An Interview with Tequila 512 Founder & Fellow Red Raider Scott Willis

Scott graduated from TTU in 1999 with a Bachelors of Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. He chats with us about food trucks, life in Austin, and all things agave.

When someone walks by a tailgate at 10:45am offering sample shots of ridiculously smooth tequila, you take notice.

These samples, as it turned out, came from the Sales Director with Tequila 512 in Austin who had made the trek out to West Texas for the Spring Game on April 12th. He then explained that the president and founder of Tequila 512, Scott Willis, is a fellow Red Raider.

Following Seth’s suggestion, I decided to reach out to Scott to see if he would be interested in sharing a bit about himself, his company, and his time in Lubbock.

LSRR: What brought you out to Lubbock for college?

Scott Willis: I had a good friend who was out there and I went to visit him for a weekend and fell in love with the place.  I decided before I left Lubbock that I was going to be a Red Raider.

LSRR: What is your most memorable experience as a Red Raider?

Scott Willis: The bonds I made with my fraternity brothers.

LSRR: Tell us about what it was like working for Pat Green.

Scott Willis: I have always been a huge fan of the Texas Music Scene, so having the opportunity to work for Pat was incredible.  Even though I was only helping out with his website, it was awesome to be a part of that scene.

LSRR: I am a well-below average homebrewer with about a 25% success rate in drinkable beer (it’s a long road ahead). Did you experiment with homebrewing at any time?

Scott Willis: I’ve personally never experimented with homebrewing, but I have a great respect for people that can do it well. I am a big fan of craft beer and I have gotten to know several brewers here in Austin. I’d love to try yours, I bet it’s better than you think.

LSRR: What drew you to the art of distilling?

Scott Willis: My family has dabbled in distilling for years so I’ve grown up around it.  It's definitely an art and I've devoted a huge portion of my life to studying it.  I love experimenting with different distilling methods in search of the perfect flavor.

LSRR: Could you go in to your family's distilling history a bit and how you got involved with it?

Scott Willis: I have several family members (both alive and deceased) who were/are really into making moonshine.  They have worked to perfect their craft over the years and I always enjoyed learning from them and tasting their latest samples.

LSRR: When did you officially start your company?

Scott Willis: I had the idea to develop my own tequila recipe and brand back in 2007, but I didn’t get it on the shelf until 2012. It was five years of blood, sweat and tears – but well worth it.

LSRR: Walk us through your distilling process.

Scott Willis: Tequila 512 Blanco is triple distilled. The agave piñas are roasted in traditional stone ovens and slowly fermented before distillation. The tequila is filtered for 24 hours, which helps to smooth and mellow the flavor. An oxygenation process is used to enhance the texture, creating a soft, velvety feel. Both processes are implemented without removing the delicate characteristics of the agave.

LSRR: Is this done in Austin or Mexico?

Scott Willis: Tequila can only be made in Mexico. Tequila 512 is made at a distillery in Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico.

LSRR: This really is a smooth tequila and something that I truly enjoyed. I give it a very official "Thumbs Up!" award. What other prestigious awards have you won?

Scott Willis: I am proud to say we won a gold medal at the World Spirits Competition, a gold medal at the SIP awards and we’ve been voted best tequila in Austin two years in a row at the Austin Tequila Fest, a competition including over 30 brands.

LSRR: I know that the distribution process can be frustrating. What did you experience while trying to get your product to the consumer?

Scott Willis: Starting my own business has been the most frustrating yet rewarding process I’ve ever experienced.  There have been numerous pitfalls and hurdles along the way, from explosions in Mexico to insane permitting issues.  I’ve had to jump through so many hoops to get my product on the shelf, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. This is a tough business to break into so I’m still working to get a larger distribution, but I’ve got a great product that people want and that’s what’s important.

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LSRR: What lies ahead for Tequila 512? Do you have any additional products on the horizon?

Scott Willis: Our reposado is currently aging in oak barrels and should be ready for release later this summer. Our goal is for our blanco and reposado to be distributed statewide this year. We’ve seen huge growth in Austin and want to push that growth to other cities across the state.  Look for us in Lubbock soon.

LSRR: There are a lot of VTMers in Lubbock and DFW. Where can they find Tequila 512?

Scott Willis: While we haven’t made it to Lubbock yet, we are in several great spots in the DFW area.  We’ve got an awesome tool on our website that allows you to enter your zip code and find restaurants and retail stores near you that carry it.

LSRR: Living in Austin, I can imagine that you have had the chance to sample quite a bit of food truck fare. Share with us you favorite four-wheeled vittles.

Scott Willis: The food truck scene in Austin has really exploded over the past 5 years or so. My new favorite is a lobster roll truck called Dock & Roll. I also really enjoy The Mighty Cone which has been around for a long time.

LSRR: Other than your fine tequila, what are some other beverages you enjoy?

Scott Willis: When I am not drinking Tequila 512, you’ll usually find me with a craft beer in my hand. I try to support local craft brewers whenever possible. I am also a big fan of bourbon and whiskey.  I’m old school – Jack Daniels.

LSRR: And, lastly, tell us what it means to you to be a Red Raider and how that may or may not be a challenge while living in the land of burnt orange.

Scott Willis: My heart will always be with Texas Tech – it’s where I became a man. However, my wife went to UT and I’m constantly surrounded by Longhorns so I have respect for their community.  Let me put it this way, when I dress my kids, they are always in Red Raider gear.

Thanks again to Scott for taking the time to answer some questions for us! Please check out the Tequila 512 website, follow him on Twitter and look for Tequila 512 in your area.
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