Behind the Brand
Lindsey Davis Stover, Shivam Mallick Shah & Alison Kiehl Friedman
Co-Founders of 1953 Tequila
One of the most exciting entries into agave spirits is 1953 Tequila. Founders and friends Shivam Mallick Shah, Lindsey Davis Stover and Alison Kiehl Friedman came together in search of a consciously crafted, ultra-premium tequila. Together, they sought partners in Mexico who applied the finest craftsmanship utilizing the region's traditional methods to make a luxurious tequila without additives, and who shared in their commitment to providing opportunities for, and empowering, women. In the process, they created a truly distinctive spirit. We sat down with two of the three co-founders of 1953 Tequila to discover the work that has led to their launch with an Añejo release, the impact they are working to make through this venture, and their unique approach to this frequently male dominated production process with respected and well-established female partners in Mexico.
HOW DID YOU COME TO THE POINT OF STARTING 1953?
Lindsey: Our third founder Alison Kiehl Friedman and I actually ran against each other for Congress in Virginia's 10th district. Through the process, while we were fierce competitors, we became really good friends. Alison introduced me to her friend Shivam - they met through their daughters and shared DC friends - and the three of us became a team. Our work – Shivam’s, Alison’s, and my own in many ways has been focused on providing opportunities for others, and in particular women and families. The three of us quickly realized we had a shared set of beliefs - about the power of women to change the world and about how businesses can be successful and still do good in the world - and a shared love of great tequila, and ultimately this all came together to become 1953 Tequila. While these are traditional paths into the industry, paths for women rarely are. So, while tequila typically has been a male dominated industry, we saw this as a great way to bring people together and provide additional opportunities for women, which is what our main focus is in building our company.
Shivam: We get asked the question “why tequila?” a lot. As Lindsey said, we realized we could mix all these things we love: business and service and tequila and women, and together turn it into a company that can make great tequila and also make a difference in communities. And hopefully, we’ll have a lot of fun doing it together.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE DISTILLER THAT YOU'RE WORKING WITH?
Lindsey: It took us almost two years to find the right partner. We knew we wanted to have female leadership at every level from the distillery to the farm producing the agave. When we started, we were often told that vision wasn't possible. But we were up for the challenge and prioritized finding the right partner that could not only make a great product, but someone with shared values that would truly look at themselves as a part of this work with us. We set out to build a company that was founded, farmed, distilled and led by women and that is exactly what we did.
WHAT MADE THIS DISTILLING PARTNER STANDOUT?
Lindsey: With the team we found, it became obvious they were the partner we had been looking for – almost instantly. We worked together to begin opening doors for women in a traditionally male-dominiated field. Not only could they make an additive free tequila with the flavor profile we were looking for, but they’re a family-owned distillery that has been making tequila for more than 100 years, and is now run by the matriarch and her children who are intentional about hiring and promoting women in leadership positions. That, in and of itself, was so unique. The 1953 team also set out to change the norms for women in leadership roles in the agave fields. Working closely with our distillery partners, we met with a local farmer who agreed to turn over his farm to his daughters rather than sell it and we agreed to guarantee purchase. Today, these women oversee the agave farm and serve as a tangible reminder to other women that there’s a place for them anywhere they want to lead.
Shivam: It was interesting just how many “no’s” we were told through this process. No, you can't do this. No, women shouldn't be at the table here. No, women shouldn't be running agave farms. And when we met our partners in Mexico they didn't say no. They said, “we don't have that right now. But let's work together to get there.” And that's exactly what we’re doing, together.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON THE NAME 1953?
Lindsey: The moment we decided on 1953, it was like a light bulb went off. We were in Mexico, reviewing our list of names, and we knew we wanted the name to represent women, leadership, power, and strength. In 1953, women secured the right to vote in Mexico. And we knew that was it!
1953 represents the ability to organize, to use your power to vote and to exercise choice for yourself and your family -- that’s power. 1953 Tequila honors the courage, tenacity, and boldness of women fighting for equality then and those who continue to pursue equality for women around the world today.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE BOTTLE DESIGN?
