June 6, 2024
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Negave Earns Kosher and Passover Certification

Under the thorough supervision of Rabbi Ahron Haskel of the Star-K, Negave has proudly achieved kosher certification. This valued approval guarantees that Negave’s products will be kosher for Passover and ready for sale by late 2024. For the world of kosher for Passover spirits, having a premium product available is monumental.

 

The Most Sought-After Agave

Indeed, there are numerous agave-based products on the market, but only one variety, the blue Weber, can be used to make tequila. Named for Franz Weber, a German naturalist who classified agave species around the turn of the 20th century, the blue Weber variety is enshrined in Mexican law for its unique taste and historical significance.

The story of tequila is said to have begun in the 16th century when Spaniards created the first agave distillate, known as mezcal, from the fermented juice that Mexican natives drank. The town of Tequila, a natural habitat for the blue agave plant, became famous for producing the most desirable version of this drink, known as “vino mezcal.” While harvesting and distillation of agave tequilana, and the designation of origin, have spread beyond Tequila, the name and the plant remain synonymous.

In 1977, Mexico’s lawmakers passed the Norma Oficial Mexicana, NOM-006-SCFI-20, and the “Declaración de Denominación de Origen Tequila,” specifying the regions and methods for tequila production. Only blue Weber agave can be used if distillers wish to use the term “tequila.”

The Ambitious Vision of Negave

Intent on using this coveted species, six founders embarked on a mission to craft tequila in Israel, believing their primary challenge would be persuading consumers that blue agave tequila from the Negev desert could rival Mexico’s finest. The founders of Negave planned to start planting blue Weber seedlings in the summer of 2024. Despite facing war-related obstacles, their determination has only intensified.

The tragic events of October 7, 2023, when Hamas attacked Israel, profoundly impacted the founders of Negave Estates. They realized their mission extended beyond producing a tequila-like spirit to aiding the recovery of the Negev communities devastated by the attack. Although blue agave typically flourishes in central Mexico, the similar climate of the Negev desert made Kibbutz Dvir in the Northwest Negev an ideal cultivation site.

Crafting Tequila in Israel

The six founders, including Fitz Haney, a decorated former diplomat, and board members David Neiwood, David Polinsky, Amanda Parness and William Kuluva, have been pivotal in this venture. Yitzhak Carmy, a major Israeli produce grower with extensive land in the Gaza border region, also plays a key role.

When Haney and his partners first pitched Negave Estates, they anticipated skepticism. Instead, they discovered that agave had thrived in the Negev during the 1950s and ’60s, thanks to an initiative by David Ben-Gurion to produce agave-based textiles. Although synthetic materials eventually supplanted agave textiles, wild agave plants still grow across the Negev. By curating blue Weber DNA from Mexico and cultivating the plants in Israeli labs until they are robust enough for the desert environment, Negave’s team found oro (gold).

Under the expert guidance of Master Distiller Ana Maria Romero Mena and the dedicated product team at Casa Aceves, Nagave cultivated from curated blue Weber DNA, and brought them to Israel, and have now successfully matured in the greenhouse. They are ready for planting, anticipated to begin by the end of July.

 

Cultivating Agave in the Negev Desert

Until the Israel-grown plants fully mature, for a minimum of five years, Negave has commenced white-label production of a 100% Agave Blue Weber tequiliana spirit. Initially distilled in Mexico under Ana’s direction using the finest artisanal methods (brick-oven roasting and Tahona extraction), this high-proof distillate will be shipped to Israel, where it will be aged in wine casks hand-selected from premier Negev wineries. The Negev desert’s unique terroir will enhance the spirit. Within the coming weeks, the first 20,000-liter production run ongoing in Santa Teresa, Magdalena Jalisco will be ready for barrel-aging in Israel. By early August, 55% ABV distillate will arrive in Israel, ready for dilution, barreling and aging. This milestone will enhance Passover 2025 for tequila aficionados, marking a pivotal achievement for Negave and its mission.

Negave also just chose its bottle design and label, and is geared for sales and growth. The company expects initial tastings to be available by the end of summer and the first line of Negave Classic (Barreled/Blanco) and Negave Mystic (Rested/Reposado) available towards year-end 2024.

 

Future Prospects

Negave has selected its glass bottle manufacturer, estimating approximately six months to produce and ship bottles to Israel. Pre-sales of Negave’s Iconic/Aged variant (Anejo equivalent) will go live, with the first liquid ready by mid-2025. By September 2024, with the product in hand, Negave will select and contract distributors in Israel and the U.S. Pre-selling activities will begin in summer/fall 2024, engaging with restaurants and bars in the U.S. and Israel, along with launching marketing and PR campaigns. The first bottles of Negave’s Classic/Barreled and Mystic/Rested will be available for sale in Israel through retail and direct-to-consumer channels by December. Early 2025 will see the first bottles arriving in the U.S. for distribution and sales, with all versions certified kosher for Passover.

A Remarkable Journey

Negave’s journey from a bold idea to a pioneering venture in the spirits industry is remarkable. By blending traditional Mexican distillation methods with Israeli innovation and resilience, Negave is set to make a significant impact. The details given to the hand-crafted spirit and the kosher certification underlines the quality and dedication behind their product, promising a unique and high-quality tequila-like spirit that honors both its heritage and its new home in the Negev desert.

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