Generations in the Making: The Liquid Legacy of Don Fulano Tequila

The moniker “Don Fulano” is a unique one. “Don” refers to a Mexican gentleman. “Fulano” means “of an undisclosed or unknown identity.” For tequila producer Don Fulano, this name represents a philosophy that the spirit is not the product of a single person but of a group whose efforts span generations to create something timeless.

Few spirits are as ingrained in land and history as tequila. In the beating heart of Jalisco, Mexico, agave represents a long-established relationship between the people and the earth. Its narrative is rooted deeply in heritage and tradition.

Refined over millions of years of evolution, the agave plant is the lifeblood of jimadors (agave farmers), who have dedicated themselves to upholding tradition. For over five generations, the Fonseca family behind Don Fulano has remained steadfast, meticulously cultivating agave plants and mastering the art of tequila distillation.

From humble beginnings to owning one of the most legendary distilleries in Mexico, the family’s story speaks to the sacred quality of agave and the allure of Mexico’s most venerated spirit.

Agave Roots

The story of the Fonseca family begins among the historic churches and colorful tiles of Atotonilco. At that time, the Fonsecas were farmers who owned a local bodega. When the first tequila distillers arrived, the family saw an opportunity and began planting and harvesting the revered agave plant. The plant is a part of Mexican heritage, having been used to make rope, medicine, syrups, textiles, and more long before the distilleries were established.

Cultivating agave requires patience, care, and experience due to its slow-growth life cycle, qualities the Fonseca family developed and perfected after harvesting the plant for decades. They have farmed the agave that makes up Don Fulano tequila in that area for over 140 years. It’s like a family member, one that grows alongside generations who will inherit the craft.

This relationship between the spirit, the plant, and the people can be lost on modern manufacturers, explains Don Fulano co-founder Sergio Mendoza.

“Unfortunately,” Mendoza says, “the agave is treated more and more as a commodity, and agricultural practices [have] become more industrialized, breaking this most subtle and important link. As this happens, the true flavors of tequila fade away from products but also, gradually, from the consciousness of consumers.”

The Fonseca family, however, inherited this legacy from the land itself. They became experts in agave harvesting, eventually supplying the top distillers in the highlands and the valley with their crops. Owning a distillery was a dream of the family for some time. In the mid-’80s, an agave shortage led to turmoil in the agro-industrial balance of tequila production — and a unique opportunity.

This meant that some businesses were willing to sell their existing distilleries. Among them was the iconic La Tequileña Distillery, in the heart of Tequila town. A cocktail of good luck and business savvy secured La Tequileña for the Fonsecas.

It was a perfect match. Both the distillery and the family had a long history in the area and a dedication to craft and quality. Today, the distillery houses the oldest and perhaps most diverse Blue Weber Agave liquid libraries, according to Mendoza.

“Within its walls, the great categories of añejo and extra añejo tequilas flourished and conquered space in the brown spirits segment, thanks to a serious and patient maturation program,” Mendoza says.

This tradition continues today with Don Fulano’s Reposado and Añejo, aged the same way they were at Don Fulano’s inception. The Reposado opens up round and full on the palate. Notes of toasted coconut interplay with macadamia and the tartness of sweet prune before finishing with a delicate spice.

The Añejo is deeper and more complex, bringing out the flavors of the Nevers oak cask and boasting a 30-month maturation average. Baked banana is expressed over the sweetness of citrus, balanced with the complex depth of spices like cardamom and allspice.

Back when the Fonseca’s were still settling into the distillery, however, the process for these tequilas had not yet been perfected.

An Additive-Free Approach

The family’s fourth-generation agave expert and new owner of La Tequileña, Enrique Fonseca, may have been an agriculture expert, but he felt ill-equipped to master tequila production.

He packed up and flew to Europe in search of more information on the distillation process. There, he was embraced by the winemakers of France and the distilleries of Scotland. He learned about blending, casks, aging, and other techniques that were yet unheard of in the world of tequila.

Don Fulano today has maintained and perfected this vision. Copper alembics are used to distill the greater part of the spirit, contributing to the depth and character of the agave. An experimental copper Coffey still contributes to an elegant, clean quality, and the French Limousin oak and Nevers casks that once held wines now age and mature Don Fulano’s signature spirits.

This traditional yet elevated process, Mendoza says, allows the diverse flavors of the spirit to emerge and mature. “We keep as much and for as long as possible to create a rich library of natural flavors from which to compose our profiles.”

This includes the bright and lively Tequila Blanco, with notes of grilled pineapple alongside cooked agave and a subtle earthiness; the Fuerte, aromatic and punchy with a nuanced floral layer of jasmine and orange blossom; and lastly, the Imperial.

The Imperial is the monument of Don Fulano’s craft and Tequila of the Year winner in the 2022 London Spirits Competition. The power of the spirit and elegance of the agave is expressed through abundant fruit notes. An aroma of dark chocolate and black cherries creates a velvety finish.

What set the tequila apart, Enrique Fonseca realized, was the quality of the raw ingredients. He vowed to use an additive-free approach: estate-grown mature agave, proprietary yeast, and volcanic spring water.

Mendoza elaborates on the significance of this philosophy: “For us, it’s a big deal to preserve the historic flavors of the land, of the majestic mature Blue Weber Agave and the authentic vino mezcal from this beautiful corner of Mexico.” Everything that contributes to Don Fulano is of that land and nowhere else. It speaks to the craft, the dedication to tradition, the importance of the family, and its legacy.

The Don Fulano Legacy

These are the products of years of cultivation, and a celebration for the close-knit Fonseca family and the Don Fulano team.

“Going to the agave fields often, spending time with all the hard-working men and women that make all this possible, as well as sharing the final product with friends and family, always reminds us of what is most important,” Mendoza says.

What starts as a humble agave plant becomes a revered and celebrated spirit through a time-honored process, one woven into the land with each strike of the harvesting coa. When you raise a glass of Don Fulano, you’re not just enjoying tequila. You’re experiencing the history of a holistic effort spanning generations.

The best way to enjoy Don Fulano? “Always with good company, in good spirits, and with reverence for life and nature,” says Mendoza.

This article is sponsored by Don Fulano Tequila.