The Don Julio Tequila Brand
Today we’ll talk about the brand of tequila called Don Julio. First off, let’s talk about the founder, Don Julio Gonzalez.
Who is Don Julio Gonzalez?
Don Julio Gonzalez was a master distiller and an unforgettable pioneer for the tequila industry. He established the tequila standard for many decades and revolutionized production. His story was remarkable and remains well-known throughout the industry. To this day, the premier luxury tequila across the globe is Don Julio. He believed quality was always more important than quality and only selected the best. Each agave was carefully planted farther apart to allow room for growth.
Prior to harvesting, he made certain every agave was mature. He only used the most succulent areas of the pina, then steamed them for cycles of 72 hours. He turned his back on the tradition of bottling tequila in tall bottles usually hidden under tables. Don Julio did not believe his tequila should be hidden. Instead, he created a shorter bottle. His guests would then pass the bottle to everyone seated at the table and be able to see one another.
The History of Don Julio Tequila
Don Julio tequila was named for its founding father. He was born in Jalisco, Mexico in the remote highlands in 1925 as Don Julio Gonzalez-Frausto Estrada. His father passed away in 1940 when he was only 15 years old and left behind seven children and a wife. He was responsible for earning enough money to support his family. His first job was as a farmhand, but he quickly learned he would be unable to support his family earning only nine pesos each week.
This was when Don Julio began his first venture in the world of tequila. He was an entrepreneur from the beginning and rode a horse across Jalisco. He used small wooden barrels to sell tequila. Soon, he was earning nine pesos every day as opposed to weekly. The only thing he had left by 1942 was passion. He spoke to the richest merchant in Atotonilco, Mexico to ask for a loan. His dream was opening a distillery of his own.
The merchant decided Don Julio had the confidence and drive necessary to succeed. He then loaned him 20,000 pesos so he could begin. He was only 17 years old when he bought his first distillery. He called it La Primavera. This was his first step on the path to creating the famous Don Julio brand which was the finest premium luxury tequila. He initially began working when he was 10, long before he spoke with the wealthy merchant.
Don Julio worked for his uncle in Jalisco in his tequila distillery. This was where he learned how to produce tequila. He was dedicated and learned everything he could about tequila. His perseverance and hard work eventually paid off. What many people do not realize is he believed boldness led to fortune. This was the reason he received a loan from the merchant.
When he first approached Don Julio, the merchant told him he was only a young man and asked how he would be able to pay him back. Despite the peasant sandals worn by Don Julio, he raised his chin and stated the money would be returned when he was wearing boots. He was born with the natural self-confidence taught by books and entrepreneurs today.
The History of Don Julio Tequila During the Next 40 Years
During the course of the following 40 years, the tequila industry was revolutionized by Don Julio Gonzalez. His choice of quality over quantity became a standard of the industry. The result was the first real luxury tequila. What he produced was smoother and richer than any tequila anyone else has ever produced in the past. Soon, he became extremely successful and his tequila was discussed far and wide. Despite this, his loyalty remained with his community.
His love of tequila and high standards transformed Don Julio into a phenomenon. He remained in Jalisco since this is where he was born. The distillery he established led generations to follow his extraordinary example of both craftsmanship and passion. The result was a revolutionization of the tequila industry still alive today. The agricultural techniques he developed set his brand apart from all of the others. He used Los Altos soil from the highlands of Jalisco.
This red clay soil was rich in minerals and perfect for growing healthy and vibrant agave plants. The area Don Jose chose to grow his plants was a microclimate. During the evening, the temperatures dropped. This slowed down the process of maturation. He studied all of the ancient methods he could find for the region. He became extremely knowledgeable regarding the condition of the area and the effect it would have on his agave.
Don Jose figured out if he placed his agave plants farther apart, they would grow sweeter and bigger because more nutrients could be absorbed. He also realized under these conditions the plants would require more time to reach full maturity. He allowed his plants to age for seven to 10 years. This was much longer than what was considered normal for the tequila industry at this time. His motives had nothing to do with profit.
Don Jose knew if he spaced his plants farther apart, there would be fewer. He also realized his tequila production would be slower due to the additional time necessary for growth. This is the reason so many professors teaching business classes shook their heads in disapproval. Eventually, he proved all of them were wrong. He began using quotes on a regular basis and essentially became a quote machine. He said if life was lived with excess arrogance or pride, problems would become unrecognizable.
Another famous quote stated honesty and hard work are necessary and nobody should be judged. He believed this was the only way trust could be established. Each quote was a direct representation of a different period of his life.
Celebrating Don Julio
The name of Don Julio transformed the tequila industry. In celebration of 45 years as a tequilero, a special party was thrown by his family in honor of his accomplishments. During this legendary party, guests were offered tequila he had left in his office to age. Don Julio knew it was the best tequila in his possession and wanted it shared with the people he loved. Once the affair was over, he began receiving phone calls from people attending the party wanting to purchase the tequila they were served.
He told all of them this tequila was not for sale. Eventually, he changed his mind and began to sell his tequila. This was how the first true luxury tequila came to be introduced. The industry was transformed and a completely new tequila category was established. Don Jose was also responsible for revolutionizing the tequila bottle as well. Until Don Julio tequila became available on the market, the bottles for traditional tequila were all tall and thin.
When this type of bottle was placed at the table between the members of the family, all social interaction was interrupted. This is because it was impossible to see the person sitting on the other side of the table. The solution was the short round bottle created by Don Julio. During his lifetime, he was responsible for the cultivation of more than three million agave plants. His wife Dorthea often said she had nine kids with a few thousand extras. She was referring to the agave plants receiving her husband’s devotion for more than 60 years.
The Legacy of Don Julio
The legacy of Don Julio is alive and well in Enrique De Costa. This tequila evangelist is currently serving La Primavera as the Master Distiller. He trained with Don Julio for five years before receiving this position in 2004. In 2012, the 70th anniversary of the Don Julio brand was marked. Enrique De Costa was thinking along similar lines of the founder when he created the first clear anejo the world had ever seen with Don Julio 70.
Enrique De Costa is following the path of his mentor and still sets the tequila standard for the industry. This is accomplished with both respect and reverence for the methods used by Don Julio when producing his first tequila more than 80 years ago. The tequila distillery established by a young Don Julio is still operational today. La Primavera was created in Atotoniclo shortly after the merchant agreed to give Don Julio a loan.
Shortly afterward, Tres Magueyes became available as the first brand. Within the next 10 years, Don Julio was established as a successful tequila producer with the Don Julio collection including Reposado, Blanco, 70, Anejo, ultra-premium Real and 1942. La Primavera still proudly produces all six of these tequilas today.
List of Tequila’s Don Julio Makes
By 1951, Don Julio started producing Tres Mageyes, later produced in several different variants in addition to Don Julio Real. The List of tequila’s Don Julio makes currently includes:
- Don Julio Anejo
- Don Julio Reposado tequila
- Don Julio Real Tequila
- Reposado Private Cask tequila
- Blanco tequila
- Reposado Double Cask tequila
- 1942 tequila
- Don Julio 70 tequila (Anejo Claro)
- Reposado Double Cask Tequila Lagavulin Aged Edition