Tequila Tromba CEO on Success, US Expansion and Entrepreneurial Advice

Tequila Tromba has done what many have deemed impossible. After incredible sales since its launch two years ago, the beloved Canadian tequila brand, which has converted even non-tequila drinking young professionals (YPs), had its Reposado and Anejo listed in the LCBO earlier this month. It is now the only brand other than Patron to have all of its SKUs available on the LCBO General List and can be found in over 100 LCBO locations. Perhaps more exciting is that Tequila Tromba launches in the USA tomorrow. Tromba has inked two distribution deals for Illinois and Washington DC/Maryland. Clearly, this marks a very exciting time for the rapidly-growing craft tequila brand.

We caught up with Eric Brass, the YP Co-founder and CEO of Tromba Tequila to hear a little more about what it took to make Tromba one of the top-selling premium tequila brands in Canada, how he entered the US market, and his advice for emerging young entrepreneurs.

First off, why tequila? What inspired you to get into this business?
Tequila is the most misunderstood and misrepresented spirit in the world. Everyone has that bad tequila story – and so did I. Then, I went down to Mexico on an exchange. I fell in love with tequila and my world changed. I experienced the spirit in a way I never thought possible and saw the opportunity to make others do the same. Fast forward five years, I quit my day job, went for the dream and started Tromba. I’ve never looked back since. 

Why do you think that Tromba has been so well received since its launch just two years ago?
We don’t compromise an iota on quality. Everything that comes from Tromba is craft batch, boutique produced and overseen by Master Distiller Marco Cedano. We launched Tromba in the great bars and restaurants in Canada and Australia, putting it in the hands of top bartenders. The bartending community fell in love with Tromba and in turn their customers fell in love. Everything has been grassroots – we’ve grown the brand from selling it out of my backpack to being the #2 premium on LCBO shelves. Peter Filimonov is instrumental to the brand as well. I couldn’t ask for a better right hand man.

What is your favourite way to enjoy Tromba?
I drink Tromba Blanco neat. Tromba is one of the few blanco tequilas you can sip and enjoy.  When you are drinking a blanco, un-aged Tequila, there is nothing to hide. All the impurities and imperfections cannot be covered up. Tromba is an exceptional blanco tequila and it can consumed in its purest form.

When did you realize that it was time to expand into the US market?
We always knew the USA is where we wanted to go. It’s 70 times the size of the Canadian market, but we took our time to get there. Most brands go to the USA market first, but it was important to us to make Tromba a success in our home markets –Canada and Australia – before we go to the USA. We even signed an “agave pact” between the team to solidify this. Now, as the #2 premium in Canada and the #3 premium in Australia, we knew it was time. We also saw bootlegged bottles popping up throughout the USA, which was very cool.

What, in a nutshell, did the process entail to secure US distribution?
It is never easy. As the biggest market in the world, US distributors are inundated with product. One of our distributors told me that Tromba was the only product they selected after 100 bottles of samples they received. Our brand, pedigree, proof of concept, quality and supporters helped put us ahead of the pack. Also, every award and competition we’ve ever entered has been Gold (one silver) and over 90 rated.  

What was the biggest challenge?
Our competitors are tough, big, fierce, and have massive capital. It forces us to always be outside the box, out-thinking our competition and out-loving our customers.

Can you offer any advice to other entrepreneurs wanting to break into US markets in terms of timing? 
Take your time. You’ll never be 100 per cent ready, but don’t rush a US expansion. I’ve seen too many companies go in too early and die. Also, prepare yourself for success. That may sound ridiculous, but if your product starts to move and your supply chain can’t keep you, you’re toast. Put that extra funding into working capital – it’s worth it.

What is next for the brand? Expansion outside North American borders? 
I just got back from some meetings in London and the Middle East. But USA will be our big short-term focus.

What is the best advice you can offer in terms of keeping your brand relevant?
Any dope can copy a strategy or a marketing technique. Build your own road that fits with what you stand for. Never look to your bigger competitors for inspiration about what you should be doing. Stand for something unique and don’t waiver from it.  

For more information on Tequila Tromba, visit the website, or pick up a bottle of Tequila Tromba Reposado or Tequila Tromba Anejo in your local LCBO ($57.95 and $87.95/bottle, respectively).


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