Karan, you are a serial entrepreneur with a history of starting successful businesses. In recent years, your focus has been on the tequila industry. How did you get involved with tequila brewing, bottling, and selling after years in other sectors?
I have always had a love for quality food, wine, whiskey, and more recently, tequila. I discovered my passion for tequila while visiting the St. Regis in Puerto Vallarta 10 years ago. As a frequent visitor to Mexico, my favorite country, I decided to combine my love for the country and the spirit by starting El Cristiano. Through my education on the production of tequila, I noticed a lack of high-quality, additive-free options for those who appreciate agave-based spirits. I believe more education is needed to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of tequila.
A lot of celebrities have invested in tequila companies in recent years, including Michael Jordan and George Clooney. Why is tequila the “popular” alcohol for celebrities these days? Did it lure you in the same way?
In my opinion, there is a significant distinction between Casamigos and most other celebrity-endorsed tequilas. Clooney and his partners created Casamigos initially for personal consumption, and it later became a successful brand and financial venture. On the other hand, many celebrities merely lend their name and fame to a brand without actively participating in the production of the product. This often results in a lack of investment in the quality of the tequila. Quality tequila is made using mature agave, which takes 5-6 years to grow, however, most tequilas on the market are made using younger, greener agave, which is high in acidity. To mask the acidity, producers often add thickening agents, flavors, and sugar. My goal with my passion for tequila is not to follow the trend of celebrity-backed tequilas, but rather to emulate the traditional haciendas like Herradura, Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia, Don Julio, and others that prioritize quality.
El Cristiano Tequila is called “The World’s Most Delicious Tequila”. That is a very bold statement. Tell us about the recipe used to make El Cristiano and the care that goes into every bottle.
Our statement is indeed a bold claim. In tequila production, the quality of the agave is the most crucial factor, similar to how the quality of grapes is essential in making great wine. The microclimate, soil, and timing of harvest all play a role in the final product. Our tequila is made using a minimum of 5-year-old agave from the highlands of Jalisco (Los Altos de Jalisco) at an altitude of 6,700 feet above sea level. This agave is naturally sweeter and a minimum size of 100 pounds is used to ensure the highest quality. We have partners onsite during the harvest to ensure only the finest agave is selected for our tequila. We use a proprietary yeast to ferment the tequila and then allow it to rest in steel casks for 60 days, eliminating any alcohol and gasoline vapors commonly found in lower quality tequila. We also run oxygen through the tanks to remove any impurities. This results in a silver tequila that is luxurious on the palate, with notes of orange citrus, pepper, and florals. As a result of using such high-quality silver, we do not have to manipulate it as it matures in oak barrels to become Reposado, Extra Reposado (XR), and 3-year-old Extra Añejo (Black). We use 4.5 kg of agave per bottle compared to approximately 3 kg per bottle for other tequilas. Therefore, our tequila is the best expression of high-quality, 5-year-aged Highlands Blue Weber Agave.
Awards have been bestowed on El Cristiano Tequila in recent years. How important are the awards to you and recognition from the industry of your excellence in brewing?
Awards are quite important. Both for the end customer to know that they are buying a product that has been reviewed and awarded by industry experts as well as for us as producers to take satisfaction in the fact that our tequila has been reviewed by peers, experts and people in the industry.
Some tequila companies use sugar as part of their recipes to enhance the flavor of the drink. El Cristiano doesn’t use additives to change the flavor. What led to this decision?
The quality of tequila is directly linked to the maturity of the agave plant from which it is made. Harvesting agave too early results in a lower-quality product with less sweetness and a higher acidity. To mask these deficiencies, many tequila producers add extra sugar, flavorings, and chemicals to their products. At our company, we prioritize the use of fully mature agave plants, which results in a pure and high-quality tequila without the need for any added ingredients. Our focus on using only the best agave ensures a smooth, satisfying taste without any harsh burn or aftertaste.
A quick scroll through the El Cristiano social media shows images of equestrian events, incredible food, and celebrities. Who is the ideal person that drinks El Cristiano?
