When you sell your company for $1 billion, it can be easy to lose your hunger for business. But apparently George Clooney and Rande Gerber still have a thirst for more. The longtime friends, who sold their five-year-old tequila company, Casamigos, to Diageo last year for $700 million (with the potential for another $300 million based on sales performance over the next decade) are expanding the Casamigos portfolio with their first mezcal—which will be available on April 1, across the United States, Australia, the U.K., and Canada at $60 for 750ml.
“We were given mezcals to try a few years ago and there was one we really loved,” Gerber says. “At the time, all of our attention was focused on sharing Casamigos tequila with the world but we stayed in touch with the family that created that mezcal and knew one day it would become part of our Casamigos family.”
And what a mezcal it is.
The mezcal, which is a joven (meaning it’s young), is uncannily smooth for an unaged spirit. The first thing one notices is the lack of burn and overpowering bitter or smoky notes—both in the nose and on the palate. Instead, you get fragrant herbal (mint, oregano, and thyme) and fruit (tamarind and mango) notes: a fine mix of layered flavors and aromas, if you will. Next, you’ll notice how subtle it is at first sip—especially for a mezcal, which in my experience can be a little more “abrasive.” It is definitely a mezcal you sip for pleasure because of its unusually long finish, preferably using a traditional clay copita—the way God intended.
Much like its tequila cousin, mezcal is typically twice distilled. So why exactly does the 80-proof Casamigos mezcal, with its smoothness, stand out?
Perhaps because it’s been made with 100 percent Espadin agave from Santiago Matatlán in Oaxaca, Mexico—the traditional way with no shortcuts. “While initially tasting different tequilas and mezcals, we were given many samples to try,” Gerber explains. “When we found our mezcal of choice, we worked closely with [the family] to perfect it.”
The maguey piñas are taken to palenques where the artisanal process begins: Six-ton earthen pits are built then lined with volcanic rocks, which are then heated by an oak wood fire. It is there that the split piñas are laid to “cook” for four to six days before being cooled for a minimum of 24 hours. Then the agave is crushed, ton by ton, via a horse–pulled tahona (volcanic stone) wheel. And take note: not every tequila or mezcal is crushed using this method. A tahona wheel, of course. Horse pulled, not so much. Once the crushing process is over and all the sugars are drawn out, the mezcal ferments between two to eight days before distillation. Post distillation, it takes 30 days for the mezcal to stabilize and for the Casamigos team to add mountain spring water. Then it’s good to go—but not without Clooney and Gerber tasting each and every single batch themselves: “Our involvement remains the same,” Gerber says of the Diageo deal. “Nothing has changed. We love what we do and it’s all we drink. It’s business as usual.”
Beyond that, Casamigos leaves no detail unexplored. Gerber took it upon himself to oversee the design of the matte–black bottles, which are also made the old-school way—each of them handcrafted before going into a 190-degree oven, so no two will ever be the same.
As for other mezcals, the Casamigos team confirm that we can definitely expect more. “We are starting with the one,” Gerber says. “But there are others in the works which won’t be released until they are as perfect as our joven.”
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