Made in Mexico

The CEO of a new spirits company proves that a journey to success starts with honesty and passion… and a story worth telling.

Almost a decade ago, Micah McFarlane—then an entertainment entrepreneur with an acumen for creating bands, producing and selling records, and managing musical artists on tour—found himself in southern Mexico sipping tequila and thinking like a businessman. He was there to learn more about Mexico’s most famous export and help a friend finalize a business plan for his burgeoning tequila company. Along the way, McFarlane recalls being “bit by this insatiable need to find out more about tequila and agave spirits.”

Two years later, McFarlane was back in Mexico, this time in the state of Morelos, on his second visit with a new business partner. He came ready to learn all he could about a unique blue agave–based spirit, a marriage of techniques used to create both tequila and mescal. It was essentially a village’s moonshine—a spirit made to be enjoyed by the region’s farmers and distillers—but McFarlane recognized its uniqueness, not to mention its exceptional quality, and knew there was a market for it in the United States.

“I believe in storytelling, and this was something totally new,” he says. “If you have a great story, especially an authentic and unique story, it will resonate.”

McFarlane likens the phase that followed—bringing home samples of the spirit for friends, bartenders, and sommeliers—to producing music, where he would play demo CDs in his car for friends, always asking: “What do you think?” (In his previous career, he was a tour manager for acts such as Cyndi Lauper, Michael McDonald, Blondie, and Babyface.)

The liquid that McFarlane’s spirits brand, Revel, has brought to market—named Avila after the village’s master distiller who creates it—is nothing short of revelatory. The blanco ($55) delivers the bright, crisp, and vegetal notes of Weber blue agave in a smooth package devoid of the spice that often sneaks into most blanco tequilas. The reposado ($75) introduces subtle hints of vanilla thanks to its year-long maturation in American white oak; and the añejo ($150) is a two-year homage to French oak, one that blends the smoky characteristics of a mescal with the rich caramel and toffee flavors of a well-matured tequila.Although all three expressions are exceptional, McFarlane is faced with the challenge of introducing the world not just to a new spirit brand, but to an entirely unknown spirit category. While the obstacles are many, he is embracing the challenge. Revel Avila is currently available in California, New York, and Minnesota (McFarlane’s home state), and distribution will expand to cover more than 20 percent of the country within the next year.

Ultimately, the 60-year-old executive is relying on his experiences as an entertainment entrepreneur—after all, business is business, he says—and he’s letting his enthusiasm for the product and its creation steer his conversations with prospective investors and distributors, just as he once promoted the music and bands that he managed.

“Once they see that passion—and if that story can resonate enough times—it will drive people to buy your product because you’re selling yourself,” he explains. “You’re selling your truth.”