If you sell “Oaxaca in a Bottle”, what happens to Oaxaca?

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“I didn’t expect this kind of crusade from Columbus,” said Bricia Lopez, a native of Oaxaca whose Los Angeles restaurant Guelaguetza offers more than 100 mezcals.

Ms. Lopez pokes fun at hobbyists or investors who talk about “discovering” the spirit. She said she liked the way El Silencio, owned by two Mexican citizens, was developing: sustainably and in a way that aimed to create wealth for the region.

“You can’t buy the tradition, and that’s what people who are going into the mezcal business today are trying to do,” she said. “They try to position themselves next to someone who looks like an Aboriginal person, take a picture and say to themselves, ‘I too am genuine. “”

Ms Lopez added, “They’re launching these brands, and they think they’re coming up with a story of their own, but it’s the same creepy story: ‘I’m a white man who went to Oaxaca and, like, i fell in love with people.

You can see why they would try, given Mr. Clooney’s case. In 2017, Casamigos, the tequila brand he co-founded, was acquired by beverage company Diageo for an estimated $ 1 billion. This sale “got this whole rush of people going into the industry,” said Susan Cross, co-founder of the Mezcalistas website. “Like, ‘Look, there’s so much money to be made.’ But it is difficult to create a brand of mezcal.

The most common species of agave takes seven years to mature. Mezcal is traditionally produced in small quantities, smoked agave mashed by a donkey and distilled in copper stills. According to a report, tequila generated global revenues of $ 9.4 billion in 2020. Mezcal revenues: about 4% of that figure. While tequila is technically a type of mezcal, Jalisco, the state that produces the majority of tequila in the world, has an infrastructure that Oaxaca cannot yet match.

“The biggest mezcal brand isn’t even 100,000 cases,” said Harry Kohlmann, managing director of Park Street Companies, which helps nascent spirits brands grow. “But you have to think 10 years from now,” he said. “There are going to be several brands that sell more than 100,000 cases. One will be over a million cases.


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