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Rare Woman Tequila Master Breathes Fire Into $275 Casa Dragones

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Bertha Gonzalez Nieves
Casa Dragones co-founder and CEO, Bertha Gonzalez Nieves, in New York Harbor. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

July 30 (Bloomberg) -- The antique yacht Freedom floated in the Hudson River behind Chelsea Piers, promising good food and expensive tequila.

Sister ship to the presidential yacht Sequoia, Freedom is a 104-foot fantail motor yacht built by Mathis Yacht Building Co., of Camden, New Jersey, in 1926. The work of famed boat designer John Trumpy, the craft was completely restored in 2009 and can sleep 10 guests in 5 state rooms.

One of its co-owners is Bob Pittman, chairman of media and entertainment platforms at Clear Channel Communications Inc. and -- much more to the point -- co-founder of Casa Dragones tequila.

I was on this nautical adventure for a tasting of Casa Dragones, a fairly recent entry into the high-end category occupied by brands such as Don Julio 1942, Gran Patron Burdeos and Partida Elegante. These can sell for as much as $500 a bottle. Casa Dragones retails for $275 and can be found at Crush and Astor Wines.

The brand’s other co-founder and chief executive officer is Bertha Gonzalez Nieves, the first woman to be designated a Maestra Tequilera.

Gonzalez explains. “It is a distinction awarded by the Mexican Academy of Tequila Tasters, which is recognized by the Tequila Regulatory Council. It is the highest distinction you can get in the industry.”

As blue-point oysters disappeared, she spoke about her entry into this macho enclave.

Few Females

“Its daunting when you are first coming into the industry, when you are in meetings and there are not a lot of females,” she said. “As time went by it was really clear that the common denominator was passion for the industry. That’s how I confronted it. I didn’t confront the industry from a female point of view, I confronted it from a passion point of view.”

The platinum-colored spirit is officially designated as a 100 percent blue agave joven, or young, tequila. It’s produced in small batches in Tequila, Mexico. The name comes from a small cavalry unit called the Dragones that “started one of the movements that eventually led to Mexican independence,” according to company literature.

In the glass, its aroma combines floral and citrus. The first sip tastes of vanilla and spicy fruit, with a finish that’s clean and warm with a super-smooth throat feel.

As the Freedom chugged its way down the Hudson, the Statue of Liberty with her torch held high above her head was an inspiring sight. Mimicking her stately pose with a Riedel glass of Casa Dragones in my hand, I raised a toast to the colossal queen of New York Harbor. “To your huddled masses. You would love this stuff.”

(Paul Goguen is a multimedia producer for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this story: Paul Goguen in New York at pgoguen1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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