- Oaxaca, Mexico
Nothing about this company comes close to what you would call conventional. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Erstwhile specializes in small-batch artisanal and ancestral mezcal. Co-founders Yuan Ji and Kevin J. Brown formed a friendship rooted in mutual weaknesses (cocktails, delicious food and swashbuckling adventure, to name a few) and, most importantly, through their fascination with and love of mezcal: not only the spirit itself, but also the mezcaleros that create it and the land from which it comes. Neither of them had
any experience in the spirits industry—she is a lawyer, he a scholar and dealer of antique maps— but their passion for mezcal inspired them to take the plunge. Upon returning from their first trip together to Oaxaca in the fall of 2015, Yuan and Kevin began the groundwork for their passion project: a new mezcal label focused on small-batch artisanal mezcal of only the finest quality or extraordinary provenance.
Erstwhile’s mission is to bring the absolute finest, artisanally produced mezcal to the American market, and to seek out mezcaleros who are interested in exporting out of Mexico, but do not have the means to do so on their own. If a mezcalero wants to be certified but is not, Erstwhile will help them get certified; if a mezcalero does not have all the necessary paperwork for export, Erstwhile will front the investment to get them ready for export. They view this aspect of their business as the bedrock of their project, and do not consider it a binding agreement: they are proud to help the producers in this way, independent of their work with the producers in the future. In addition, being a woman-owned business, they also make every effort to support fellow women in mezcal production and in all other aspects of their newly-adopted industry whenever possible.
They do not sacrifice excellence to maximize profit or convenience: they commit the Erstwhile brand if and only if a mezcal is excellent, if not downright extraordinary, no matter how small the volume or how cumbersome the logistics.They find these singular distillates on their frequent trips to visit the producers on their farms in the Oaxacan countryside. Each and every one of their partners is selected with care and passion after many tastings, re-tastings, and multiple visits to the mezcaleros’ palenques, and today they work with a handful of master mezcaleros.
Yuan and Kevin, both Americans, are deeply committed to the economic well-being of their producers: fair trade is a keystone of the entire venture. When you taste an Erstwhile Mezcal, you experience the complexities and flavors of a slow, small-batch handcraft, honed and passed down from generation to generation; you support families and partake in the family traditions of these mezcaleros. We are very excited to offer Erstwhile Mezcal to our spirits portfolio.
For more information, visit their website.