Award-winning film director and producer Taylor Steele knows a good thing when he catches it—like a wave or a thought of appreciation for a smooth-as-velvet tequila that lingers in the throat. A Southern California native renowned for his surfing films, Steele is the founder of Solento Organic Tequila, a sipper’s style spirit meant to be enjoyed at a lingering pace. Driven by curiosity and wanderlust, the inveterate traveler was “drawn to create something that would encourage us all to slow down amid our increasingly hectic lifestyles.” Solento Organic Tequila was the perfect avenue to do just that. We sat down with him to learn more about tequila and get his traveling tips.
HL: Is there a correlation between surfing, which we know you love, and tequila?
TS: Of course! Solento was inspired by the serenity of surfing. When you’re surfing, you are, by nature, unplugged from the world around you and waiting on a wave. It is a sport that requires patience and attention to subtle shifts in the wave. Solento drew cues from the sport to define a new echelon of tequila that similarly celebrates the slow and invites rejuvenation through recalibration.
HL: How were you inspired to make tequila?
TS: I started making films following my interest in surfing. That evolved to movies that focused on travel—all following my interest at the time. Then selling DVDs disappeared and I had to reinvent myself. A natural progression was into commercials. I liked the idea of learning how to be a better filmmaker via this short form of storytelling. Then as I got better at it, I had the moral dilemma of selling something I didn’t believe in. So, I again pivoted into creating something that I wholeheartedly stood for, whether that be the taste, the design, the give-back, or simply how people interact with it. That’s when I started looking at the elements of my life I really valued. One part was sipping tequila with friends after a good day. As I researched turning that into a brand, I fell in love with everything about the idea of a tequila company: the history, farming process, and how the end product affects others.
One of my favorite aspects of travel is the opportunity it presents to slow down, be present, and share moments with friends.
Once it reaches its perfect maturity and ripeness, the Montes jimadors harvest the agave in small batches, allowing us to preserve their family’s perfected technique.
HL: Your tequila is organic with a unique story and taste profile. Tell us about that.
TS: Our friends, the Montes family, have perfected their farming and distilling techniques over three generations. Tucked into the Amatitán Valley in Jalisco, Mexico is the farm Las Americas. Here, our agave is planted on a single estate and grown slowly and without use of pesticides for seven years.
The agave piñas are steam cooked for two days, leaving us with soft, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth, cooked agave which is then pressed on a roller moll, releasing the precious juices. The pulp, which is left behind, is loaded back onto the truck and used on the fields as compost for the next harvest. Next, we ferment—naturally. We don’t use any yeast or synthetic fermentation agents. After resting for two months in stainless brite tanks, we are finally handed our flawlessly clear and effortlessly smooth Solento Organic Blanco. Our aged expressions are created by transferring Blanco to American oak barrels; nine months for Reposado and 18 months for Añejo.
HL: You have fallen in love with Jalisco. What makes it such a captivating city?
TS: One of my favorite aspects of travel is the opportunity it presents to slow down, be present, and share moments with friends. After discovering the ritual of sipping tequila, I was inspired to travel to the birthplace of tequila, Jalisco, Mexico. During that trip, I became truly engulfed in the rich culture behind tequila and surf country. From agave fields, unmatched tequila distilleries, epic waves, and delicious food, it has everything. It is hard to imagine Jalisco as anything other than one of Mexico’s most timeless and captivating places. My parents used to live on the Jalisco coastline, so I would come here all the time.
HL: You love to travel. So do we. For our travel issue, we’d love to hear about your three favorite trips.
TS: My three favorite trips have been: Rwanda to visit the gorillas in the jungle, Iceland for surfing in the arctic, and the Bahamas to dive with tiger sharks without a cage.
HL: Where are you dreaming about going next?
HL: What about traveling to Jalisco? I’ve worked in the agave fields for a day, and it is tough labor; but, it’s so interesting to see how the tequila gets made. Is this something tourists can do under Solento’s tutelage? Can they visit the distillery?
TS: Not at this time, but one day we’d love to be able to take tourists from visiting the agave fields to sipping tequila to give them a full picture look—from sourcing to production to tasting.
HL: How should we drink Solento? Sipped and savored or in cocktails?
TS: When creating Solento, the goal was to create a tequila to enjoy on its own. I encourage everyone to sip and savor Solento’s three expressions.
HL: What should we eat with sips of Solento?
TS: Solento Blanco is perfect with ceviche; the fresh seafood and citrus pairs perfectly with the flavor profile of our Blanco. And for dessert, you should try Solento Añejo with a piece of dark chocolate (straight cocoa, orange, or sea salt caramel are great choices).
HL: Do you have a favorite cocktail recipe?
TS: The goal was to create a tequila that was perfect just on its own, so I’m usually just sipping Solento Blanco on the rocks with a slice of lemon; but, a favorite among my friends is the Añejo Old Fashioned. It’s so simple and delicious: combine 3 ounces of Solento Añejo, 1⁄4 ounce agave syrup, and a dash of bitters. Serve it in a rocks glass over ice and garnish with an orange twist.
HL: Where can we buy Solento?
TS: Solento is available for purchase on our website. Additionally, you can buy Solento through Drizly, Reserve Bar, and Sip Tequila, among other places.
SIDEBAR: TAYLOR STEELE’s Top Ten Travel Tips
- Travel with an open mind.
- Bring noise cancelling headphones, eye masks, and active spray (for cuts & sunburns).
- Make sure you find some way to document your travels. I love to travel with a 35mm film camera.
- Get as much sunlight on day one to help with jetlag.
- Smile (universal language).
- Look for a nice check-in person; it will help with any extra baggage charges.
- Bring your own healthy food on the plane, so you can sleep and eat on your own
- Select a window seat, so you don’t have to get up mid-sleep.
- Have a drink with the locals and buy the first round.
- Be present.