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October 8, 2019

Erstwhile Mezcal with Yuan Ji

Posted in Podcasts

Erstwhile Mezcal with Yuan Ji

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What do you after you’ve built up a successful anti-trust law practice? If you’re Yuan Ji, you start importing mezcal to your home in Brooklyn! Erstwhile Mezcal bills itself as “Honest mezcal with social mission.” Ji brings her street smarts to the business side of the brand while allowing the Mexican families with generations of experience making mezcal to do what they do best. It’s an incredible story that leads to some very small batches of delicious mezcal!

What we drank:
Erstwhile Espadin
Erstwhile Arroqueño
Erstwhile Tobalá
Erstwhile Tepeztate-Tobalá Mezcal
Erstwhile Henequén

From the Erstwhile website:

Erstwhile Mezcal is a mezcal importer based in Brooklyn, New York and Oaxaca, Mexico. We specialize in artisanal and ancestral mezcal.

More than a mezcal brand, Erstwhile is a platform for the core values and and social missions that our founders believe in: mezcal education, brand transparency, promoting small family producers to an international audience / fan base, empowerment of women in the mezcal / wine & spirits industry.

We set ourselves apart from others in several ways.

First, the family producers we work with are independent family businesses. They are Erstwhile’s partners, not employees. We pay our partner mezcaleros fairly. We do not ask them for exclusivity or discounts. We care about our mezcalero partners’ economic empowerment and put our money where our mouth is. We seek out mezcaleros who are interested in exporting out of Mexico, but do not have the means to do so on their own. We help them get certified and licensed for export. We feel good about the fact that we help our mezcalero partners clear these hurdles from the get-go, independent of their work with us in the future.

Unlike family-owned brands, we are not encumbered by loyalty to any particular family. When you support Erstwhile, you support not just one but all the family producers we partner with.

Second, we are committed to brand transparency. Look at the back label of every Erstwhile bottle: it gives full disclosure of where you can find our partner producer in Oaxaca and buy directly from the source if you so choose. Read our website, product pages, blog posts, newsletters, social media. Talk to us at events and tastings. We are proud and open about who our partner mezcaleros are, and every aspect of how we do business.

Third, we are committed to mezcal education, both as teachers and as students. That is why Erstwhile takes a curatorial, rotating approach when deciding which mezcals we want to bring you. We bring you not one but a variety to showcase mezcal’s infinite nuances: different agave species, different flavor profiles, different producers, different production methods, different [fill in your suggestion here…].

Our vision and commitment to you: keep on discovering kickass distillations by small family producers who want to grow through export; promote these producers and their mezcals; introduce them to you and to mezcal lovers all over the world. We do not sacrifice excellence to maximize profit or convenience. We commit the Erstwhile name if and only if it is an excellent or extraordinary mezcal. No matter how small the volume. No matter how cumbersome the logistics.

Erstwhile is a woman-owned, woman-operated business. We support fellow women in mezcal production and all aspects of the mezcal / wine & spirits industry whenever possible.

Erstwhile Mezcal was co-founded by two mezcal enthusiasts: Yuan Ji (former antitrust attorney) and Kevin J. Brown (the mastermind behind Geographicus Rare Antique Maps). Yuan and Kevin are no strangers to coups de foudre. Mezcal and Oaxaca go so darn well with their other passions (cocktails, tacos, history, and swashbuckling adventure, to name a few). It is hard not to be smitten.

Upon returning from their first trip together to Oaxaca, Yuan and Kevin had a vision that has sharpened in focus with the passage of time:

  • A platform for mezcal education, transparency, sustainability, and fair dealings with small independent family producers.
  • A mezcal project that empowers small producers to grow via export, and that promotes small producers to an international market / fan base.
  • A company that brings some core values of antitrust policy to the mezcal market: clearing barriers to market entry for small producers; providing as many great options as possible to mezcal consumers and enthusiasts all over the world.

A mezcal portfolio after their own hearts. With a reputation for mezcal made the old-fashioned way, of only the finest quality or extraordinary provenance. Painstakingly curated after many a tasting trip through the Oaxacan countryside. Sourced from master mezcaleros’ personal libraries. Made available for the first time to mezcal lovers in the U.S. and international market beyond.

The mezcal of choice for doers. For risk-takers, nonconformists, creative folks, independent thinkers, and swashbucklers. For people who lead lives believing if their dreams do not scare them, the dreams are probably not big enough.

When you sip 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 the families and partake in the family traditions of Erstwhile’s partner mezcal producers. You make into reality a world that Erstwhile Mezcal’s founders dreamed about, and then built with their hearts and souls.

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