I told you guys in my last article (The story of Sauza and Fortaleza) that I really wanted to spotlight the families that have contributed so much to the history of tequila far before tequila really boomed. I don’t feel like I can share those histories without talking about Don Julio and the Gonzalez family.
I’ve mentioned before that a lot of the names that are important to the history of tequila are still making tequila today, just under different names. That can make things confusing for those who are just starting to get into the history of various brands, so I want to make sure I get this right for you guys.
Before we get started, I have to throw out that I am not sure why Alfonso Cuarón hasn’t made a movie about Don Julio’s story yet. Yes, it’s that cool.
Alright. Let’s get started.
Don Julio was born in 1925 in the Atotonilco El Alto in Los Altos de Jalisco, also known as the Highlands. He started working at his uncles’ distillery at just 7 years old and got to be part of every step of the process. Before he was even a teenager, he learned from Jimadores how to cook ferment, and distill agave.
Soon after, his dad passed away when he was just 15. Since he was the oldest son, the passing of his father meant that he would be the one left in charge of his family. He worked at different farms to make ends meet, but he realized that his true gift was making tequila. Two years later, Don Julio turned 17, which marked the age that he went to a wealthy man in town and asked for a loan to open his very own distillery.
The story goes that he went to ask while he was wearing huaraches, or sandals, but he told the man that he would pay him back for the loan by wearing boots. And so that is exactly what he did.
Don Julio would end up traveling up and down the region on horseback selling tequila. He worked on that for 40 years with his brand called 3 Magueys all while supporting a family of nine children.
In 1987, the Gonzalez family was celebrating Don Julio’s 45th anniversary as a tequilero, and his son, Eduardo ‘Lalo’ Gonzalez, created a special edition tequila for the party to honor his father. Of course, everyone fell in love with this Tequila and that became the brand we all know as Don Julio today. Don Julio Tequila was officially launched in 1989.
At first, Don Julio was apprehensive about it, but then he started to test it out himself. Eventually, he went to restaurants and bars in the United States to personally sell his tequila.
Obviously, we know that this ended up creating one of the most iconic brands in the industry today. In fact, it is one of the most sold tequilas in history! (Buy Don Julio on Sip Tequila here)
Today, the mega spirits conglomerate Diageo owns Don Julio and it is not made the same way as before as they moved into a quantity over quality mindset. It’s been said that when they sold the brand, part of the deal was that Don Julio and his son could not create another competing brand. Don Julio’s grandson, Lalo, was a teenager and was also in that meeting… Nothing was said about him.
You may know where this is going…
Years after the sale, Lalo caught up with a childhood friend David R Carballido at a wedding in Guadalajara. They shared a love for tequila, especially blancos. Long story short they started to make Tequila and only sell it to friends and family. It wasn’t until Lalo met Jim, now David’s husband and CEO of LALO, while serving LALO at another wedding that they decided to bring Lalo to the US. For me, it’s a great versatile expression of tequila, and it gets bonus points since it comes from one of the most important families in the industry.
As always, Salucita!