Top Shelf appoints Trent Fraser to drive international expansion

Top Shelf International has appointed the former president of LVMH’s Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila to drive its plans to create a $100million annual agave spirits business in Australia.

Trent Fraser has been given a remit to lead the company’s Australian Agave Project and lead international expansion.

The company has registered the trademark Ozcala and is preparing to release Australia’s first large-scale tequila brand. It has planted 120,000 agave plants on a 400ha former sugar cane property just outside Airlie Beach in north Queensland, with plans to have one million in the ground over the next four years. A $25million distillery, production facility and visitor centre (concept drawing below) are also in the works. 

Fraser has more than two decades of experience in wine and spirits, including the last 13 years in New York with Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the world’s largest luxury goods company.

Originally from Adelaide, Fraser spent nearly a decade with Penfolds and Treasury Wine Estates in Australia. In 2008 he took up a position in New York with Moët Hennessy within its luxury spirits portfolio, where he spent nine years as Vice President for Champagne producer Dom Perignon.  

Staying within the Moët Hennessy wine and spirits family, Trent was then appointed to build and launch a new international tequila brand, Volcan De Mi Tierra.

Fraser built Volcan from the ground up over a six-year period, guiding the strategy, branding, route-to-market and overall sales and marketing initiatives, as well as taking a hands-on approach to the establishment of the farming, harvesting and distillation side of the business.

TSI CEO Drew Fairchild said: “Trent’s track record of success at LVMH speaks for itself. He is the perfect person to guide and shape the development of our Australian agave opportunity.

“We could not have found a more well-credentialled, internationally-recognised Australian in the spirits world to help TSI realise its ambition to become Australia’s first globally relevant multi-branded spirits company.

“We’re thrilled he shares our vision and passion to create not only Australia’s first agave spirit of global relevance, but also to help guide our spirits portfolio’s entry into markets around the world.”

Fraser added: “In 2015 I was honoured to be tasked to go and build a tequila brand for the esteemed LVMH luxury group. This was an absolute dream fulfilled as I was able to ignite this entrepreneurial fire within me and in a category I’m so passionate about.”

“For several years I lived between Guadalajara and New York building a distillery and brand from scratch. The project completely consumes you and immediately you need to become a jack of all trades learning on the fly about areas you never even dreamt of.

“From drilling for water to IP and contractual law to working with numerous customs and cultures, we constructed a go-getting, experienced team and built a humble but strong distillery that made a fantastic spirit.

“The branding and bottle design won numerous awards and we launched into market in 2017 with many accolades and medals in top wines and spirits shows. Today I’m proud to leave behind a legacy of one of the most respected tequila brands in the world.

“I’m a very proud Aussie and the opportunity to return home to lead something so ground breaking is undeniably the main driving motivation, as is the rule-breaking, hungry and pioneering attitude of the TSI team. I’m honoured to be part of this amazing team and company.

“Before accepting this role and major life change I obviously needed to test and trial if this concept could work. The team sent to me some of its early experimental liquid and I was immediately impressed.

“A stunning agave liquid profile that has been carefully nurtured to flourish outside of its native Mexico will be the next chapter in agave’s future.

“I’ve never been more fired up in my life to apply my agave and international spirits knowledge and learnings to create the best Australian Agave to inspire and share with the world.”

Fraser will commence with Top Shelf in September. He departed his role with LVMH in June to head home to Australia. He is currently living in Portugal with his wife where he is working through the challenges of returning to Australia given the current restrictions due to COVID-19.

Top Shelf said that regardless of the outcome, he will work remotely until such time as he is able to return to Australia.

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