Revel Spirits: Twin Cities natives making a splash in the ultra-premium spirits market

52When the person voted 2014 Twin Cities Best Bartender sings your praises, you launch your product at the exclusive Dakota Jazz Club and the owner of the area’s largest liquor distributor is on hand, you’re probably onto something pretty special.

That’s the case for the latest entry into the ultra-premium agave-based spirit, Revel. Co-owned by former Twin Cities residents Micah McFarlane and Jacqui Thompson along with third principal, Susan Clausen, Revel launched with a splash last week during an afternoon tasting at the Dakota. The audience of nearly 100 tasters was treated to a sampling of cocktails crafted by the likes of Marco Zappia (2014 Twin Cities Best Bartender and owner of Eat Street Social), Colin Lace of the Dakota and other select bartenders.

“The integrity of the product and the integrity of the process says a lot to me,” said Zappia, whose Eat Street Social is among a handful of area establishments to carry the spirit that, though not technically a tequila, comes from the agave plant that is used to make tequila.

39“The quality of Revel is so smooth,” said the Dakota’s Lace. “It’s really a superior product.”

Zappia and Lace aren’t the only ones vouching for the upstart brand. Michael Johnson of Johnson Brothers Liquor Co., the area’s largest spirits distributor, was on hand for the launch. Johnson Brothers serves as the area distributor for Revel, which is now available at Eat Street Social, the Dakota, and Parlour. Revel offers three products, Revel Avila Blanco, Revel Avila Reposado and Revel Avila Anejo.

So what makes Revel so unique? According to the principals of Revel, it’s all about the agave grower and the growing and aging processes of the various spirits. According to McFarlane and Thompson, Revel is grown from Weber blue agave in the Morelos region of Mexico, by a group of families who perfected the distillation processes until the handcrafting created a spirit that became known as avila.

“It takes us seven years to harvest the plants and another two years to process,” said Hector Ruiz, one of the farmers chosen to grow the agave for Revel. “We were approached by Jose Cuervo and all the big producers, but we don’t believe in mass production; we believe in the quality of producing in small batches.”

21For McFarlane and Thompson, getting into the spirits industry was somewhat of a natural progression for the two, who have operated a successful music company for years, working with clients including Prince, Carlos Santana, Chaka Khan and others. But the new business idea came from a chance encounter at a bar.

“I was at a bar and I ordered a Patron and a guy sitting there asked me why I ordered Patron and I said, ‘well, isn’t it the best,” said McFarlane.

The two struck up a conversation and according to McFarlane, the person explained that Patron was more about perception and less about quality. Intrigued, McFarlane and a friend traveled to Mexico to learn more about the agave plant and the growing and harvesting of tequila. It was on that trip when he met Ruiz and as they say, the rest is history.

For Thompson, starting Revel was the right thing to do at the right time.

“Micah and I had a music management company and we wanted to have a brand instead of pitching brands,” said Thompson. “So we parlayed what we knew about marketing and branding and transferred it to spirits. Revel is about life, spirits and being happy.”

The ultra-premium avila is sold in .750 liter bottles and ranges in price from $70 to $130 per bottle.

“We have an aggressive marketing campaign targeting the high-end consumer,” said Thompson.

Revel is available for purchase online at

October 10, 2014
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