Jose Cuervo: The oldest tequila distillery in the world (part 1)

The company Jose Cuervo saw its origins in the time of the viceroyalty in the 18th century, and is still active to this day thanks to the brilliant minds that revolutionized the tequila industry, a drink 100% Mexican. Let's explore its history.

The Agave drink, formerly known as Agave wine, is an ancestral drink that has been known and enjoyed in the western part of our country since the pre-Hispanic era. With the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century, the distillation of the fermented agave became more commonplace, giving rise to the distillate currently known as tequila. Since then and until today tequila has been consumed and enjoyed by Mexicans during rituals, ceremonies and family parties throughout history.

Botella de tequila Reserva de la Familia. (2020) by Mundo CuervoFundación Beckmann A.C.

Tequila: Mexico's national drink

"Jose Cuervo", established since the 18th century in the town of Tequila, is one of the most traditional Mexican tequila companies and also one of the oldest ones in the American continent, since it has been active since the viceroyalty until today.

Arbol genealógico de la Familia Cuervo (2020) by Mundo CuervoFundación Beckmann A.C.

The continuity and success of the Jose Cuervo company over time can only be explained by the documented history of the life and work of all the generations of entrepreneurs and workers who have kept the company alive during historical events, revolutions, etc.

José Antonio de Cuervo y Valdés y García de las Rivas by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

The first of the visionaries

José Antonio de Cuervo y Valdés y García de las Rivas (1708–1764) served as a Mayor of the Cofradía de las Ánimas de Tequila. On November 2, 1758, he obtained a Landownership Decree (Auto de Propiedad de Tierras) that recognized him as the owner of the "Solar   of the Ánimas" (Land of  souls )covering an area of 14.26 hectares. Since then, its main activity has been the cultivation of agave (mezcal) as well as the production and sale of tequila (<i>mezcal wine</i>).

Descripción de cuantiosas adquisiciones de campos de agave de José Prudencio de Cuervo y Montaño (2020) by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

José Prudencio de Cuervo y Montaño

His older son José Prudencio de Cuervo y Montaño, born in Tequila (1739–1811) increased the capital on the basis of his tireless work as a trader and farmer in the village of Tequila. By the end of 1770, he had been engaged in acquiring land through small purchases. He negotiated the agave plants for the expanding industry and the distillery that was produced on his own land, and personally handled the distillation and filling operations in barrels.

José María Guadalupe de Cuervo y Montaño by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

José María Guadalupe de Cuervo y Montaño

The youngest of the family, José María Guadalupe de Cuervo y Montaño (1762-1805), asked the King of Spain for authorization to distribute mezcal wine and obtained the Royal Certificate in 1795. He built the first distillery or "tavern" to process the juice. of the mezcals. This distillery, currently known as "La Rojeña", is still operating to this day and visitors have the privilege of knowing the old factory as it was built by the ancestors during the viceroyal times.

María Magdalena de Cuervo y Carrillo by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

María Magdalena de Cuervo y Carrillo

María Magdalena de Cuervo y Carrillo(1792–1815) inherited from her father José María Guadalupe and from her uncle José Prudencio several properties in Tequila. María Magdalena married José Vicente Albino Rojas y Jiménez in 1810, who inherited José Cuervo's tavern after his death in January 1815. José Vicente would turn this tavern into La Rojeña, a mezcal wine factory. 

José Vicente Albino Rojas y Jiménez by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

 Jose Vicente Albino Rojas y Jimenez y "La Rojeña" ( 1790-1868)

Through his marriage to María Magdalena de Cuervo y Carrillo and through his own business qualities, Vicente Albino Rojas became the global manager of his father-in-law and brother-in-law's estate. Subsequently , upon inheriting part of the property after the early death of his wife, he purchases the remaining properties from their respective owners. Rojas would turn the Taberna de José Cuervo into La Rojeña, a mezcal wine factory.

Fábrica La Rojeña by Mundo CuervoFundación Beckmann A.C.

La Rojeña .  Casa Cuervo Distillery

For 1842, La Rojeña stands out for its products reaching to 400 barrels per week. From 1849 La Rojeña is among the ten most important mezcal wine factories in Tequila. They exported their products to other territories  within Mexico and in 1849, based on demand generated by the "gold rush" of  High California (1849), La Rojeña's products were marketed through the Port of San Blas to San Francisco.

Jesús Flores y Ponce by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

Jesús Flores y Ponce     

Jesús Flores y Ponce, (1826–1898) was municipal president of Tequila in 1879.  Because of his efficient administrative capacity, he joins La Rojeña as administrator. On the death of José Vicente Albino Rojas, Jesús Flores continued to manage La Rojeña with excellent results, which allowed him to buy the rights of each of the ranches and all the agave fields, as well as the distillery. By 1880, he became owner of the entire estate.

Etiqueta de vino mezcal de la Destilería La Constancia by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

The assets and fortune of Jesús Flores increased further by inheriting the significant estate form his first wife Tomasa Martínez Montoya. Flores led the company during La Paz Porfiriana. He took advantage of the political-economic environment to propose growth based on technological innovation.

Thus, he began to pack the tequila in glass bottles, called "damajuanas"; until that time, the drink was only sold in barrels. The arrival of the railway in Guadalajara (1888) motivated the expansion of its market to the east of the United States and Europe.  In 1891, President Porfirio Díaz awarded Jesús Flores a gold medal and recognition for the quality of his product. 

He changed the name of the distillery from "La Rojeña" to "La Constancia"

Ana González-Rubio y de la Torre by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

Ana Gonzalez-Rubio y de la Torre  ( 1857- 1940)

Ana González-Rubio, second wife of Jesús Flores. When she was widowed in 1898, she was universal heiress to the estate and the successful business. She later acquired the Hacienda de Abajo, thirteen shares of the Tequila Mountain, the La Guareña and La Martineña mezcal wine factories.She had great leadership skills and was able to make precise decisions at difficult times for the company. In Tequila, she sponsored a lot of philantropic  initiatives.

José Cuervo Labastida y Flores by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

José Cuervo Labastida

Ana married for a second time in 1900 to José Cuervo Labastida y Flores (1869–1921). At the time of the marriage, José Cuervo y Labastida was manager of the La Constancia, distillery owned by Ana. They were benefactors of the community of Tequila. They led the railway, they expanded the Plaza de Armas, paved streets, provided running water to houses, repaired schools and donated land for the municipal cemetery and others initiatives of the people.

Ana González-Rubio y de la Torre y José Cuervo Labastida y Flores. by DesconocidoFundación Beckmann A.C.

The second wedding of Ana González Rubio

Ana González-Rubio and José Cuervo Labastida were important in the history of the Jose Cuervo company, as they undertook multiple strategic actions that have prevailed until now and have brought prestige to the company until today.

They recovered the historic name of the distillery and returned to its original name: La Rojeña, a name that continues to honor until today the history of the company over time. Another fundamental strategic action was to register its name, Jose Cuervo as a trademark, and from then on the generic name of "tequila" was used to refer to the drink that until then was called Agave Wine from the Tequila region.

From this moment on, the company Jose Cuervo would see exponential growth that would continue until today. To learn more, visit the second part of this exhibition.

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