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Worthington entrepreneur to visit for sampling of new spirit

Micah McFarlane will be in town Saturday to promote his agave beverage, Revel Avila, at a tasting.

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Worthington native Micah McFarlane is coming to Worthington Saturday for a tasting of his product, Revel Avila distilled agave. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — After making the transition from the music industry to the business world, a Los Angeles entrepreneur who hails from Worthington is returning Memorial Day weekend to show his hometown what he's been working on.

Micah McFarlane first made it big as part of Ipso Facto, a reggae band he formed with his brothers, after which he continued a prolific career in music by working as a tour manager for various acts. This job took him all over the world and introduced him to a wide range of personalities and cultures.

About 10 years ago, McFarlane fell into a new line of work: agave spirits.

During a 2011 visit to Minneapolis, he planned to meet up with his Worthington grade school friend Blas Gonzalez, then living in Hutchinson. While there, a friend of a friend showed McFarlane a unique alcoholic spirit made from agave, and asked if he'd like to meet its creator. McFarlane said he would, and arranged to bring Gonzalez with him to meet Minneapolis restaurant mogul Hector Ruiz.

They were at one of Ruiz's restaurants, with McFarlane sitting on the inside of the booth, Gonzalez on the outside and their contact with Ruiz across from them. When Ruiz came to the table, McFarlane recalled, he immediately looked at Gonzalez, the only Hispanic person at the table, and asked him in Spanish, "How do you know this guy?" Gonzalez responded back in Spanish that McFarlane was his friend from childhood. That's all it took for McFarlane to get Ruiz's "unspoken acceptance," he said.

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After trying the agave beverage, McFarlane loved it. He went to Mexico to meet Ruiz's family and others who produce it in the state of Morelos — in the south central part of the country — to get a better idea of its history and legacy.

"These farmers and distillers make a really, really good product," McFarlane said.

However, there wasn't a market yet for this new spirit.

Although similar in taste to tequila, the beverage legally cannot be classified as a tequila, McFarlane explained. The Tequila Regulatory Council has outlined two criteria that must be met for a distilled agave to count as tequila: first, it must be made exclusively from the Blue Weber variety of agave; and second, it must be made in a certain region that includes all of the state of Jalisco and parts of four other states: Nayarit, Michoacán, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas.

Ruiz's family's spirit meets the first criterion, but not the second. It would need its own category of agave spirits.

After throwing around a few possible names for this new class of liquor, McFarlane finally decided to name it after the master distiller, Noe Avila. McFarlane's company, Revel Spirits, is the flagship brand of Avila, and other varieties are in the works.

"It's become a mission to build this," he said. "We created a market that wasn't there before. We can help the supply chain."

Part of McFarlane's goal is to bring global attention to the state of Morelos and the families there who produce Revel Avila.

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"We can't tell the story of Revel and Avila without telling the story of Morelos," he said.

Part of the reason Avila is so unique, he explained, is that the blue agave from which it's distilled grows at the base of an active volcano, Popocatépetl, creating rich soil. Agaveros, or agave farmers, have been cultivating the plant in Morelos for hundreds of years.

As Revel expands to more and more U.S. states, McFarlane said the company is launching in Mexico this summer "to bring Avila back to the people."

His entrepreneurial spirit has always been evident, the Revel CEO said. As a child growing up in Worthington, McFarlane always had several hustles at a time between mowing lawns, shoveling snow, farm work and odd jobs.

"Micah has this dynamic personality that draws people to him," said classmate Steve Robinson, Worthington's city administrator.

When McFarlane made it big, those who knew him were not surprised.

"We're proud of the success that he's had," Robinson said.

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Recently, Robison reached out to McFarlane and invited him to hold a tasting of Revel Avila in his hometown. McFarlane agreed.

The tasting is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Worthington Liquor Store. Special pricing on Revel Avila will be offered during the event.

Liquor store general manager Dan Wycoff said he's expecting plenty of folks to attend the tasting just to see McFarlane, but others will likely come specifically to buy Revel Avila.

"I'm very excited about the sampling," he said.

Related Topics: RESTAURANTS AND BARS
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