Espolòn was founded in 1995 by Cirilo Oropeza in the Highlands region of Jalisco, Mexico. Since then, it's established itself as a major player in the tequila industry, using a combination of inspired advertising methods, unconventional production techniques, and unbeatable attention to detail to shift millions of bottles of its premium spirits around the world. Find out more with these 10 things you didn't know about Espolòn Tequila.
1. It's a mezcal... and a tequila
Trying to understand the difference between mezcal and tequila can be a head-scratcher, with strict rules regulating which spirits can brand themselves as tequila and which have to advertise themselves as mezcal. Essentially, any brand that wants to use the tequila stamp will need to make its product from Blue Weber Agave grown in a territory specified by the General Declaration of Protection of the Appellation of Origin of "Tequila." They'll also need to manufacture and bottle the product in the territory (hence why you'll never see a tequila made outside of Mexico). Even if a spirit is made to almost the exact same standards and using the exact same processes as tequila, unless it's produced and distilled in the required territory, it has to market itself as mezcal, the name given to any spirit distilled from the agave plant. So, while Espolòn Tequila is technically a mezcal, not all mezcals are tequila.
2. It was founded by Cirilo Oropeza
As bartrendr.com explains, Espolòn was founded by Cirilo Oropeza, who followed his passion for tequila by spending decades learning the art of distillation and tequila-making, with the hope of eventually creating his own brand. In 1995, he did exactly that when he launched Destiladora San Nicolas in the Highlands of Jalisco. His goal was simple: "to create a tequila so good he was proud to share it with the world." Oropeza passed away in 2020, but his strict attention to detail, unconventional methods, and passion for producing only the finest tequila continue to fuel the distillery's output to this day.
3. Mexican culture is at the heart of the brand
Espolòn is proud of its Mexican heritage, as evidenced by everything from its name to its artwork. As a nod to the fighting cocks that play a significant role in Mexican culture, the brand takes its name from the Spanish word for "spur," which refers to the defensive spurs found on a rooster's legs. Each bottle boasts a picture of the brand's "spirit animal," a rooster named Ramón, while each variety pays tribute to a different event or figure in Mexican history. For example, Espolón's Tequila Blanco honors Mexico's Independence Day, Añejo Tequila displays the Jarabe Tapatio, a form of protest that became popular in the years after the Mexican Revolution, and Extra Añejo Tequila displays a burial ground in keeping with the traditional Mexican belief that death is accompanied by a renewal of life.
4. Its award-winning
Since Cirilo Oropeza founded Espolòn in 1995, the distillery has racked up more than its fair share of awards. In addition to winning the title of “Best Tequila Factory” in Mexico by the School of Architects and Engineers of Jalisco, it's also won the Double Gold Medal at the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Awards for its Blanco Tequila, a Gold Medal at the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Awards and a Silver Outstanding Medal at the 2013 International Wine & Spirits Competition for the Reposado, and a Gold Medal at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Awards and a Silver Medal at the 2015 International Wine & Spirits Competition for the Añejo.
5. It offers a range of different tequilas
Espolòn offers more than just the one type of tequila. Depending on your preference, you can try the Espolòn Blanco, a smooth, balanced tequila with a slightly sweet, very subtle aroma of tropical fruit, pepper, and lemon zest and a flavor profile that combines prominent notes of agave with undertones of vanilla and pineapple; Espolòn Reposado, a rich, golden tequila with a spicy aroma and a rounded, bold flavor of roasted agave, caramel fudge, and brown spices, Espolòn Añejo, a red-gold tequila with a rich but not aggressive flavor profile of caramel and butterscotch; and Espolòn Añejo X, a limited edition variety with a floral, smoky aroma and rich notes of caramel, vanilla, nutmeg, and chocolate.
6. The higher it grows, the better its tastes
When Cirilo Oropeza founded Espolòn, his mission was "to create a tequila so good he was proud to share it with the world." The secret to his success lay in his decision to manufacture the tequila from the Blue Weber Agave plants grown in an area known as the “Golden Triangle” in Jalisco’s Los Altos highlands. The area lies 2,000 meters above sea level - an altitude that creates difficult growing conditions and with it, very fine tequila. It's thought that the stress created by the high altitude makes the agave plants produce a higher sugar content and more intense flavors, both of which can be appreciated in the final product.
7. It's breaking with convention
In the tequila industry, it's standard for the hearts of the agave plant to be cut into two pieces during the cooking process. Espolòn, on the other hand, believes the secret to a world-beating tequila lies in quartering the hearts. This, combined with longer cooking times (22 hours compared to the industry standard of 18 hours), results in a sweeter, more flavorsome end product.
8. It has a very specific aging process
Most tequila is aged in 500-liter barrels, but Espolòn likes to do things differently. The brand believes that the more wood the tequila comes into contact with, the more complex the end product. As a result, they've sized down the barrels to just 200 liters, thereby increasing the wood-to-spirit contact and (theoretically at least) improving the flavor profile of the tequila.
9. Its fermentation process rocks
Remember when we said Espolòn likes to do things differently? We weren't kidding. Along with thumbing their nose at industry standards when it comes to things like cooking times and barrel sizes, they're also marching to the beat of their own drummer when it comes to the fermentation process... literally. One of founder Cirilo Oropeza's core beliefs was that “Yeast sways to the rhythm of music” - so, to encourage the yeast to get its groove on, the distillery turns up the rock music during fermentation.
10. Its advertising campaigns are inspired
Espolòn might know a thing or two about making great tequila, but it also knows how to run an effective advertising campaign. As vinepair.com notes, one of its most inspired ran in the lead up to Valentine’s Day 2019, during which the brand set up a "Ghost Line" that lonely hearts could ring up and spill their ghosting stories.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith