The next time you order a margarita with your carnitas at Prescott’s El Gato Azul, ask for one made with Scorpion mezcal and be sure to check out the bottle.
While some mescal comes bottled up with a worm, the Scorpion Silver Mezcal at El Gato Azul will have a real scorpion inside and a tiny Mexican sombrero on the outside of the bottle. For this novelty that surely will make the experience memorable for your visiting East Coast relatives, thank Bob Pike and Bill Peryer.
The difference between mezcal and tequila, as Pike explains, is that mezcal agave is cooked with hard wood charcoal and tequila agave is steamed. The plant is cooked in the ground to create a smoky flavor. Mezcal that has been aging for seven years in oak can cost $300 a bottle. “We don’t sell very much of that,” said Pike.
But they do sell a lot of Scorpion Mezcal to places like AJ’s, BevMo, Total Wine and restaurants throughout the state.
Pike and Peryer delight in finding, importing and distributing unique spirits, wine and beer of superior quality through their boutique wholesale company, Piper Premium Beverages.
They started the Prescott business in 2005 with one product, a brand of tequila. Slowly, the business partners added a cognac and other spirits. Four years ago, they started including premium beer and French wine.
“Phuket is a very good beer. It’s the only Thai beer we sell,” said Pike. “It is the premium Thai beer and it doesn’t cost any more than the most exported Thai brands like Singha or Chang that are made with formaldehyde.”
Phuket is a Piper Premium Beverages bestseller and can be found locally in stores such as Lloyd’s Liquors and Park Plaza Liquor & Deli.
“We don’t add a product just to have an offering in a particular category. Our products have to meet our standards for quality and uniqueness,” said Pike. “We serve a small cadre of people who like different things. Most people are into California wines. We only sell French wines and you don’t find a lot of those.”
The most popular wine Piper Premium Beverages distributes is a French Purple Malbec. The company’s best-selling scotch, Deerstalker Highland Single Malt, is aged 10 years. Also from Scotland is Hutchison Spiced Ginger Wine, which is sold mostly to Asian restaurants.
Before becoming a fine beverages distributor, Pike had an executive search business. There was a lot of travel involved and the search business started slowing down with the economic downturn. What he has found with the premium beverage industry is, even in difficult economic times, people will allow themselves certain luxuries. In this case, fine spirits.
It is also a business that allows him to live in Prescott. Peryer lives in nearby Dewey-Humboldt. “The Prescott area is like Flagstaff without a bitter winter,” said Pike. “I’m not going to live anywhere else.”
“People start businesses in Prescott for a variety of reasons,” said Prescott Chamber of Commerce CEO Dave Maurer. “Some of the primary reasons include our central location in the state, the size of our metropolitan area, and the overall quality of life. Prescott is very much a small business community with a good variety of businesses. Gone are the days where you had to make a weekly trip to Phoenix to do your shopping. Most goods and services can be found here.”
Piper Premium Beverages contracts with six salespeople who cover various regional areas of Arizona. Also, the company is expanding its import business by adding distributors in California, Hawaii, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, Minnesota, South Dakota and Texas.
“Our aim is to cut through the overwhelming marketing that occurs with name brand products and simply be the best small, boutique-type distributor of the highest quality products available to the on-premise and off-premise trade,” said Pike. QCBN
By Bonnie Stevens
Quad Cities Business News