Given that tequila is the fastest growing spirits category, it takes a lot to stand out among the competition. New brands must offer a product that’s as unique as it is delicious, and rethink their marketing and distribution strategies to get in front of today’s busy consumer.

Enter CALIROSA: A category-creating tequila that’s aged in red wine barrels and aims to bottle the feeling of being with friends and family watching the sun sink below the Pacific. And with such a specific vision, CALIROSA is taking its time with a more organic approach to market. Even still, that hasn’t stopped CALIROSA from already gaining the attention of industry renowned publications like The Tasting Panel, which recently named its Rosa Blanco and Anejo tequilas as top spirits of the moment. Both received top scores during the latest tasting competition (Rosa Blanco scored a 93 point score, and the Anejo received a staggering 95 point review).

We caught up with CALIROSA’s Chief Commercial Officer David Gimpelson to learn more about this new tequila and how it’s making a disruptive splash in an otherwise crowded sector.

ForceBrands: What was the inspiration behind CALIROSA?
David Gimpelson: The inspiration behind CALIROSA began with wanting to capture the energy and spirit of being with your family and best friends as the sun sets on the Pacific Ocean. We wanted to bottle the feeling of that moment.

FB: CALIROSA is celebrity-owned by Maroon Five’s frontman Adam Levine. What influence has he had in shaping the brand?
DG: Soup to nuts, or barrel to bottle rather. Adam is involved with every single aspect of the brand. From countless label and design shifts and tweaks, to complete bottle changes in the eleventh hour, to Instagram captions, there’s not one thing that Adam and his wife Behati don’t either conceive of or have their eyes on when it comes to CALIROSA. It’s their fingerprint.

FB: CALIROSA is unlike anything else on the market. Even the distillery owners have ownership in the brand. What makes the product so unique?
DG: The Real family are special people. They have been producing tequila for 80 years, spanning three generations. They are also pioneers in the aging of tequila in red wine barrels. Fun fact: over 80 percent of tequila is aged in whiskey barrels and just a small percentage is aged in Cognac barrels, leaving only a few to practice red wine barrel aging. It’s a more expensive process and one that is difficult to perfect. The Real family has it down to a science. We plan to only release products that have rested in California red wine barrels.

FB: Tell us about your distribution strategy. While most celebrity-owned brands go straight to retail, why did you opt to go the more traditional route and sell to the on-premise market first?
DG: You are correct, it would have been an easier growth strategy to take CALIROSA directly to the big box retailers, and have images of our celebrity owners displayed at every point of sale. However, we also know the buying patterns of consumers have changed in the past two years, so we are not completely eliminating a retail strategy. Our initial strategy is to support and grow CALIROSA through the on-premise channel. If you look at brands with staying power — and I mean staples in any channel — they usually built the brand through bartenders, cocktails, and back bar distribution.

FB: What about your marketing strategy — who’s your target consumer and how are you actively engaging them?
DG: Tequila is the fastest growing spirits category. This allows us to engage with consumers of all legal age and across all demographics. How we engage with them is very simple: organically, in ways that are natural to fans or soon-to-be fans of tequila. What do I mean by that? We aren’t going to come out of the gates screaming. We want to take our time, share our story, our partnership, our process, why our tequila is pink, why our label is cut off, and why aging in red wine barrels makes for a smoother, mind-blowingly good tequila.

FB: What aspect about CALIROSA do you hope resonates most with consumers?
DG: That we are unique, authentic, and bringing consumers something new to talk about. We’re not just “another tequila.” CALIROSA is a tequila that sparks conversation. Whether that is in-home consumption, or out at a bar with friends, everyone now has a story to share about drinking red wine-aged “pink” tequila.

FB: Let’s chat for a moment about hiring and team building. How have you approached hiring? Who were those first key strategic hires?
DG: Simple. We hire people who are more than just an employee of the company. In a startup, you spend a lot of time with each other, so you want to be able to build a personal and professional relationship with your colleagues. We all wear a lot of hats. At this stage, everyone must be willing to do it all. Our initial hires have set the foundation for what success looks like. Our philosophy is simple: we lead by example. No task is too small.  

FB: You launched in July amid a global pandemic. Did you have any reservations in doing so? Why is now the opportune time to introduce the world to CALIROSA?
DG: People have always known me as an optimistic and positive person. The only part of the global pandemic that gives us any reservations is that in order to conduct a lot of our business, we have to make decisions and engage in conversations over Zoom. We thrive on human interaction. We want our distributors to feel our energy in a room.  

Also, consumers are ready to be social again. We want CALIROSA to be a part of their new discoveries as they get comfortable drinking in bars, restaurants, and entertaining at home again.

FB: What excites you most about the future of the brand? How do you see it evolving in the next 3-5 years?
DG: We truly believe we can pioneer an entirely new category of tequila. As we continue to educate consumers about Rosa Tequila, we believe CALIROSA will be on every home bar and on-premise account in the country.