Austin Innovator Richard Sorensen
Who knew that 100-percent organic tequila could be so much fun? / By Chad Swiateki
There are lots of things about Richard Sorensen’s life that his younger self never would’ve imagined: that he’d walk away from the corporate life after 20 successful years, that he’d launch himself in to the beverage world on something of a lark, and that the second act of his working life would be some of the most fun he’d ever have.
“Honestly, we’re having a ball,” says Sorensen, the founder of Austin’s Dulce Vida premium organic tequila, of the job that takes him to remote regions of Mexico roughly six times a year to oversee production of the brand that’s been wildly successful since its founding in 2008.
“I’d be shocked if you had told me this is what I would be doing later in life, because I’d been in the corporate world and liked it. But I love this, and I get so much excitement and energy from every part of it.”
One of the main reasons Dulce Vida has been so successful is because it stands out from competitors by being the only 100-proof, completely organic tequila on the market. The higher alcohol content (most tequilas are 80-proof ) helps it retain its potency in cocktails and on ice, and being able to claim a completely organic recipe makes it an easy sell for distributors and customers. The difference was apparent from almost the first sale in 2009, with Dulce Vida winning its first tasting competition in San Francisco barely six months after production was started. Awards continue to roll in. Unlike many other craft tequila brands that market tequila by bottling pre-made liquid mass produced by distilleries, Dulce Vida rents distilleries and switches to its own recipe with a distinctive flavor.
“All the other small producers are just putting someone else’s liquid in their own bottle, but we grow our own yeast, produce to our own specs and take special care every step of the way,” Sorensen says. “We like to think that ’s why we’ve won every contest we’ve entered and have more medals than any other brand with a short tenure like ours.”
While Sorensen wouldn’t offer specific numbers, he says Dulce Vida has had revenue growth of between 30 and 50 percent per quarter for 10 straight quarters. Available in Texas’ major markets, the brand is also sold in Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Tennessee and Kentucky, with more expansion planned by the end of the year.
Sitting down to share a spicy, red chili-infused cocktail at lauded mixology spot Icenhauer’s in Austin, it’s clear that Sorensen, 54, couldn’t be more proud of the direction his professional life has taken after a successful career in the medical and telecommunications industries. Happily married to his wife, Tracey, he’s the father of two grown daughters and enjoys tennis, sailing and mountain biking in the free time he gets in between visits to Mexico to oversee agave production, or any of the many other duties of life as a beverage mogul. And while he’s balanced enough to keep from qualifying as a workaholic, the enjoyment Sorensen gets from growing the business bubbles up with just the slightest urging.
“Getting three double gold awards right out of the gate was an amazing feat, and it was a tremendous validation of what we had set out to do,” he says. “Liquor distributors see two or three new brands of tequila a week and they’re all the same, but they see ours and hear that we’re completely organic and at a higher proof, and we become so distinct that it’s an easy choice for them.”