Don Julio’s Grandson Now Makes a Blanco Tequila That Wows — LALO Is No Ordinary Newcomer
Honoring the Agave and the Spirit of LegendsBY Courtney Dabney // 01.23.23
Mature agave, yeast and water makes a very special tequila - LALO.
LALO elevates the agave. The brand's three founders in the foreground are Jim McDermott, Eduardo "Lalo" Gonzalez, and David Carballido.
Simply one of the best Blanco tequilas on the market.
Copper stills remove the sulfur and refine the taste of LALO Tequila.
I first met Eduardo “Lalo” González at the Fort Worth Food & Wine Festival’s kickoff event called Tacos & Tequila, where the best taquerias in town are showcased alongside some of the world’s best tequilas. A reposado fan myself, I nearly passed by the table that was only serving a blanco. To my mind, blanco tequilas were only fit for shooting or mixing ― not for sipping.
“Do you have any reposado to sample,” I asked.
“No, but try our blanco. It will be one of the best you’ve ever tasted, ” LALO Tequila co-founder David R. Carballido encouraged.
Challenge accepted and he was right. The clean taste and smooth finish were far superior to what I was accustomed to from blanco. What Carballido forgot to mention was that his business partner named Lalo got his nickname from his grandfather (tequila pioneer) Don Julio González. Perhaps you’ve heard of the name?
Lalo González talked to PaperCity about his family history, his own skyrocketing tequila brand and what sets it apart in the industry.
González laughs when I clarify the pronunciation of his nickname (which is Law-Low) because his coffee order at Starbucks is invariably called out with a long or hard “a” sound instead. If you pronounce it that way, it is actually Spanish slang for “dumb” — which this drinks maker definitely isn’t. Glad we got that clarified right up front before I inadvertently called him a dummy the entire interview.
“I’m respectful of Don Julio as a brand and as a person,” Lalo González says. “My grandfather started in the service industry as a child and by age 17, he bought his own distillery back in 1942. But he didn’t create the tequila brand known as Don Julio.
“That was my father, who saw that tequila could compete with other premium distilled spirits like vodka and whiskey. My father launched Don Julio as the very first premium tequila the year I was born in 1989, and he named it in honor of his father.”
LALO Tequila was launched in Austin in January 2020. While 2020 was a torturous year for many businesses, it proved the ideal time to launch a new tequila brand. The distilled liquor market swelled during COVID, and few other segments rose faster than tequila, which was up more than 46 percent.
The family sold the groundbreaking Don Julio brand 20 years ago in 2003. Lalo González’s grandfather Don Julio passed away in 2012 and his own father, who was also named Lalo, died in 2017. So, of course, this son returned the favor and named his own tequila brand after his father.
“I was born into the business and Don Julio is part of our story,” he says. “It’s the cherry on the cake. I used to go with my grandfather, early in the morning, to see the agave fields. Then we’d swing by the distillery together.”
That passion for the agriculture and the humble agave has never left him. Lalo González was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico.
He says the tequila is all about the people of the Jalisco region, the environment and his trusted suppliers. Those agave farmers in Arandas, in the Jalisco highlands, have a long relationship with his storied family. They used to supply Don Julio as well.
The LALO Story
While most tequila makers take a more expedient and cost-effective route, Lalo González set out to showcase the agave itself.
Just like true champagne can only be produced in the Champagne region of France, so it is for tequila. Lalo González notes that technically all tequila is a mezcal or cooked agave, but only certain mezcal can be called tequila. Under Mexican law to be called tequila, it must be blue agave produced within the state of Jalisco or in some parts of four other Mexican states (Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, or Tamaulipas). The blue agaves grown in the highlands of Jalisco are the most sought after.
“Ingredients matter,” González says. “The plant grows for six to seven years before harvesting. I wanted to honor the agave. We don’t want to mask its flavor with barrels or additives. The flavor of a quality tequila is made in the ground, not through post production flavorings.”
LALO Tequila patiently waits until the blue agave is fully mature before harvesting ― to showcase its sweetness, as well as its natural floral and fruity notes. The water also comes from the Jalisco highlands, prized for its minerality which balances the tequila.
“We extract the sugars, not the starches, and cook the agave at low pressure in stone ovens. And our fermentation is the most important part,” González says. “We use a yeast strain that is also used in making champagne. Then we distill it in copper pots, which grab the sulfur and remove the bitterness.”
Lalo González’s childhood friend David R. Carballido and David’s husband Jim McDermott joined him on the journey. The three of them are a natural team. They have no plans to age LALO into a reposado or an anejo. In fact, González says it remains all about showcasing the agave in its truest form, which LALO Blanco tries to achieve.
Though González is careful not to make it seem too precious either. At around $49.99 per bottle, LALO is not the least expensive tequila on the shelf, but it is also certainly not the costliest. While you can enjoy it straight or over ice as a sipping tequila, it’s also great in a margarita. González wants LALO to be “consumable and not collectible.”
What about when the big distributors come calling as they inevitably will?
“Our dream is to keep this company Mexican owned,” González says. “We want to amplify Mexican agriculture, products and rich culture in what we are doing.”