Why did you decide to start a mezcal brand?
I have been in the food and drinks industry for more than 25 years and am familiar with the trends and changes in this sector. A few years ago, when mezcal started becoming popular, I wanted to better understand this spirit and started to study the topic more deeply. I discovered the wonder of mezcal. This is a handmade product without any additives or chemicals as opposed to tequila, which unfortunately today is highly commercial and industrial. I tried a variety of mezcal to learn about the various flavors from the different types of agave. Tequila is made from a single plant, the blue agave, while for mezcal, there are more than 50 varieties of agaves that can be used. When you start to understand all these processes, the differences become obvious. Even with the same mezcal brand, the flavors of every batch are different, and I realized it was because during the handmade process, no one was taking care to standardize the steps, and as a result each batch was different from the other. Sometimes, even the agave used was from another region. Therefore, the taste would vary significantly.
Is there a way to standardize the product taste?
It is difficult because is a handmade process, though it is not impossible. We take care to ensure every step is controlled, starting from the raw material, using plants from the same region, similarly aged agaves, the same sugar percentages, and the same people involved in the centralized production. Today, there are important agave brands that work with eight or 10 different producers, so the drink does not taste the same across those brands. There is also no clear understanding from the market on how a good mezcal should taste. Because of all this confusion, I saw an opportunity. Applying my experience and knowledge from a consumer point of view, we started this project with a great group of friends who are renowned—artists, culinary experts, designers, sommeliers, entrepreneurs, and so on—to create Santo Gusano.
How long did the entire process take?
From the start to the release of the product, it took almost five years. First, we needed to learn the exact taste of mezcal. We conducted almost a thousand blind taste tests in Mexico and the US. The research took almost two years because we had to present many alternatives to our market to understand their favorite taste profile. This blind tastes helped us to identified which mezcal they liked the most and why. We then adapted our recipe to the taste that most consumers preferred. That process was long and expensive but accurate in the end. There are almost no failures when you do everything by the book. The same is true for the name and label design. We worked with design agencies from Mexico, Argentina, and the US to get the most liked image through market research.
Do you have international plans?
We started with the Mexican market, because it was important for us to first position ourselves as mezcal leaders in our country. It was fantastic when, only two months after release, we won an award for best mezcal of the year in Mexico. It was a sign that all the hard work we have done so far was paying off. Looking beyond, the entire business requires many steps, which can take a long time. All the procedures that have to be completed in a country like Mexico can take over a year. The next step is to export to the US at the end of 2021, and then the Spanish market as our landing in Europe, and after that the Asian market starting with China. We are living the rise of mezcal, and Santo Gusano is the mezcal of the moment.