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Del Maguey acquired by Pernod Ricard

The much anticipated news that Pernod Ricard had acquired a mezcal company finally hit, with perhaps the biggest surprise of all being who it acquired– Del Maguey. Pernod will take a majority stake in the US’ number one mezcal company. The exact terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to the press release and what we have heard from the company, the current management team and staff remain in place and all operations in Mexico remain intact as well.

Pernod is one of the top five spirit companies in the world, along with Diageo, Brown-Forman, Bacardi and Suntory. Given the moves by both Diageo and Bacardi in the mezcal world– Mezcal Union and Ilegal Mezcal respectively, it was rumored that Pernod was looking to pick up a brand for its portfolio.

Now what this means is the bigger question, especially on the heels of our recent piece on the mezcal conundrum. Obviously this is further validation that mezcal is not a trend beverage and large conglomerates are willing to put some money into the industry. This is good news if it means this kind of cash infusion goes into building better infrastructure, better pay for mezcaleros and their employees, and research into more sustainability projects. My glass is half full take.

But, I think this also points to the very gamed system in the international world of spirits and how given the layers required for export/import/distribution/sales staff, it is exceedingly difficult for small, craft brands (which is what the mezcal industry is) to compete. I fear the larger signal this deal sends is that in order for any mezcal brand to “make it” in the market, they have to be part of the larger spirit machine. The pressures that this could bring on production demands, drive for profits, etc could impact the industry negatively, turning it into just another alcohol to be sold, we mezcal obsessives greatest fear. My glass is half empty take.

As to the question of why, Ron Cooper, who is 74 this year, wants the company he built to be in the strongest position possible for the long haul, that the families and communities he has worked with for more than 20 years have long term security, and that product quality remains the focus. He says as much in an email sent this morning:

Dear Family,
Our team wishes to thank each and every one of you for helping us share and protect this ritual beverage for the last twenty-two years. And we look forward to continuing together, supporting this mission for many years to come.

I have received many inquiries and offers for investment into Del Maguey, but I have always said no thank you. We did not believe that anyone could ever completely understand, appreciate, or fully buy into our mission to preserve this culture, and to protect the ancient process of making Mezcal, and the indigenous artisan palenqueros that craft this elixir, or to embrace and appreciate their incredible liquid art …until now. Indeed, finally, after 22 years, we have found a true partner. A partner that understands exactly what Del Maguey is, a partner that wants Del Maguey to continue to be exactly who we have always been.

That partner is Pernod Ricard. After almost a year of getting to know one another, we have agreed to a partnership that will make Pernod Ricard a majority stakeholder in Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal. We will become part of the New Brand Ventures Division, a small group of entrepreneurial craft spirits companies.

It is important for each of you to know that the team at Del Maguey will remain intact. This includes all of our team in Mexico and the United States. And we will continue to operate Del Maguey as we always have. The liquid art of our palenqueros will not change. The only thing that changes is the increased opportunities for our families, and for our company.

I am personally pleased that we will continue to be the same. Perhaps most important to us, is that each of our palenqueros, each of the 12 families in 12 villages that work with us and that we support, some of whom have been with us from the beginning, none of whom have ever left us, will continue to be assured that they will be able to craft their liquid art in the exact same way that they have for generations. With the support of our new partners there is a sustainable future for their families and their communities.

We all want to acknowledge our friends at Sazerac for helping us to get to this point, by offering us the opportunity to be imported and distributed nationally, and we wish to thank them for several years of hard work helping us to build the Mezcal category. We continue to have great respect and admiration for the Sazerac family.

That said, we are honored to take our place as a key member of Pernod Ricard’s portfolio of premium spirits, and we are eager to work closely with them to continue Del Maguey’s incredible culture. We have seen firsthand their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility globally, and locally in Oaxaca, as they worked to increase the well-being of the community of Santa Ana del Rio and embraced and honored the local customs and traditions. We are confident that we are aligned, and that now, after 22 years, Del Maguey has found a likeminded partner committed to helping us to preserve this culture and ancient process, and support these amazing indigenous people, while helping us to continue to bring their liquid art to the world.

