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Country of Origin: Mexico
Location: San Pedro Totolapa, Oaxaca
People: Juan Peña & Katie Reichelt, Owners
Legend has it, that after making mezcal, the makers would leave a cellar door open overnight letting Prolijo, the guardian spirit of mezcal, enter and taste the mezcal. In return, Prolijo would pour his essence into the mezcal, giving drinkers the gift to tell mesmerizing stories. Of course, this was never proven. But what is true, is that every time you open a bottle of Prolijo Mezcal, good stories are told, created and enjoyed. The spirit of Prolijo lives in the bottle and by opening it, you free the Prolijo spirit that lives inside us all.
Juan Peña, a native of Mexico with ethnic indigenous roots, made his way from Mexico to the U.S. at the impressionable age of 19. A young immigrant to the U.S., he forged his way. As the mezcal movement started to take hold in the U.S., embarking on mass production, he realized many of the mezcals available in the U.S. do not possess the flavors and culture of which he is accustomed. Juan is proud of his Otomi and Purepécha heritage and is on a quest to bring the Mexican flavors he remembers so vividly to the world while telling the story of the mezcal craft.
Mezcal goes beyond a commodity as a cultural product, originating approximately 800 years ago. At that time, Mezcal was savored through religious ceremonies, celebrations, and for medicinal purposes by the indigenous. Juan noticed these core attributes, that were such a huge part of his family’s livelihood, were getting lost in the shuffle as the craft made its way mainstream. With this in mind, he has teamed up with Katie Reichelt, long-time friend and colleague, to honor the precolonial culture and to create a brand that celebrates the native people and culture of Mexico. The two launched Prolijo in May of 2018 with 4 items: Blanco (Joven), Reposado, 12-Year Añejo, and Tobalá.
Prolijo bottles are printed and assembled by hand, including the lasso. The lasso, bottle, cork, and label are purchased in Oaxaca, which contributes to the local economy. Currently Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico.