Taking it Slow

Posted on March 3, 2020

Growing up entrenched in San Diego’s coastal culture, surfer and Emmy-winning filmmaker Taylor Steele spent as much time — or more — making movies of his friends in the water as he was in it himself. With a filmography of more than two dozen films, his passion for filmmaking has brought him accolades and a lifestyle that have taken him all over the world, including exotic vacation-worthy destinations like Bali, far removed from any urban hustle. Still, he liked to reconnect with society periodically, and on one such visit to New York City, was ever changed by an introduction to the world of sipping tequila.

After a move to Australia, Steele found that a tequila market didn’t really exist Down Under, so he set his sights on making his own. A creative direction position with Corona beer provided a core understanding of beverage marketing, but the Australian experience also helped crystallize his idea of creating a sipping tequila to be enjoyed slowly versus drinking for the sake of drinking. “I feel like the drinking part should be respected and enjoyed, not as an escape, but as a way to connect with people,” he says. This became a mission statement for his brand, one that permeates every part of Solento from production to enjoyment, no doubt also influenced by his background spent on the laid-back beaches of North County.

Though the idea rolled around in him for several years, he ultimately went to Mexico to get to the heart of the tequila process. He found a distillery that had been operational for three generations. It was also the only organic one he found. He worked with them to create a profile to his specifications, using agave that is harvested at its seven-year peak to ensure natural sweetness without the addition of syrups. “I like it sweet and smooth,” he says, explaining that “a sipping tequila has more sweetness versus what people think of as a ‘house’ tequila, which allows mixing with other things to change the level of sweetness.” Formula complete, he conducted blind tastes in the U.S. of his Solento tequila alongside other familiar name brands, and he says his “won out every time.” He started with 10,000 bottles, dividing distribution between Southern California and New York. By the time the brand officially launched in November 2019, all three Solento organic tequilas, Añejo, Reposado, and Blanco, had already won awards, including Blanco, which nabbed Double Gold at the 2019 Sip Awards.

Taylor Steele

Steele, whose West Coast home is Solana Beach, chose Encinitas for Solento’s headquarters. “We wanted to launch in our backyard and have the support of our family and friends — that natural sort of synergy — as a starting place to figure out all the kinks and then grow from there,” he says, and then, sounding a little more surfer than founder, adds that as far as long-term goals go, “You never know, so I think we’ll just have fun with the ride.” solentotequila.com   Deanna Murphy