El Cristiano is the perfect choice for those who appreciate the finer things in life and strive to make the most out of every moment. Whether it’s through the world of equestrian sports, jet-setting, or exploring the great outdoors, our founders and partners live a life of luxury and adventure. Our social media channels reflect this lifestyle, showcasing the essence of #elcristianolife through experiences, delicious food, and shared moments with loved ones. If you’re looking for a premium tequila that embodies the spirit of living life to the fullest, El Cristiano is the perfect choice.
You aim to give back to Mexican communities where the ingredients are produced. What led you to donate money and help out these communities?
At the heart of our company lies the values of Purity, Passion, and Purpose. We prioritize using only high-quality agave to create a pure and delicious tequila, driven by our passion for the craft. But we also believe in giving back to the community, which is why our purpose is to make a positive impact in Mexico, starting with the children of Arandas. Through partnerships with local organizations, we have supported a children’s bicycle team, an orphanage for 38 children, and donated 50 laptops to a school in need. By combining our values with actions, we strive to make a lasting impact to the local communities in need.
Tell us about some of the high-profile events El Cristiano has been a part of already?
We kicked off our global launch with a bang, starting at the elite San Vicente Bungalows club. We then took 75 of our closest friends and family on a three-day journey through Jalisco, visiting Guadalajara, the Arandas distillery, the agave fields, and an orphanage that we support. On the final day, we stopped in the town of Tequila, capped off with a celebration at the Sauza Tequila distillery complete with traditional Mexican dances, music, and cuisine. Our commitment to supporting a vibrant, authentic lifestyle is evident in our presence at events such as the Desert Horse Show in Palm Springs, the Mammoth Tequila festival, the celebration of Mexican Independence Day, and the launch of our XR (Extra Reposado) at the Wallys Tequila festival in Las Vegas and Soho Works.
Do you recommend drinking El Cristiano by itself or with a mixer? What are some of the ideal recipes for drinking it?
I have a personal belief that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Everyone should be free to drink their spirit of choice the way they prefer. Personally, I enjoy sipping my alcohol with one or two ice cubes. If I want to make a cocktail, I opt for our Silver as it provides the perfect balance to mixed drinks. I believe that tequila can be enjoyed in various ways based on different moments of the day. For a hot day by the pool, I may prefer a Reposado on the rocks with an orange wedge. If I’m having spicy food, I’ll go for the XR to balance the sweetness from the barrel with the heat from the food. And finally, if I’m having tequila as an aperitif, I might opt for the neat Black (3-year-old Extra Añejo) in a stunning Baccarat crystal glass.
Karan, how is a day in your life?
This maybe best described by looking at a full month. January was a month full of memorable experiences and luxury. I started the month in Paris celebrating my friend’s 40th birthday with a five-day event filled with lavish parties in the city and at the beautiful Chateau Villette. After returning home, I took a father-son snowboarding trip to Aspen where we enjoyed our favorite restaurants and leisure time. The month ended with a trip to St. Barts with my wife and friends. When at home in LA, I balance my work with wellness with activities such as golfing at the Bel Air Country Club and visiting Artha, a wellness sanctuary for yoga, meditation, sauna, and massages.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
One of my proudest personal accomplishments is summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The grueling 6-day climb pushed me to my limits, but the view from the top with glaciers glistening in the morning sun was a sight I’ll never forget. On the professional front, I co-founded Saber Software with my brother and together we developed the Elections Management Systems and Centralized Voter Registration systems that have been implemented in over 20 states. From its humble beginnings in our basement, the company grew to a team of 1400 employees in 40 states and 3 countries before we sold it in 2007.
Choose two of your favorite quotes and write them here
As I grow older I am beginning to really appreciate a quote from Buddha that I read years ago as a child: The greatest prayer is patience. The second quote is by Thomas Edison – “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
I have a deep and personal connection to the issue of child abuse. Having grown up in a developing country, I witnessed the devastating impact of abuse on children of all ages, and it has left a lasting impression on me. If given the power, my priority would be to eradicate this problem and protect children from any form of harm
Anything else you’d like to add?
I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I’ve had since moving to the United States 26 years ago. I believe that many people who haven’t lived in other parts of the world don’t fully appreciate the exceptional qualities of this country and its people. I love America and everything it stands for and am proud to be an American.
To know more about Karan Khanna and El Cristiano please visit https://www.el-cristiano.com
Images credit: Aitana Cardoso