Lindsey: We absolutely love this final bottle, and designed it in a way that it can be reused. Starting from the top with our stopper, you can see the 1953 adorned on this hefty copper stopper. Once you’re finished with our tequila, you can use the stopper for wine bottles and more. In the bottle design, we wanted something that was strong and sophisticated. We had talked to several women bartenders, and oftentimes you might notice that tequila bottles in particular are large and kind of fat at the bottom; we wanted to make sure we created a bottle that was easy for women bartenders to pour. We also wanted it to be distinct- for example, you’ll notice it has a texture like pleating, which we love because it’s both feminine and strong. In so many ways, our tequila is a disruptor, and this bottle represents that in an elegant, modern, classic way.
Shivam: When we looked at other bottles for inspiration, we found ourselves more drawn to perfume and decorative bottles than we did other alcohol bottles. We looked at quite a range and we wanted the bottle to exemplify the values and the attributes of our customer: modern, elegant, and timeless.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE DISTILLATE IN THIS FIRST RELEASE?
Lindsey: We're coming out with an Añejo first, because we wanted to take our time with it, and didn't want to cut corners. We wanted to make an authentic product with no additives. So, 1953 is produced with 100% Blue Weber agave, and we have chosen vintage American oak bourbon barrels to age the product in for 15 months.
WHAT ARE THE PROMINENT TASTING NOTES THAT YOU GET IN THIS RELEASE?
Shivam:. We often hear how smooth 1953 tequila is, and how complex the layers of flavor are. That was really important to us, especially having tasted so many tequilas when it felt like a lot of them kind of hit you hard. 1953 is something that you sip and take your time with to truly savor.
In addition to the natural flavor coming from the agave, you’ll note 1953 is accented by notes of caramel and vanilla are complemented by hints of citrus and chocolate. When you sip and you take a breath, and truly experience the taste of the flavors, your whole palate comes alive. And it's a joyful experience. We did so many tastings with our Master Distiller to really achieve that right balance.
We've talked a lot about how champagne is the gift you give to somebody that you might just see once and you're going to not see again that night. But tequila is the gift to give to someone you want to see again, because you're going to take this bottle and you're going to drink it over time. This notion of taking your time to really embrace the flavor and the experience is important to us.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PAIRINGS THAT YOU WOULD SUGGEST WITH 1953 TEQUILA?
Lindsey: 1953 can be paired with your main course or dessert. It is designed to be paired with a meal and has the ability to stand alone.
Shivam: 1953 pairs well with a bowl of popcorn, your favorite chocolate, or even fresh oysters - whatever your preferred indulgence or comfort food.
WHAT KIND OF INITIATIVES AND PARTNERSHIPS ARE YOU EXPLORING TO DEEPEN YOUR IMPACT WORK?
Shivam: We want to run our company in a way that shows that you can build a great business without compromising how you treat people on your team and in your community.
To that end, we are very proud that 1953 is founded, farmed, distilled, and led by women. We have further made a commitment that we will have diversity in governance. We'll have representation on our board that reflects the communities we want to serve and the women that we want to create opportunities for. We are also proud to work with a unionized distillery that pays fair wages and offers access to health care.
In Mexico we are working with our local partners to identify the organizations they believe are best supporting their efforts to change their communities. We are excited to announce new partnerships on that front in 2024. In the US, we have sponsored events for organizations like the Anchor Fund and the Women’s Media Center which share in our commitment to investing in and supporting women.
We set out to create a different type of tequila company and we are doing just that.
WHY IS CREATING CHANGE SO CORE TO THE ETHOS OF 1953 TEQUILA?
Shivam: One of the things that brought Alison, Lindsey and I together was that we've each been the only person like ourselves at the table. And so many women we've spoken to about the company have also been that person. Lindsey and I started from places without a path that was linear or even clear. We had aspirations and we just had to figure out how to get there. And I think that the best part of figuring out how to get there sometimes is the opportunity to help other people figure out how to get there too. To be able to pay-it-forward is so core to who we are, and it's a part of our DNA as we build 1953 Tequila.
When women prosper, communities prosper.
While it is only the beginning for 1953 Tequila, the impact that has already been made is astounding. Co-founders Alison, Lindsey and Shivam bring with them a depth of experience which will surely not only challenge typical conventions in the production of tequila, but create waves of change that will impact generations. Truly these are exciting times – now, I will just patiently wait for my bottle of 1953 Tequila to arrive so I can be a part of this growing movement.
TRY 1953 TEQUILA NOW
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