'Wild Shot' Wednesday: Toby Keith Wants You to Be a Good American and Drink His New Mezcal

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Country megastar Toby Keith recently chose Nashville as the town to launch his new Wild Shot brand premium mezcal. Love him or hate him, you gotta admit the dude is smart. Not only does he already have a chain of 15 "I Love This Bar" (I'm not making that up) franchises affiliated with various Caesar's/Harrah's casinos to ensure that he has venues to push cases of the new product through, but the rollout/pep rally/fan club party that he threw in Nashvegas pretty much ensured a successful initial launch.

But a rabbit start doesn't necessarily mean you'll win the race. Sammy Hagar's star-branded Cabo Wabo Tequila shared a similar strategy out of the gate, but recently the Red Rocker has sold his share of the brand to Gruppo Campari so that it can now be marketed by Skyy Spirits out of San Francisco. Oh wait, Hagar got $80 million. Well played, Mr. Keith.

So Toby has now eschewed "Beer for My Horses" in lieu of "Mezcal for the Masses." How good is the stuff? Will it "put a boot in your ass?" In a word, yes.

Wild Shot Mezcal is a 100 percent green agave product imported by Shaw-Ross, and which claims to be an authentic central Mexican product right down to the worm in the bottle. That's right, Toby aims to return the hypopta agavis larva to the bar snack menu. In fact, at the meet-and-greet after the introductory presentation, patrons had to eat a worm before they could get a picture taken with the Artist of the Decade. You'll notice there are no photos accompanying this post. ...

The event began with a sampling of the silver and reposado versions of Wild Shot accompanied with an endless loop of CMT music videos with titles that either came from or became Bourbon Street and Panama City Beach T-shirt slogans. In its straight form, Wild Shot is a little bit harsh for my taste. The silver goes straight to the bottle out of the vat, while the reposado at least kisses oak for six months. Both had a slightly offputting chemical taste initially, but I was pleasantly surprised by the smokiness of the finish, which is the hallmark of mezcal versus its blue agave cousin, tequila.

Where this really shone was when Wild Shot Silver was mixed to make a margarita. OK, I had to clench my teeth and ignore that it was actually called an "I Love This Bar-gorita," but it was a fairly transcendent version of the traditional margarita. I would definitely order it again. And again. I guess that's the point.

When Toby came onstage briefly to address the adulation of the crowd, he spoke of how he spent years touring out of his home in Oklahoma to Mexico and the states which border our neighbor to the south. It was during this time that he acquired an interest in and taste for mezcal. "Tequila is for shooting," Toby bellowed. He apparently prefers to freeze his mezcal and drink it before he goes on stage. As it warms, the smoky flavors begin to manifest themselves and become more complicated, like a fine cigar.

OK, he didn't really put it that way. Toby's exact quote was, "I don't care if you sip it or shoot it! Hell, put it in a needle and stick it in your arm! I don't care! Viva Mexico!" You have to admire his frankness, and all those exclamation points are authentic.

Expect to see Wild Shot Mezcal soon in your favorite bar or liquor store. Give it a shot or try it in a margarita. It's an interesting turn from normal. Plus, I had no urge to fight anyone after drinking three of them, so maybe that's another advantage.

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