Stigibeu,
Ron Cooper

 

 

 

 

Not all “mezcal” is created equal(ly)

Sombra’s new palenque

Just when we start really digging into the different ways to unpack the new NOM-70,  Sombra Mezcal founder Richard Betts published this incredible piece. It’s a scoping piece of honesty and transparency from a mezcal brand. More than anything it’s incredibly refreshing – if we all could engage on this level all of the time the world would be a much better place. Read more

When political unrest and mezcal collide

This is not a post to try and explain the current upheaval in Oaxaca, or go into the long history (and more recent) of why the teacher’s are striking. It is a highly complex and sensitive issue with people losing their lives and livelihoods. This is merely to look at the situation through the mezcal lens, given the boom in Oaxaca and the increased awareness of the city, state and culture because of it. Read more

Oaxaca Day Trip: Etla Valley

This is a cross post from one of our frequent collaborators, Ferron Salniker. You can read her excellent blog Ferronlandia here. This piece was originally published on 4/3/16. You can read the original here.

IMG_0345The days of the week in Oaxaca are told by market days. Sunday is Tlacolula, Friday is Ocotlán, Thursday is Zaachila, and Wednesday is Etla. These are the days when there is tiangis, meaning people from the area come to surround the permanent market and sell anything from turkey eggs to cell phone cases. Usually you can find stuff to do afterwards in each town (artisans or murals to visit for instance). But usually there isn’t a textile mill turned arts center and a paper factory on top of the hill. Etla is 30 minutes from Oaxaca, and well worth the colectivo ride.
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Day Trip From Oaxaca City: Ocotlán

This is a cross post from one of our frequent collaborators, Ferron Salniker. You can read her excellent blog Ferronlandia here. This piece was originally published on 3/16/16. You can read the original here.

On Fridays it’s market day in Ocotlán de Morales, a town about 20 miles south of Oaxaca city. Like any market day in Oaxaca tarps web out from the permanent market covering a maze of stands selling fruits and vegetables, dried chiles and fish, kitchen tools, ceramics and woven bags, jeans and cheap plastic jewelry. It’s fun to weave your way through, but if you can only take so much overstimulation (like me) you will want some other things to do:
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On meeting David Suro

It seems hard to believe that our paths hadn’t crossed before but I finally had the opportunity to meet David Suro, he of Tequila Restaurant in Philadelphia, the Tequila Interchange Project (TIP) and Siembra Azul Tequila. For a good picture of the man and his passion for agave, be sure to checkout the great interview The Kitchen Sisters did with him a few years back.

Suro is in town doing a series of trainings and tastings for his Siembra Azul Tequila and Siembra Metl Mezcal. A special dinner at Oakland’s Calavera on Monday, a happy hour at Loló Tuesday, and a training and talk at ABV Wednesday. A whirlwind of activity for sure.

So what’s on Suro’s mind these days? Read more

Last call for t-shirts!

The first Mezcalistas t-shirts.

The first Mezcalistas t-shirts.

We are about to start work on our next t-shirt design so we’ve stopped making our first designs and only have a few shirts left in a few sizes. You can see them in our Etsy shop here. We really only have smalls and mediums left with one XL Prometido and one XL Quitapenas but if you’re worried about a specific size just contact us with this form and we’ll hold it for you if we still have it or respond asap if we don’t. Stay tuned for our new designs!

 

 

A little mezcal to get your day started right

Courtesy of the Internet Book Archive on Flickr. This excerpt and image come from América pintoresca; descripcion de viajes al nuevo continente por los mas modernos exploradores" (1884)

Courtesy of the Internet Book Archive on Flickr. This excerpt and image come from América pintoresca; descripcion de viajes al nuevo continente por los mas modernos exploradores” (1884)

Vasijas del cementerio de Nahualac (De fotografía) Pasamos la noche, que nos pareció interminable, debajo de una simple choza de esteras.Por la mañana, nos calentamos el estómago con un buen trago de mezcal, y volvimos á em-prender nuestra tarea. Los hallazgos fueron numerosos, pero todos parecidos, y los ídolos, loscarritos de niño, las urnas y los dioses Tlaloc se repitieron sin cesar. La estación de Nahualac ocupaba mucha más extensión que la de Tenenepanco, y nospareció además de fecha mucho más remota, porque no encontramos ni un solo fragmento deosamenta humana. También abundaba más la imagen de Tlaloc, habiendo encontrado algunascompletas, agitando con la mano derecha una serpiente, atributo que simbolizaba el relámpago,el rayo y la tempestad. Recogimos en Nahualac cerca de ochocientas piezas de todas formas, y provistos de tanrico botín, nos despedimos de la montaña.

