CEO CORNER: A Tequila Talk With Julien Morel President & CEO Of Volcán De Mi Tierra


Julien MorelPhoto Credit: Volcán De Mi Tierra

For our inaugural CEO Corner column — a place where we speak to the world’s most powerful CEOs — we decided to highlight Julien Morel, President & CEO of Volcán De Mi Tierra, which is owned by  Moët Hennessy. Morel was born and raised in the Champagne region. His roots and interest for wine and spirits started early, with bubbles. Julien joined the industry in 2008 and started with Hennessy, which also gave him a passion for spirits. He then held various positions within Moët Hennessy distribution network, including in Europe and emerging markets.

Since 2020, Julien is the President & CEO of Volcan de mi Tierra, a tequila coming from the heart of the Mexican region of Jalisco, with the ambition to become a global brand, through highest quality spirits, audacious marketing concepts and broad geographic distribution. Here is his story, and where he plans on taking his premium, ultra-luxe tequila brand.

Julien MorelPhoto Credit: Volcán De Mi Tierra

What is your role at Volcán De Mi Tierra and how did you come into the spirits industry?

I have the pleasure to lead Volcán De Mi Tierra as President and CEO. I was born and raised in the Champagne region, so my roots and interest for wine and spirits started early with bubbles. I have now worked in the industry since 2008, including a few years with Hennessy, which was where I really cultivated my passion for spirits.

How has the history and culture of Mexico influenced Volcán?

Volcán De Mi Tierra’s true beginnings date back over 200,000 years, when the Tequila Volcano erupted and fertilized the soils of Jalisco in Mexico. Our name, Volcán De Mi Tierra, meaning ‘land of the volcano,’ is a tribute to these volcanic soils that make everything we do possible. So this is about Mexican land and also about a Mexican family, the Gallardo family, who has been living and cultivating agave at the bottom of this Volcano for 300 years. From this heritage, we took the best of traditions and brought new modern techniques in our dedicated distillery, where we craft each expression by hand from start to finish.

How do you make sure Volcán stands out amongst the hundreds of other tequila brands on the market?

We’re proud to be one of the small number of brands that operates out of our own dedicated distillery, NOM 1523, where we marry innovation with traditional tequila-making techniques. Each of our expressions serves as a celebration of terroir, uncompromising crafted from 100% Blue Weber Agave that is sourced from the lowlands and highlands. Utilizing agave from each of these distinct regions, without the use of any additives or synthetic ingredients, allows us to craft a portfolio of character-driven tequilas that showcase the best of cooked agave flavors.

What is the inspiration behind Volcán’s latest launch, Volcán X.A?

Volcán X.A is the result of several years of work and research in Volcán’s distillery and it marks an exciting new chapter for our brand. Its creation was driven by our burning passion to craft a world-class tequila that pays homage to centuries of Mexican culture and tequila-making traditions, while pushing the category forward. With X.A, we’re excited and proud to share our new ultra-premium expression that offers an unmatched level of taste, craft and quality.

Volcán De Mi TierraPhoto Credit: Volcán De Mi Tierra

How does Volcán X.A differ from other top-shelf tequilas? How does it fit into the category today?

Creating a single bottle of X.A is a complex process, as we use 3 layers of tequilas, aged separately in different kind of oak barrels, to finally blend them together and reach a perfect balance of aromas. Other top-shelf tequilas follow more classic rules of denominations such as Reposado or Anejo, whereas we’re a blend of three different categories, Reposado, Añejo and Extra-Añejo. Also, remaining true to our core philosophy, Volcán X.A is 100% additive-free, a rare approach in our category.

What consumers are you trying to reach with Volcán X.A? Does this differ from your targets for the core range?

With X.A, we’re hoping to reach consumers that seek out ultra-premium, rare or limited-edition goods and experiences. With the return of nightlife post-pandemic, consumers are opting to spend more in order to have an experience that’s really memorable and desirable among their network.That being said, the beauty of X.A is its appeal to both new and existing tequila drinkers. It’s incredibly easy-drinking, without any bite or additives, making it approachable for anyone who savors the taste of delicious cooked agave flavors.

The price point of Volcan X.A. Is extremely high. Was that intentional to set it apart? What makes it such a high value?

Quality, craftsmanship and time are all incorporated into the price. It takes 10 years to craft a single bottle of X.A and the process is quite complex. Agave must grow for 6-7 years before it can be picked, then Reposado, Añejo and Extra-Añejo are carefully crafted and aged individually before being blended. This process of crafting three distinct categories of tequila individually, then blending them together to create a cohesive spirit with unreplicable character sets us apart in the category and adds a lot of value to the liquid.

