Like many other epic success stories, the humble alcohol and spirits business has a got a few of its own. For this week's edition of #TequilaTuesdays, we'll take a look at an example of which, that being the creation of tequila marque Don Julio.
After all, one way for anyone to drink better is to get to know what you're drinking intimately. Here's what you ought to know about the planet's arguably most finest purveyor of tequila.
As you could probably guess, the brand was named after its founder Don Julio Gonzalez-Frausto Estrada. Born on January 7, 1925 in Atotonilco, Jalisco, Don Julio's journey into tequila making came out of the necessity to survive.
At just 15 years old, Don Julio actually learnt about responsibility when he became his family's sole breadwinner following his father's death. This prompted him to take on a job as a farmhand, earning a meager weekly wage of just 9 Pesos.
It wasn't until Don Julio turned 17 that he began working in his Uncle José’s tequila distillery. This proved vital as Don Julio used this opportunity to learn about the whole process of producing tequila intimately.
After acknowledging that his wages simply wasn't enough to support his family, Don Julio persisted and began selling tequila in small wooden barrels throughout Ocotlán, Jalisco. This allowed him to earn the same 9 Pesos, only this time it was a daily wage instead of weekly.
This strong persistence allowed Don Julio and his family to survive through the hardship before Don Julio himself got married with his wife Dorothea Garcia at age 23 and had nine children together.
Having immersed himself in the tequila business from an early age, Don Julio's passion towards creating and refining the prized Mexican liquor from the ground up drove him further. This was enough for Don Julio to convince a wealthy businessman into granting him a substantial loan, allowing him to pursue this vision.
With said loan, Don Julio established his first tequila distillery in 1942 that he named 'La Primavera' and later created his first tequila brand called 'Tres Magueyes'. Having grasped the concept of vertical integration from here on, Don Julio made it a his life mission to improve the tequila making craft further, and he would spend nearly four decades doing so.
Attention to detail
In his quest towards creating the fine tequila, Don Julio's process began by painstakingly plant each agave plant further apart in his leased land located in the highlands of Atotonilco. This gave the agave more room to grow and properly mature.
Once they are fully matured after seven years, Don Julio would hand-select and evenly hand-cut only the most succulent portions of the agave’s piña. These are then slowly steam-cooked or 'slow-roasted' traditionally over a 72-hour period before being crushed and doused with water to release the sweet agave syrup.
Yeast is then added to ferment the agave water, creating a sweet, slight alcoholic agave beer that's distilled into tequila. Lastly, the distilled liquid is aged in ex-bourbon casks or stainless steel tanks. In all, it takes about 8 lbs (approx. 3.63 kg) of blue agave to produce just one bottle.
The result of these meticulous processes devised by Don Julio was smoother and richer tequila with an uncompromised quality. When it came to bottling his handmade creation, Don Julio chose to break tradition by using a shorter bottle design instead of a tall one.
The reason to this was so that his guests could still see one another when the bottle is proudly placed on the table instead of being tucked underneath as how regular tall bottles were.
Setting new standards and heights for tequila
Initially, Don Julio only shared his handmade tequila privately amongst friends and family. However, it did not take long before word of his refined, smooth brew got out, followed by requests from people who wished to buy his tequila.
Don Julio's handcrafted premium tequilas launched itself in 1987 as Tequila Don Julio, and it came at the best of times. Its arrival coincided with tequila's popularity boom throughout Mexico at the time, especially in Guadalajara and neighbouring cities.
Unlike regular tequilas, Don Julio's offering held the edge as a premium handcrafted offering, with many considering it as tequila's first 'luxury' offering. Critically, Don Julio played a key role towards altering the perception of tequila, helping it shed from its past image as a "farmer's drink".
Prior to its arrival, consumers weren't ready to pay more than US$30 for a bottle of well-made tequila. Don Julio was amongst the first to break this stereotype, thus helping tequila soar in terms of style and class.
Don Julio died of natural causes in 2012 at the age of 87. Prior to his death, Don Julio had spent a great deal of time overseeing all the processes in making his tequila. Much of the original processes he devised are still practiced by the brand's jimadors and distillers today.
Since 2014, the Tequila Don Julio brand has been inducted into the massive UK distilling conglomerate Diageo Plc. Given recent reports of the firm's expansion in Mexico, Tequila Don Julio is expected to grow even further in the coming years.
Today, Tequila Don Julio produces no less than six variations - including limited run specials - of its tequila, all of which being 100% Agave types - not mixtos. All of which are renowned for both their smoothness and distinct tastes.
If you wished to sample Don Julio's vision of perfection, then you'd best be sipping Don Julio Reposado. This 100% Agave offering is best served neat, but there's no harm in using this smooth and elegant tequila as a cocktail base too. However, if you're looking to mix, you'd best go for the Don Julio Anejo. Its still smooth and elegant as its Reposado sibling, but we reckon its lightly spiced finish with the essence of wild honey makes it a better cocktail base.