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Tequila familia: Don Julio’s life and legacy

Ever wonder the story behind Don Julio tequila? Wonder no more - we've got the deets.

Ever wonder the story behind Don Julio tequila? Wonder no more - we've got the deets.

There is no question that the national liquor of Mexico is tequila. The native blue agave plants growing in the region have contributed to the local distillation culture since at least the 16th century, originally conceived by Spanish missionaries who had run out of the brandy they had brought with them. Picking up in popularity over the centuries, the product was eventually exported to the United States by the 19th century, taking over the west coast. By the 20th century, distillers were making tequila to enjoy the whole world over. But in 1942, one young man began to take an interest in his own approach to the venerated hooch: Don Julio Gonzales.

You may have seen the “Don Julio” stamp on many a coveted bottle of tequila. His name has come to be synonymous with excellence and taste. Many think he's a legend, but Don Julio was actually very real and his love affair with his country’s national drink is one that spans decades. Why are Don Julio tequilas so popular? What sets them apart from the other brands on the market? Just what is all the fuss about? Here’s the whole story behind the man and his exquisite elixirs.

From pulque to powerhouse

Before missionaries figured out tequila, they were already aware of the pre-Columbian aboriginal people’s love for a fermented blue agave drink known as pulque. The way grapes are fermented for wine and distilled for cognac, agave is fermented for pulque and distilled for tequila. In 1942, a 17-year-old young man got very interested in the distillation process and began experimenting with his own creations. At first, Don Julio only made small batches for friends and family to enjoy. Soon, word of his concoctions got out and demand compelled him to dedicate the next 40 years of his life to refining his process and diversifying his offerings. The result: a new name in tequila was about to become a global legend.

Breakout brand

Don Julio originally named his tequilas after the plants whose sap he used to make the good stuff — Magueyes. Passing his passion along to his sons, establishing a distilling dynasty in Mexico, they made their dad a very special tequila for his 60th birthday in 1985. For them, this superior product dedicated to their dear dad could have only one name: Don Julio, honoring the man himself. Naturally leading to a rebranding, the whole line celebrated success after success until large international alcohol companies invested in the brand, leading to its worldwide reputation as a premium tequila. By the time of Don Julio’s passing in 2012, he had long realized his amazing achievement leaving a new generation to carry on the tasty traditions he began.

Don Julio varieties

Over the years, Don Julio and those who followed in his footsteps working with the brand have created a lot of different tequila products. Some of the more well-known include their signature product, Don Julio Blanco. Derived from unaged agave, this is the go-to for easy drinking and mixing with your favorite beverages, clear with hints of citrus. The famous Don Julio Reposado is golden in color, the product of eight months of aging in American white-oak barrels, yielding a spicier flavor signature perfect for cocktails or on the rocks. Don Julio Añejo is aged in those same barrels, but for 18 months, resulting in a darker product with a stronger nose — best sipped slowly from a snifter. And then there is the venerated Don Julio 1942. This is small-batch stuff, aged at least two and a half years. Found on the top shelf of bars, it’s cream of the crop and best enjoyed neat.

How to use Don Julio

For each variety of Don Julio tequila, there is the perfect recipe. Pairing the right kind of Don Julio with the right type of mixers can greatly alter the outcome of your drinking experience. This is true whether considering a cocktail or even when enjoying neat. Don Julio Blanco, for example, is the perfect base for your next Mojito. If you want to shoot for a premium “Cadillac Margarita,” then choose the 1800 label with its silver touch. Feel like livening up your hot chocolate? Adding Don Julio Reposado will perfectly complement those cacao tones. For those seeking a beverage on the lighter side, try out Don Julio 70 and mix with seltzer. You may be surprised at how complex the flavor is! And, of course, if you just want to treat your senses to the pure essence of tequila, pour from a bottle of Don Julio 1942 into a proper tequila flute either straight or on the rocks. Be sure to breathe in the aroma and sip slowly so you can get the full effect.

Marks of excellence

Don Julio tequila is not only famous for its quality, but also for its higher prices. One would think that an expensive line of liquors would make for lower demand. But the opposite has happened. Look at the Don Julio Real product. A 375-ml bottle can command hundreds of dollars. But once you have a sip of its sublime delivery, you get it. The tequila made by the brand is made patiently, taking great time and care in the crafting. Smaller batches get better attention leading to superior liquor. You get a lot for what you pay for with Don Julio — and your taste buds will confirm that with every taste. If you're looking to have Don Julio delivered right to your door in under an hour, check out Drizly for quick results.