There’s something special about lifelong friendships that develop from work colleagues. Which is why I can completely understand why Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul would want to start a mezcal brand seemingly out of nowhere: it’s another chance to work with someone you’ve genuinely become friends with. The question is whether that friendship results in a stellar tequila.
The TV show Breaking Bad was a cornerstone of the early 2010s culture and still reverberates through pop culture with memes about the show popping up about as often as Spongebob Squarepants and Star Wars. The success of the show was in no small part due to the acting prowess of two of its main cast, specifically Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul who played Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, respectively. The two formed a close bond on the set and remained friends after the show wrapped production in 2013.
Three years later, the pair were enjoying dinner in New York City, according to an interview for Inc.com:
“Aaron and I got together on this basically because we missed each other,” Cranston says. “Three years after Breaking Bad finished, we happened to be in NYC at the same time and had dinner. We realized how much we missed each other, and Aaron said, ‘We can’t work together on screen. The characters are too indelible in fans’ minds. We should go into business together. What about mezcal?’
“I said, ‘That’s a terrible idea,'” Cranston says, laughing.https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/how-bryan-cranston-aaron-paul-built-a-thriving-mezcal-business-by-keeping-promises-honoring-commitments.html
Just like so many other celebrities before them, the pair decided to create and market a bottle of liquor. In this case, they went with a mezcal, as apparently Paul had fallen in love with the way the spirit tastes sometime in his past.
Together the duo went on a tour through Mexico, trying to find a mezcal distillery that had the flavor and profile they preferred. According to legend, they were just about to leave the small village of San Luis del Rio in Oaxaca when an 8 year old boy ran up to them and begged them to taste his family’s mezcal. The pair obliged and were struck not only by the flavor of the spirit that had been created by Gregorio Velasco, but the fact that seemingly the spirit had found them instead of the other way around.
After some time perfecting the branding and the packaging, the duo finally found themselves on the right side of the ATF’s good graces and in 2019 launched Dos Hombres tequila in honor of their friendship. Sales took off, and six months later they rewarded Gregorio with a part ownership stake in the company as a means of thanking him for his support.
In June of 2021, Constellation Brands purchased a minor stake in the company, with the promise that it will continue to operate independently.
- Learn More: What Is Mezcal?
Technically speaking, tequila is a subset of mezcal. The rules for tequila are a little more regulated and specific, but mezcal distillers have more freedom to try interesting things and make meaningful changes to the flavor profile. In other words, it’s typically more interesting — and usually a bit more smoky in character than tequila.
For this mezcal, the distillery starts with a crop of 100% blue agave plants which are grown in Oaxaca for at least six years prior to harvesting. Once appropriately matured, the agave plants are shaved of their leaves and taken to the distillery.
The next step in the process is to convert the fibrous material in the agave core into fermentable sugars, which is typically done through the application of some heat. In this case, the cores are placed into large earthen pits of hot stones and covered in soil, which is one of the most traditional methods for cooking the cores and typically makes for a more flavorful and characterful spirit.
After being cooked, the roasted cores are placed into a circular stone trough where a large stone wheel grinds and mills the cores to release the sugary liquid within. Again, this is among the most traditional methods of mezcal production, second only to beating the cores with a large stone hammer.
That sugary liquid is then transferred to large vats where it is allowed to ferment for between 7 and 10 days, which is far longer than the required ~3 days that most distilleries give their fermentation. The reason once more is that the extended fermentation time can lead to more interesting flavors at the end of the process.
Once fermented, the mildly alcoholic liquid is placed into a copper pot still where the raw spirit is selectively captured and concentrated into the finished product we have here today.
In terms of design and branding, this bottle seems to be taking a somewhat minimalist approach.
The bottle is a standard design that we’ve seen before, with a bit of a modern twist on the typical liquor bottle shape. There’s a cylindrical straight walled body that rounds smartly at the shoulder, a medium length neck, and then a wood and cork stopper at the top of the bottle. I don’t see any unique markings or designs on the bottle itself that would differentiate it on the shelf — they’ve left that entirely to the label.
The label gives me the same sort of vibes as the Casamigos label, but is still different enough that you won’t confuse the two. Here, a blue-green agave plant is front and center on the label, flanked by two red donkeys symbolizing the two founders of the brand. Below that is the typical information you’d expect on the label, and even includes the signatures of the owners (another similarity to Casamigos). It does have a more finished and smartly branded appearance compared to some of the other spirits on the market, but there’s honestly nothing here that would make me grab this bottle over others on the liquor store shelf unless I already knew the backstory of the brand.
As you’d expect from a good mezcal, the spirit is crystal clear. There’s also a typically mezcal smoky aroma wafting up from the glass, specifically smelling like a smoldering campfire in the early hours of the morning. I’m also getting some herbal agave components, some hints of apple, and just a touch of vanilla.
Taking a sip, the flavor of this mezcal is simple and not very complex. Immediately there’s a good bit of that campfire smoke that comes through as well as a bit of slate or salinity, which fulfills the promise of what we were smelling in the glass. There isn’t really any development until the finish, though, when some herbal and vegetal agave starts to make an appearance and provides some needed sweetness to the profile.
Once the spirit is gone, that smoky taste has a tendency to linger for quite some time.
I was really hoping that we’d see a little bit more character and flavor come through once the ice went into the glass. Typically, in this part of the testing, we’d see the stronger components of the flavor profile become a little more muted and let some others shine through, but either that smoke is just too powerful or there’s really nothing else waiting in the wings.
At this point, it tastes almost like a watered down Islay scotch whisky — that peated smoke is what’s coming through here, along with a little bit of slate or salinite. I’m reading it as closer to a campfire smoke than a peaty pub stove, but it’s in that same ballpark. Other than that sole component, there really isn’t anything here of note.
What I’m looking for in a good margarita is for two things to happen: I want the flavor profile to be a little more interesting than normal, and I want at least a semblance of balance. In this case, I definitely get one… but I don’t think I come anywhere close to getting the other.
In terms of an interesting flavor profile, the smoky component from the mezcal is loud and clear even through the other ingredients in this drink. It adds a depth and a complexity to the cocktail that is interesting and novel compared to a normal tequila, but that’s really all that I get. I probably could have gotten the same results with a shot of Lagavulin — there really are no other flavors coming through.
Which brings me to the problems: there’s no balance here. At least with a moderately complex tequila or mezcal, there’s some of the herbal or vegetal sweetness from the agave that comes through and provides a touch of balance against the bitterness of the lime juice. I’m not getting any of that here, and it makes for a rather disappointing drink.
Of all the celebrity liquor brands, this might be the one I was rooting for the most. I was a Breaking Bad fan when it was still new on TV, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bryan Cranston in any bad roles ever. And even ignoring the fanboy biases, their distillery seems to be doing literally everything “correct” in order to make an interesting, characterful, flavorful mezcal. But while we do get some smoky flavors, there just isn’t anything else that this bottle brings to the table.
I spent quite a bit of time tasting this neat over and over again, trying to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. After doing my own tasting notes, I compared that to what others are saying, and I don’t think there’s anything else to be found in this particular bottle.
To be clear, there’s nothing unpleasant or “bad” about this bottle of mezcal. This is a perfectly serviceable and drinkable bottle, and will work just fine in most cocktails and mixed drinks. But at this price point I just expected… more.
|Dos Hombres Mezcal Artesanal Joven|
Produced By: Dos HombresProduction Location: Mexico
Classification: Artisanal Mezcal
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 42% ABV
Price: $54.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
A one-note mezcal from the otherwise dynamic duo of Breaking Bad fame.