Trailblazer. Master Tequila Distiller. Latina in STEM. Mexicana. Mom. These are some of the titles Estela Anguiano, who was born and raised in Mexico, holds and now she can add “jefa” since launching her own brand of tequila. The move makes sense considering the path her career has taken, one carved by her passion for the tequila industry. Anguiano pursued a degree in science despite the fact that Latinas are one of the most underrepresented groups in all Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, and ended up becoming one of the very first female master tequila distillers in the entire world. If that isn’t jefa status, we don’t know what is. Becoming the best in your industry is challenging for all of us, but doing it as a Latina in a male-dominated industry is on another level. Anguiano has managed to do just that without compromising her integrity, sacrificing her culture, or letting go of her passion.
“I think I am where I am today thanks to my being very persistent. I never felt inferior because I was a woman,” Anguiano tells HipLatina. “Obviously, investing in yourself and your preparation — however it may be, — it’s important but you need to have clear objectives in a field you enjoy.”
That said, Anguiano had no clue that she would ever end up doing what she does. Back in the ’80s, she got a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Guadalajara, and after working in labs in different industries for several years, she ended up landing in the tequila industry, and she fell hard. She’s so dedicated now that she resides in the town of Tequila in Mexico.
She shares that it only took a few years after graduating to break into the Tequila industry saying that’s where her “passion was” and crediting her heritage with influencing her career choice. But pursuing your passion isn’t always going to be easy. As many of us know — especially those in STEM and other male-dominated fields — the road to success oftentimes feels more like a roller coaster.
“To be honest, it was a big challenge at the beginning of my career. I was young, however, I knew for a fact that I was equally capable as the men around me to do the same job. I also felt capable of doing the job!” Anguiano tells us. “I think the most challenging aspect of this industry has been changing gender preconceptions and this erroneous idea of master distillers being exclusively men.”
Anguiano is passionate about the product she works on too. Having been in the industry so long, she knows just about everything there is to know about tequila and making excellent tequila is something she finds fulfilling.
“First and foremost, I love what I do. I feel passion for my job and that motivates me and brings me genuine joy. Another big component is my career and professional growth — I am ambitious and always look to grow and become better at what I do,” she says. So even though she’s held an amazing gig at Casa Don Roberto tequila for more than two decades and now works as the company’s master distiller and quality control director, she felt called to take her knowledge and create something all her own.
Earlier this year, she launched Severo Tequila, a line of ultra premium tequilas that includes a reposado aged in white American oak barrels. “Creating a tequila with a unique character was a personal and professional challenge, I definitely dare to say that it has been one of my best projects! I believe you can taste the hard work, passion, and dedication in each sip of all four Severo expressions,” Anguiano says.
For anyone who hasn’t tried sipping their tequila rather than shooting it or mixing it, Anguiano urges you to do so. “No other spirit compares to tequila in my opinion,” she says. “I just love that it’s a synonym for tradition and heritage” she says, explaining that the education and the ritual are really both a part of the overall enjoyment.
“Try different expressions — you might not know if you like a reposado, a silver, or an añejo. Dare to drink a sipping tequila, drink it neat and do so with food pairings,” she suggests. “This only works if you are drinking an ultra-premium tequila made for sipping, but you can really taste the difference. Savor the tequila,” she tells us, though she admits that she does love a good margarita.
At 56 years old, she has no intention of walking away from her career any time soon. She tells us now that she’s seen Severo to fruition, she will happily continue her work at Casa Don Roberto.
“I know I am repeating myself, but I am also successful because I really do love what I do,” she says. Just don’t forget to pour up a glass of tequila, “with a bit of water and ice, especially if it’s an añejo,” to celebrate your accomplishments.