Behind the Brand

Richard Betts Doubles Down on Komos Tequila

Tequila Komos header

Aug. 12, 2021

Richard Betts has had a career for the ages. He is currently the driving force behind Komos Tequila, a rising star in the world of agave spirits. But Betts’ love of the industry began with wine, and he can trace it all the way back to the lunch and dinner table he shared as a student in Italy. “I fell in love with wine,” he told us recently. “It was always on the table at lunch and dinner — it was perfect.”

That’s where he said he started to regard “wine as a grocery, not a luxury.” He followed that love and appreciation of wine into life as a Master Sommelier, but still felt the draw to learn and experience more.

“I found the breadth of wine astonishing,” he said. For Betts, that meant getting his hands dirty and first making his own wine before then building his own spirit from the ground up. That’s where tequila comes in.

Richard Betts Tequila Komos headshot

Enter Agave

"The way tequila is consumed is often out of step with how so much of it is made," Betts said. “More and more people are drinking tequila with an increasingly sophisticated outlook.”

He relied upon his winemaking expertise to craft a more detailed, nuanced, and gentle approach in the making Komos, bringing his love of Old World Mediterranean wines into the traditional method of Mexican tequila distilling. With Betts’ approach, Komos is aged in oak casks from fine European wines, which imparts it with a rich, complex, and distinctive flavor profile.

“I knew that it would be different,” he said of the experimental style. “The lighter, brighter notes of the white wine barrels really shone through in such a profound and pretty way. It was really a joy to taste for the first time.”

The brand’s second expression, Reposado Rosa, also started out as an experiment, according to Betts, just for fun to see what would happen if Komos’ Blanco was aged in a French Oak barrel. By aging our Blanco in French Oak barrels that had just been emptied of great red wine, he found that the process produced a tequila which was so delicious, unique, and imbued with a perfectly pink tinge, just like a rosé from Provence.

Betts continues to drive Komos, creating and exploring new areas of agave distilling and new ways to think about tequila.

“It’s the best tequila I’ve ever had,” he told us. “With the first sip you realize you’re drinking something incredibly special.” Komos’ delicate mouthfeel and aromatics are a real knockout, and the brand received a 98-point score from Tasting Panel.

Agave Sustainability

Another way Betts is innovating has to do with sustainability. Earlier in his career, the distillery Betts built in Oaxaca won a special award from the Mexican government for sustainability.

“I was so proud of that award,” he said, “and even prouder to be bringing the same initiative on a bigger scale to the Jalisco region with Komos and our distillery partner Orendain.”

For Betts, there were many opportunities for the industry to improve.

“I was really surprised by the vast amount of waste that is created in spirits,” he said.

There are as much as 10 liters of liquid waste (vinaza) and 12 kilograms of solid waste (bagazzo) produced for every bottle of finished spirit, according to Betts. In the normal course of business in Oaxaca, the waste was simply poured into the local rivers, which left the water supply fouled. Betts focused on finding a way to make that waste into something useful.

Tequila Komos pile of agave

“I was inspired to figure out how to make adobe bricks for the community using the vinaza, bagazzo, and earth from the area,” Betts said. “Those bricks are given to the community so people can build houses, community centers, and other infrastructure to help the area thrive.”

Not only is Komos reducing its waste through this program, the company is also reducing its carbon footprint by sourcing their gorgeous bottles from a supplier in Mexico City, rather than shipping custom bottles in from overseas.

“So many bottles used in tequila are actually made in France and then shipped over empty to be filled and then shipped again,” according to Betts. “This creates a big carbon footprint as those empty bottles literally sail across the ocean on huge tanker ships.” Betts also hopes that their bottles will themselves be up-cycled and reused for another purpose.

“We’ve made the label easy to peel off,” Betts told us, to encourage reuse.

Cristalino Clear

Komos is also a representative of the burgeoning Cristalino category of tequila. These are añejo tequilas that have been filtered to remove the color and some of the woodier notes tequila naturally picks up from the barrel. The process keeps the rich flavors and textures intact, resulting in a tequila that has the depth and flavor of an añejo, but with the crisp, bright notes of a blanco.

Tequila Komos anejo cristalino with tequila barrels

Betts is adamant that the category is growing, and he explains how “in Mexico, Cristalino tequilas are extremely popular and it’s only a matter of time before the category enjoys the same success here in the States.” He pointed out that it is a completely recognized category of tequila with its own special designation.

“Cristalinos also carry age statements on the bottle, just like Scotch whisky,” according to Betts. “We do this as a part of our effort to make the tequila that we think is the very best thing and what we most want to drink.”

At Breakthru, we are thrilled to be a part of Betts’ work to expand and elevate the possibilities of tequila, and we look forward to seeing what the future brings for him and Komos.