What drew Moët Hennessy to Volcan?

Volcán is the result of a strong partnership between the Gallardo family and Moët Hennessy, which led to the creation of Volcan de mi Tierra in 2017. A perfect marriage of the Gallardo family’s commitment to both celebrate and protect their heritage and terroir through evolution and innovation with Moët Hennessy’s commitment to authentic stories and true craftsmanship.

Volcán De Mi TierraPhoto Credit: Volcán De Mi Tierra

What’s behind the strategy to release this at the world’s top clubs?

Volcán X.A is produced in extremely limited quantities, so when it came to distribution we had to be quite intentional about where it would be made available. Limiting our distribution to key nightclubs and restaurants allowed us to ensure each of these venues can replenish their stock as needed, opposed to making X.A widely available for only a very short window. These high-energy and elevated venues also allow us to reach our target consumers, who seek out highly exclusive, ultra-premium offerings.

How do you curate this list of where to serve?

This was done in collaboration with our regional teams all over the world, who were able to provide critical insight into the best venues for our limited stock of X.A.

What other markets are you targeting and why does America appear to become so prominent? What stats have you pulled on the American tequila consumer?

X.A is available at top nightlife venues in markets worldwide, including St. Tropez, Cannes, Ibiza, Mykonos, Tulum and more. In recent years, tequila has become one of the most popular spirits in America, with Americans drinking more tequila than any other nation, so with that insight it was very important that we had solid distribution throughout the US.

Are there plans to make X.A available via retail?

Since X.A is produced in such limited quantities, we chose to focus on on-premise distribution first. Given the tequila’s price point and our target consumer, the most logical path for us was to place X.A at elevated restaurants and nightclubs, where guests are used to paying a premium for ultra-luxury and rare offerings. But retail will come for sure, starting again with a notion of selectivity. Make sure to follow @volcantequila on social media to stay up to date about where you can find X.A.

Volcán De Mi TierraPhoto Credit: Volcán De Mi Tierra

Do you anticipate sustained consumer appetite for ultra-luxury tequila offerings?

I do. The tequila market continues to grow at an incredibly fast pace, with brands providing excellent levels of taste, quality, and prestige, while increasing visibility and consumption in the world’s greatest bars, restaurants and clubs. Now, as we see the return of in-person events and nightlife, consumers are seeking out more exclusive and high-quality offerings and experiences that they missed out on during their time at home. Additionally, there’s an undeniable trend towards ‘trading up’ for more premium offerings, especially tequilas, as consumers explore the spirit more for sipping opposed to mixing.

What are some trends you’re noticing in the tequila space?

As I touched on earlier, consumers are opting for higher-end tequila offerings and approaching the spirit as one to sip, opposed to mix. With many people improving their home-bartending skills at home during the pandemic, now, we’re seeing an increase in tequila-making knowledge and interest in learning about the expression’s profile and production. This interest in heritage and tequila-making is very exciting for premium brands, like Volcán De Mi Tierra, as our goal is to really showcase the beauty of cooked agave flavors and the distinct nuances of agave from the highlands and lowlands. Additive-free tequila is also a trend we see growing, people caring more and more about how products are made. Only very few tequilas can claim to be ‘additive free’ today, and we are proud to have Volcan part of them.

How would you recommend serving each expression in the portfolio?

  • Volcán Blanco is unaged, offering the purest expression of tequila flavors and it also makes an extremely versatile base to your favorite cocktails. I love to use Volcán Blanco in a ‘La Valoma’ cocktail, which is our take on the classic Paloma.
  • Volcán Añejo Cristalino is a fusion of aromas and flavors, with notes of tobacco, dried fruits, caramel, vanilla and cooked agave. I recommend serving Cristalino neat or on the rocks to enjoy the best of its aromas and flavors. If you’re looking to use Cristalino in a cocktail, I’d recommend a Mexican Martini.
  • Volcán Reposado combines fruity notes like blackcurrant, red apple and ripe peach with nuts, dried fruits and honey for an incredibly smooth flavor. I’d recommend serving our Reposado neat or chilled over ice.
  • II recommend enjoying Volcán X.A solely neat or over ice, opposed to mixing it, to ensure you get to fully enjoy the tequila’s depth of flavor and aromatics. The tequila is incredibly easy to drink, with no after-taste or burn, so you won’t feel the need to mix it with other ingredients or chase it with a slice of lime.