A Q&A with Don Julio Master Distiller Enrique De Colsa

Tequila Don Julio Master Distiller Enrique de Colsa

Master Distiller Don Julio González was the original pioneer of the tequila industry, setting the bar at the highest level for tequila brands to follow suit in years to come. Today, Don Julio remains the premier tequila brand around the world. Although Don Julio González passed away a few years ago, he left his legacy in the more than capable hands of his most trusted partner, Enrique de Colsa. Having worked in the tequila industry for more than 25 years, de Colsa became Don Julio’s Master Distiller in 2004 upon his retirement. During the 2016 Diageo World Class Global Finals in Miami, we got to catch up with the tequila king to find out more about his story, the Don Julio brand and his thoughts on the highly-anticipated annual event that he traveled from Mexico to celebrate. Here’s what he had to say:

HL: Tell us about your journey with tequila. How did you get started and how did you end up where you are today?

EDC: I first started as an industrial engineer and since the beginning of my first job I worked with liquid handling; we call it liquid process. That includes all the machinery or whatever you do to move unprocessed liquids: bombs, compressors, filters, bottom lines, bottles, etc. I eventually transitioned to work more in the spirits and perfume industry. About 23 years ago, one of my customers invited me to leave and come work with him to make tequila. I told him I didn’t know how to make it. He said, “don’t worry you will learn there.” I moved to Guadalajara in 1996 to work with them. Then in 1998, two years later, I met Don Julio González. He knew that I was in the tequila business and invited me to come work there. I decided to move to La Primavera Distillery with Don Julio and then I came to be the production manager in 1999. I worked with him daily and when he retired 4 years later, he named me Master Distiller.

HL: What is your favorite Don Julio variety? 

EDC: My favorite is the Añejo but my baby is Don Julio 70. It was my unique baby because I made it all by myself–even Don Julio didn’t taste it. He was alive when we released it, but it was released in fall 2011 as an LTO (it later became a permanent offering) and he passed away in March of 2012, so he was not able to drink it at this time. Although his sickness prevented him from tasting it, he held the bottle in his hands, proud of our team.

HL: If you could pair your favorite dinner with a Don Julio drink, what would it be?

EDC: That’s easy! I would pair my favorite Mole Poblano with Añejo. That is a delicious combo.

HL: How do you feel being at the 2016 Diageo World Class Competition? As somewhat of a veteran here, what is it like for you to be here in Miami representing your brand?

EDC: Yes, I’ve been to almost every competition (except last year’s). I have been here for many, many years with some of my best friends. Each year, I am continuously surprised by how things change in the competition. To me, the creativity that each bartender brings is what keeps me coming back. I always come here and say, “Wow, I’m going to learn more and more each year!” And to be part of the moment with great friends is my favorite part. It is a fantastic week and I feel at home.

HL: In your opinion, what makes a ‘master distiller’? 

EDC: In my case, I was lucky to be near Don Julio at the time that I was. If you told me I would be the Master Distiller of Don Julio thirty, forty years ago, I would never believe you. I would be a liar if I told you I expected that. But you have to work hard at your job everyday and be thankful for the opportunity given to you. Most importantly, you must be proud of what you do. I am proud of the brand that I create and a product that has shaped the tequila industry.

HL: Did you learn anything that you carry with you today from the original Master Don Julio González?

EDC: Oh yes, for sure. Don Julio González was more than a tequila producer; he was a tequila lover and he worked hard to achieve perfection. He was a disciplined and dedicated guy. If he wanted something, he was like an arrow: persistent in one direction, giving the project his whole passion, giving a lot of continuity and consistency. He never failed to change opinions. He was great at that.