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Don Julio’s grandson on drawing from family, heritage while kick-starting additive-free tequila brand

Eduardo "Lalo" González's father with the same name founded Don Julio and named the brand after his father. In 2017, González founded a tequila brand and named it after his own father.

It’s been over 20 years since the González family sold Don Julio Tequila to liquor giant Diageo – and now, the namesake’s grandson is forging his own path in the spirit industry with an emphasis on additive-free blanco tequila.

Eduardo "Lalo" González, grandson of Don Julio and co-founder of Lalo Spirits, and his childhood friend and co-founder, David Carballido, through simple catching up, proposed a lack of Mexican ownership and culture within the tequila industry.

In 2015, the pair of friends drew from a heritage of over 100 years of spirits making and refined their own SKU of the liquor.


As a leisurely project, González and Carballido crafted an exclusive tequila that belonged to the land of Mexico to share privately among friends and family.

"The reason why we only have blanco is because we want to honor the agave, and we want to showcase a clean and crispy version of tequila," González, an Austin, Texas, resident, told FOX Business during a phone call. "We believe it's not fair for the agave plant that the agave stays there for 5-6 years waiting to be harvested, and then you mask the flavors with barrels or additives."

González collaborated with memories of his warm upbringing around agave fields and teachings from both his grandfather, Don Julio, and his father to unearth a tequila of his own.

Don Julio began working at his uncle Jose's tequila distillery in El Salvador Ranch at just 7 years old. González says his grandfather fell in love with the agave fields and the impression kick-started a tequila legacy that continues today.


"He was obviously very passionate about the distilling side of the business, but he was in love with the farming side," González said.

His father, also Eduardo "Lalo" González, was the creator of Don Julio Tequila, and imprinted the significance of a story, the heritage and authenticity of a brand on his son. González says his father was prideful of the story that backed the widely known tequila brand.

"He was also very passionate about elevating the experience in the tequila world," González said.

The additive-free booze first shared at intimate gatherings charmed taste testers. González and Carballido understood that they had something "special" and "wanted to share it with the world."

In 2017, González and Carballido invited Jim McDermott, co-founder and CEO, onto the project. McDermott became an integral part of introducing the special occasion liquor to Texas.


Lalo Spirits officially launched in Austin, Texas, in January 2020, just before COVID-19 rocked the world.

"I was like, ‘Oh my God, the world is about to end, but my baby was just born, my baby Lalo,’" González said. "We were like ‘Oh my God, we just launched a tequila brand, and we’re focusing on bars and restaurants and bars and restaurants are closing.’"

The core of Lalo is to remain clean and additive-free while providing a heritage-driven experience for consumers. The brand has no intention of releasing any other SKU or tequila expressions.

González says additives are often a way for tequila brands to cover up the poor taste of a spirit. When agave plants are harvested too soon, they provide bitter flavor profiles for consumers.

And while González says launching during a global pandemic was very challenging, the opportunities for clean brands were expanding.

"Since COVID, this additive free movement started to grow because people were more conscious about what they were putting in their bodies," González said.

Much like Champagne, true tequila can only be referred to as such if the blue weber agave plants are harvested and the liquor distilled in designated regions of Mexico. In addition to this, there are four additives allowed in 100% derived tequila.

The first is oak extract, which is a barrel corrector for barrel aged products, and the second is caramel coloring. However, both of these additives do not apply to the process of making blanco tequila. Glycerine, which mutes flavors and contributes to the mouthfeel of the spirit, and syrups, which add sweetener and artificial flavors, are the other two.

González says brands do not have to disclose additives if they make up under 1% of the total liquid per bottle, though less than 1% can drastically alter the entire flavor of the liquor.

"Tequila tastes like agave," he said. "It doesn’t taste like cupcakes."

As for Lalo Spirits, you can guarantee a bottle of Lalo Blanco is additive-free.


"It's not a smooth tequila," González said. "It's a well-balanced product. It's very clean, it's very crisp. I think that’s what makes Lalo special. It's very versatile. It brings people back to additive free, traditionally made tequilas."

Tequila is regarded as the "fastest-growing" spirit, according to Gitnux, which makes the category a competitive one, even if your brand is impressioned with the Don Julio name.

"Honestly, many people will think, 'You’re Don Julio’s grandson, and that it’s very easy to release your own brand, and you will have success right out of the gate,’ but the reality is, it’s more challenging than it seems," González said. "I’ll say that it’s not enough to be Don Julio’s grandson."

Even so, González safeguards the tradition of a family-owned distillery but with a personal element.


Before officially branding, his partners approached González about naming the brand Lalo. Though he opted to forego the namesake because of added pressures and expectations, it was McDermott who corrected González on the reason for the decision.

"Jim was like, ‘No, you're not getting it. It's not because of you, it’s because of your father,'" González said. "It's beautiful because he did the same thing for his father. When he launched Don Julio, he created his brand in honor of his father, and I'm doing the same."

His father passed away in 2017 before the brand was revealed.

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