Ilegal Mezcal introduced for UK bars

A cult brand of mezcal has been introduced into the UK on-trade as part of a growing interest in the Mexican spirit.

Ilegal Mezcal, which is made from agave plants in the Oaxaca region of Mexico, has been added to the portfolio of UK premium spirits company Speciality Brands.

The brand was developed by John Rexer for his bar Cafe No Se in Antigua, Guatemala, after he smuggled mezcal over from Mexico. It then spread further by people taking bottles home with them all over the world.

Legal since 2009, it is produced and bottled in small batches and comes as an unaged tequila, four-month-old reposado and 13-month-old añejo. They are all bottled at 40 per cent ABV.

Chris Seale, managing director of Speciality Brands, said: “It’s great to have Ilegal here as we have been inundated by enquiries over the last year. Ilegal has built quite an international following centred on New York and the US.

“The timing of its arrival is perfect to make the most of the increase in both trade and consumer interest that we are seeing in the mezcal category.”

The UK launch follows a steady growth in the spirit which is similar to tequila but can be made anywhere in Mexico and from a broader variety of agave plants. The UK’s first mezcal bar opened in September this year as part of Mexican restaurant Wahaca in London’s Fitzrovia followed in October by “mezcaleria” Qui Qui Ri Qui in Shoreditch, east London.

Global brand ambassador Stephen Myers, who co-founded Ilegal Mezcal with Rexer, said: “We are very proud of how Ilegal has been seeded and begun to roll out internationally. We haven’t got the financial clout that other brands have but bartenders seem to really like the liquid as well as the somewhat pioneering spirit and stories behind Ilegal’s origins.

“This has undoubtedly helped put Ilegal on the shelves of some of the most innovative bars across the world. It’s great to partner with Speciality Brands so that Ilegal is now available across The UK.”

Ilegal Mezcal has already been introduced into 25 states in the US, Australia, the Caribbean and other European countries. The UK launch has also seen it listed by specialist retailers including Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and The Whisky Exchange.

A shorter version of this article appears as part of the Ones To Watch report in the January 2013 edition of Bar magazine.

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