Some of the most amazing things in the world happen by chance. So it was for Martin Crowley when a trip to Mexico to source tiles and other local goods led to the discovery of an uncommonly delicious and smooth blue agave tequila, Crowley and his business partner John Paul DeJoria seized the opportunity and created the Patrón brand. Crowley’s former girlfriend Ilana Edelstein explains how every detail of the hugely popular luxury brand was created and in the process shares her own love story with Crowley, who died in 2003 in a new book titled simply, The Patrón Way.
Patrón created the luxury market for tequila where none existed, taking tequila from a regional liquor with a somewhat unfavorable reputation to a popular spirit with many offerings at the premium level. The premium tequila vertical is now crowded with a variety of trendy brands but at the time the brand launched it wasn’t clear there was even a market for high-end tequila.
Developing a demand where none existed was a combination of luck, hard work, and synchronicity. The overall look and feel of the brand was very important. Each element was a particular choice from the shape of the glass bottle to the use of the bee emblem. The process of creating the tequila was also carefully considered and part of the allure of the brand is the care that goes into the harvesting of the blue agave pinas and the distillation of the spirit.
In the early 1990s, just ahead of the coming cocktail craze, the brand was introduced slowly through bars in Los Angeles and special tasting nights and events. Patrón had an uphill climb, some of the famous tequila producers had been in business for over a century. A blind tasting at Spago in 1991 helped prove that Patrón could stand with, and best, the most famed tequila brands. The famous Patrón girls, decked out in tight logo gear also formed an early part of the Patrón mystique.
DeJoria was able to use the power of his popular haircare brand John Paul Mitchell to help amplify Patrón. His network of celebrity friends and of stylists around the country were able to give the brand strong visibility early on. Edelstein describes the early glamorous days of Patrón full of celebrities, parties, and movie premieres but also the struggles including the quest to find the right distributor and the issues involved with making sure a luxury product maintains quality as it scales.
The book is an intriguing mix of insider information on the mechanics of creating a top liquor brand along with a large dash of Jackie-Collins-style antics (strippers, prostitutes, and Playboy Playmates feature prominently). Edelstein chronicles her spectacularly ugly breakup with Crowley and her subsequent lawsuit. DeJoria continues to lead and expand the Patrón name, sponsoring major high-profile events and even a competitive drag race car driven by his daughter. Patrón continues to thrive amid a now-crowded market, a testament to the strength of the brand crafted by Crowley, DeJoria, and Edelstein.