09 Apr The Evolution of Vida — Part 1
We at Del Maguey are deeply honored and humbled by the overwhelming acceptance and appreciation of Mezcal VIDA by the trade since we first brought this liquid art to the world in 2010.
Ron Cooper founded Del Maguey in 1995, at least a decade before the beginning of the Mezcal Renaissance we are living in now. Since the beginning we have been dedicated to preserving the ancient culture of Mezcal by protecting the traditional methods of production that have been passed down generationally for centuries. We remain committed to making each Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal by hand in the traditional way.
In 2006, Paciano Cruz Nolasco took a trip to Chicago with Ron and while there, they visited Paciano’s son, Marcos, who was working in Indiana. Although Del Maguey had been around for over ten years, at that time only a few discerning members of the trade had come to appreciate the craft of the Del Maguey producers. While traveling, Paciano astutely recognized that the 45+ ABV was still too strong for much of the U.S. palate and suggested the development of a lower proof traditional Mezcal to introduce the beauty of the category to a wider American market. Our mission was to produce a handcrafted Mezcal using artisanal production methods that bartenders could sip, savor and enjoy in a copita, but could also be used in cocktails. What we didn’t know was that the success of this Mezcal mission would also result in economic influx and employment in San Luis del Rio that would diminish the need for community members to cross the border in search of economic opportunities as Marcos had done.
This user-friendly Mezcal we were seeking had to be true Mezcal, made traditionally, and had to represent the core values of Del Maguey. Paciano spent the next few years developing what would become Vida, a Single Village Mezcal full of flavor and acidity that is distilled to lower proof without compromising his art or traditional practices.
When Vida was launched in 2010, there were only a few of us out there trying to get people to embrace handcrafted Mezcal. Today Mezcal is reaching an ever-growing group of consumers beyond the bartenders, chefs and sommeliers who embraced this spirit years ago. If you trace the history of the growth of Mezcal globally, all roads take you to Paciano, the village of San Luis Del Río, and ultimately the launch of VIDA. It was VIDA that made Mezcal accessible, gave bartenders their chance to feature Mezcal in affordable cocktails, and led to Mezcal becoming popular enough to be acknowledged by the trade as its own category.
As the interest in Vida spread, we knew that changes would have to be made in order to scale up the production to meet its growing popularity. At the same time we remained deeply committed to maintaining quality, embracing the inherent flavors of Single Village artisanal Mezcal, and honoring the traditional methods of production and the hand of the maker, Paciano. Even as we fostered organic and sustainable growth, this growth created new challenges and dynamics to scale responsibly with conscious environmental stewardship.
Over the next several blog posts we will be sharing our journey with you. There have been challenges and frustrations and ever-expanding timelines along the way, but through our work with Paciano, Marcos and their family as well as talented scientists, academics, and engineers we have built a Palenque that is respectful of the tradition, heritage and culture of Mezcal production while addressing the sustainability issues being faced in the growing category of Mezcal. We are excited to share with you the results of our nine-year trek.