The images from this book are spectacular and are a testament to Flickr and the Internet Archive. It’s well worth a few minutes of your time this Friday even if you have to substitute coffee for un buen trago de mezcal.

Vaso de mezcal

Just a little reminder of how things used to work courtesy of a display at San Francisco’s Mexican Museum.

From the Mexican Museum.

From the Mexican Museum.

From the Mexican Museum.

From the Mexican Museum.

A meeting of minds

The bar at Casa Mezcal, the Los Amantes project in Manhattan.

The bar at Casa Mezcal, the Los Amantes project in Manhattan.

It’s already been more than a month which tells you that I’ve been busy. But on a balmy evening in June we finally had the meeting of mezcal blogger minds. Yes, the Mezcal PhD sat down with Mezcalistas for a few glasses of mezcal at New York’s Casa Mezcal and resolved to solve the problems of the universe. Along the way they found much common ground, met their bar mates, and forged a lasting bond.

First we need to back up a bit and set the scene. I’d never been to Casa Mezcal before but did a double take upon entering because the decoration is a dark mirror of Oaxaca’s Los Amantes tasting room. A few seconds later I remembered that Casa Mezcal is run by the folks behind Los Amantes and the shock unraveled into homage because, as the photo above amply illustrates, the bar comes with a stuffed turkey and massive glass bottles almost perfectly channeling the original Oaxaca location.

John McEvoy is the blogger know as Mezcal PhD. As I mentioned we’ve corresponded via email, Susan and him even spoke by phone, but he and I had never really connected. A fortuitous trip to New York in June gave me just the opening I was looking for so we met up on the Lower East Side and really hit it off. He brought a copy of his, then, brand new book, Holy Soke! It’s Mezcal! so that I could finally see what he’d been slaving over for months. We chatted about the book and sundry other subjects, exchanged tasting notes, and shared a few glasses.

As we ordered I was struck by the similarity in the mezcal list. Just a few years ago there was quite a difference between what you could find in California and New York. Today it’s virtually the same list. It seems like brands are quickly finding their way across the continent. And by across I literally mean side to side because unfortunately I haven’t been able to visit most of the mid-section of the continent for a few years.

As with most mezcal fueled conversations our partners at the bar joined in and we had the pleasure of meeting Aditit Malhotra who runs Tache Chocolate around the corner. She rushed out to her shop to bring us some samples of her tequila inflected chocolates and introduced us to her friend who is appearing in a new reality cooking show. It’s moments like this that tempt one to conjour a higher power aka mezcal world phenomenon. Could it be people who like mezcal are inherently more interesting? Perhaps there’s a smaller group of them so that the sampling bias is more intense? Perhaps something else.

Whatever the case we sampled tequila chocolate while talking reality cooking. During stray moments of silence I jumped into John’s book and came up with a variety of questions. I finally finished it last month and just need to write up my thoughts so stay tuned. While sitting at the bar conversation strayed from mezcal to the quirks of the publishing world which may just be the definition of quirk. But that’s another topic for another blog. Back to the mezcal.

As I mentioned above we couldn’t really find any mezcals that aren’t already available in California so the novelty index was pretty low.  That’s not to say that quality suffered, we tasted Los Amantes’ flagship espadin, the Leyendas line, and a few other things to compare tasting notes and remind ourselves of certain idiosyncratic elements of each bottling. One of the fun things about these sorts of tastings is that no matter how distinct the personal taste, everyone can acknowledge what everyone else is tasting. You say dusty, I say, yup, I taste that as well. Whether I or you like that is a completely different question. At least we agree that it exists.

John and I talked about our mutual interests (mezcal, fly fishing, food) and really dug into the book and world of mezcal. He has some fascinating data in the appendices for COMERCAM’s selective reporting on volume of export per brand  which gives you a sense for just how small most of the industry really is. Suffice to say that we’ll definitely be organizing future meetings of this sort.

The only good news about waiting so long to write this post is that John will be in town for our Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle extravaganza on September 14th. We’ll put him on stage to chat about his interests and make sure that he circulates so watch out for a professorial presence. That will be him. In the interim definitely order a copy of his book so that you can be well informed about the mezcal universe.