that the brand has also put in fair pricing for agave farmers amid an agave crisis “perpetuated by agave prices going up because no one’s farming it, then everyone starts farming it and prices go down.”
‘The enemy of everything that serves marketing over product’
The duo claims it cost a total of $US35,000 – raised from the “life savings” of the three founders and “a couple of other friends” – to bring the product to market.
From the beginning, Clough said the trio wanted to be “completely different,” and put product quality over marketing.
“Enemigo means enemy in Spanish,” he explained. “We want to be the enemy of everything that serves marketing first rather than product.”
He added that all of the awards Enemigo has won have been based on blind taste tests – “nothing about branding or anything else.”
While they started out with a PR company, the pair are now doing most of the communication with the press themselves – and they’re staying away from any work with social media influencers.
“People are getting wise to PR companies going out there and pushing social,” Davies-Gilbert said. “It kind of takes away from your message. It’s not about the ‘Hey, so and so is drinking it, so should you.’ If you like it, you should drink it, and you will.”
He added: “If you don’t come from the industry you’re looking at, you have no preconceived ideas of how to act in that industry, so you can just do things differently, which sometimes works out to be possibly better.”
‘Ours is the real one you can sit there and sip all day’
The tequila is slightly more expensive than Casamigos – it retails at £60 for the Añejo Cristalino (liquid which is aged in American oak then filtered to take away the colour) or £150 for the Extra Añejo (which is rich and deep in colour).
While the pair says Casamigos “has done amazing things for the industry and is a seriously impressive brand,” they believe that consumers can taste the difference between the two brands.
“Ours is the real one you can sit there and sip all day,” Davies-Gilbert said. “If you then sat there and sipped another brand, you would notice the difference.”
He added that the idea that you can drink something all day and not get hungover – which was what Clooney and Rande Gerber set out to create when they founded Casamigos – is “bold and definitely not true.”
Clough added: “Before Casamigos launched, there was still this growing trend of tequila. Tequila has been growing year-on-year for 13, 14 years at an incredible pace.
“I think the market was looking for someone like Casamigos to come in and refresh the way that a product is marketed, and I think they did a wonderful job. Where we position ourselves against that is they have done incredible jobs with making tequila mainstream, now it’s our job to go and really instil, ‘this is what a tequila really is.'”
Raising the reputation of tequila
According to Clough, Enemigo is about “raising the reputation of what tequila is and where it should be.”
“Tequila has this reputation,” he said. “We love breaking that stereotype every time [people] try our tequila. For us, it’s about raising it to that next level, being something you do want to give as a Christmas present or serve at your dinner party, even neat, which, especially in the UK is nearly unheard of.”
“We’ll have people who say, ‘Oh no, I don’t drink tequila, I don’t like tequila,’ because their memory is this fire water from university or college years that just kills you,” Davies-Gilbert added. “[With Enemigo] they take one tentative sip, and say, ‘Oh, no, that is really good.’ That moment, I’ve seen it so many times, it’s such a gratifying feeling.”
Ultimately, they believe Enemigo is “so simple and versatile it works in every environment.”
“Like a cognac or whiskey it’s still incredibly complex and smooth,” Clough said. “[It’s about] finding those moments that just fit into peoples’ daily repertoire, that not only takes on the other players in tequila but also take on the big players in whiskey, cognac and everything else. That’s how we see ourselves growing at the rate that we need to.”
In an increasingly health-conscious world, it also doesn’t hurt that a tequila with lime juice has “a quarter of the calories of a gin an tonic,” according to Davies-Gilbert.
Drinking it the Mexican way
Davies-Gilbert suggests drinking Enemigo on the rocks or with some fresh lime juice on the side.
If it’s being used in a cocktail, he added that the brand tries to “emphasise the liquid” instead of cover it up with sugary mixers, like you’ll often find in an American-style margarita.
“All of our cocktails are literally just soda water with a bit of lime or a little bit of lime juice,” he said. “The best thing about it is neat.”
Clough added: “Go back to how they drink it in Mexico… One of the things that took my breath away when we first looked into it [is that] the traditional way to drink it is to have it in a shot glass, and slowly sip it over your meal.”
Ultimately, the brand hopes to motivate people to sip tequila or enjoy it with food instead of having it as a shot.
“I’d love to get to the point in the UK where it’s in a shot glass but you’re sipping it,” Davies-Gilbert said – and the brand sometimes even serves Enemigo in long stem Champagne flutes to get the message across.
Taking on New York
Working with New York-based importer MHW, the brand plans to launch into the US in November – and it has appointed Clough as CEO and Max Davies-Gilbert as Managing Director for EMEA.
While Gonzalez is still based in Mexico where he also works part-time in banking for a family fund, Clough said the three are now “very good friends.” Gonzalez was just about to land in London to help the duo talk to accounts when we met.
“We already have about 15 bars or so who have been asking for us, and we’ve got five to 10 retailers who said they’re interested,” Clough said of the US expansion.
“We have some exciting announcements coming out once we launch around new product development, and that sort of thing,” he said, adding that because of the success in the UK, the brand is also “looking pretty good to be seeding investment towards the end of the year” from the same investors.
“It’s a big confidence boost,” he said. “We only launched a year ago. It’s going to be a fun couple of months coming up.”
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