Known for being the founder of John Paul Mitchell Hair Systems, and more important to us as imbibers of fine spirits, the founder of The Patrón Spirits Company, John Paul DeJoria has had an extraordinary life to say the least. He went from being homeless and in foster homes when he was young, to starting the John Paul Mitchell Systems with a $700 loan in 1980 and later being ranked 66th on The Forbes 400 Richest Americans list. John Paul is involved with many other businesses today, but we are going to focus on the Patrón Spirits Company for this interview.
ITM: John Paul, first off, thanks for taking the time to speak with in the Mix. When you started Patrón tequila, there was not a luxury category. Hell, there were hardly any 100% agave tequilas available in 1989. Did you do it for love, or did you really think it would turn into the success it is today?
JP: Thank you too for the opportunity to visit about one of my favorite subjects – Patrón tequila! I’ve always enjoyed tequila, and you’re right, back 20 years ago, it was just so difficult to find good tequila here. I definitely founded Patrón out of an abundance of love for fine spirits. The fact that it has turned into such a successful brand I think speaks to the fact that so many other people are just like me, that that they understand and appreciate high-quality, great tasting ultra-premium spirits.
ITM: Patrón has transcended the category; it is really considered a brand people drink by name, similar to the way Bacardi became. What are your thoughts on that phenom?
JP: The best way to grow this category is by attracting people who drink other spirits too, not just tequila. So that’s what’s happened here. We’ve established Patrón as a high-quality spirit, and so now the word “Patrón” means more than just tequila, it refers to a sophisticated, flavorful spirit that’s extremely mixable, and versatile, and great too just on its own over ice.
ITM: Tell us a little bit about how you developed the tequila, about Francisco Alcaraz, and the formation of the company. Was it all from scratch?
JP: One of my business partners and I went to Mexico in search of great tequila, and somehow fate brought us to my dear friend, Francisco Alcaraz. Francisco is so talented and widely recognized for his knowledge of tequila – he created the recipe for Patrón, which is still the exact same recipe we use today. Francisco still personally approves every batch of Patrón before it leaves the distillery there in Jalisco. You know, people ask me all the time how we’ve managed our growth. We’ve done that not by building a bigger distillery or increasing capacity of our fermenters or stills. Instead, what we’ve done is replicate our small batch distillation process so now we essentially have 12 small distilleries under one roof. By doing that, building more instead of building bigger, we’re able to maintain our high quality and consistency – which is what got us to where we are today. We might be selling a lot more Patrón today than we did 20 years ago, but we’ll never compromise on quality and our handcrafted process.
ITM: The Hacienda del Patrón is spectacular. Did you build that from scratch also?
JP: Thank you; it really is a special place. We’ve worked hard to create a hacienda that our employees can be proud to come to every day. Local artisans designed and built it from the ground up, truly as a symbol of the care and attention to detail that goes into our tequila. I’m particularly proud of our latest endeavor there, completing
a major initiative to install a process to re-use and recycle water and other byproducts of tequila production. We’ve even been recognized by the Mexican environmental authorities and the local water district there, as a leader in the tequila industry in efforts to limit the environmental impact of tequila production. We’re also helping other local distilleries do the same.
ITM: The quality control is amazing! A lot of hands touch that bottle before it’s packed. The bottles are really hand-numbered and hand-blown – is this all the mystic of Patrón?
JP: It’s all part of what makes Patrón, Patrón. It’s not some marketing gimmick or half-truth. Every bottle of Patrón is carefully inspected, cork-sealed, polished, labeled, signed, and packed – all by hand – as that’s the only way to ensure the highest level of quality. We could have machines do all that but machines can’t do what passionate, committed, skilled people can do.
ITM: Speaking of the Hacienda, it is equipped with on-site healthcare and child care, buses are provided for the workers, and I see you are even working on a school for the local children. You obviously care a lot about your employees. Patrón even means “the good boss” in Spanish. Care to comment?
JP: Thank you; we very much do care about our employees and the community. In addition to what you mentioned, we also built a replica of the Virgin of Guadalupe Chapel right in the heart of the Hacienda where people can start or end their day in traditional prayer. As a major employer in the community, we understand how important it is to give back to the people who live there. I have always said that success unshared is failure, and we certainly put those words into action in our home in Mexico. We’ve built roads, schools, orphanages, and retirement homes, and have contributed to many, many community organizations in town. Every responsible company should do these things in the communities where they do business.
ITM: How is Patrón XO Café doing? How would you like to see our F&B audience feature the product?
JP: Patrón XO Café is an extraordinary spirit and has really become one of the shining stars in our portfolio. It’s a coffee liqueur made with Patrón Silver tequila so the taste is dry, not sweet like some other coffee liqueurs. It’s terrific over ice, as an after-dinner drink, or it can be mixed into so many interesting cocktails. I’d encourage your readers to experiment – have some fun with it in cocktails and offer their customers a taste of it, because once people try it, they really fall in love with it!
ITM: Pyrat Rum – we tasted it in the ITM spring rum tasting. What a delicious rum. How did you get involved with this brand?
JP: I love white spirits – not just tequila but also rum and vodka (have you tried our ultra-premium Ultimat vodka from Poland? It’s created from a combination of wheat, rye and potato – really a nice vodka). We recognized several years ago that there were few very good rums at the ultra-premium level, and so we created Pyrat which is a blend of the finest aged rums from throughout the Caribbean.
ITM: Gran Patrón Burdeos Tequila is one of your newest entries. Could you fill us in on how it’s made?
JP: Gran Patrón Burdeos is a work of art, there’s no other way to describe it. Francisco Alcaraz created this limited-production añejo by first aging the tequila for a minimum of 12 months in American and French oak barrels, and then he distills it again and ages it in hand-selected vintage Bordeaux barrels (hence the name “Burdeos,” which is Spanish for “Bordeaux.”) It took him years to perfect this tequila — he worked with a number of different techniques and different barrels before he found the perfect combination. It’s packaged in a beautiful hand blown crystal bottle, just a phenomenal luxury spirit.
ITM: In closing, do you have any new product announcements or news we could get the scoop on?
JP: We always have an eye on innovation, and we’re hard at work on a number of ideas right now, including something new and different that we hope to launch this year. Stay tuned…