On the Pacific coastline of the Mexican state of Jalisco, the community of Careyes inhabits an architectural wonderland set against sublime natural beauty. More than an exclusive resort, it’s a collection of dreams, ideas and ideals. Though Careyes as a destination might only be known to some, the greater Jalisco region is known to many as the home of tequila. Two years ago, Rocco Brignone and his cousin Giancarlo decided to develop an ultra-premium tequila brand that channeled the spirit of Careyes, a place they’d grown up visiting. Laúd Tequila debuted with a deliciously refreshing blanco that’s certainly a fit for sipping in the enclave, but also anywhere else one can get their hands on a bottle.
“Careyes is where it all starts,” Brignone tells COOL HUNTING. “My grandfather was Italian. He moved to Mexico 55 years ago and established a community along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. The reason it’s so magical, beyond the beauty of the land, is the community and what it stands for. My cousin Giancarlo and I wanted to share that experience with the rest of the world: the values of Careyes, the magic that it has.”
Brignone’s blanco runs contrary to the path of other emerging ultra-premium tequila brands, which tend to focus on creamy añejos. “Giancarlo and I prefer blanco,” he explains. “It’s the purest expression of what tequila is meant to be. The distillation process doesn’t have artificial colors or flavoring. The plants are pesticide-free. The juice itself is organic.” This too mirrors a mission of Careyes, to exist within nature without disturbing it.
The cousins spent three weeks visiting a dozen tequila distilleries in search of the perfect partner. “We were blown away when we went to Tequila las Americas in Amatitán,” Brignone says. “It’s a small distillery with one or two brands we’d heard of before. The person that owned the distillery was a farmer. His dad was a farmer. He wanted to produce the most beautiful agaves, with the best piñas. That love for the agave really showed in his product. We fell in love with it.”
The ethos and aesthetics of Careyes infuse the design, as well. “The bottle itself, we made it rectangular because we wanted it to reflect the unique architecture of Careyes,” Brignone says. “As for the packaging, it almost feels like a book—and when you open it, it includes our conditions. Some of the conditions we made for ourselves, others are drawn from the 27 conditions that my grandfather made for Careyes. They are whimsical. Like, you must know the silence of spaces and be comfortable with them. Or, you must admire the sunrise and the sunset. They’re beautiful things to live by and they bring our story together.”
Originally, Laúd was destined for Careyes only. “I wanted to make sure everyone there liked it,” Brignone continues. “When they did, I thought about bringing it to the US. I began to spread the word, not only about the product but its values and what it stands for. It’s not a tequila for people who just want to have a tequila. I want people to know the story of Careyes and the idea of this man in Italy heading to the other side of the world to create something with his imagination.”
A portion of the proceeds from Laúd benefit the Brignone family’s educational foundation in Mexico, which is now 35 years old. Brignone himself dreams of his early days there and his family’s commitment to preservation of the land. “I remember when I was a kid, I’d be so excited to go visit my dad who lives there full-time,” he says. “We’d go camping on the beaches and we’d collect turtle eggs and put them in conservation nests.”
Brignone is quick to admit he is not a connoisseur and this is a labor of love that he embarked upon with his cousin. “I just turned 22. I’m young. I’ve entered one of the most saturated, competitive liquor markets in the States. I have a lot of heart and passion, though,” he says.
As for distribution, Laúd is everywhere in Careyes but also throughout the US. “We didn’t work with a distributor in the US, we worked with a wholesaler, which was a nice way to do it because I could control where the bottles went,” Brignone says. “We wanted it to be in the best spots in New York, LA and Miami. In New York, we’re in members’ clubs Zero Bond, Casa Cipriani, Casa Cruz. In LA, we’re in San Vicente Bungalows, Sunset Tower. In Miami, we’re in Casa Tua and The Setai. You can also buy it nationwide, online, from our retail partner, Sip Tequila.”
“I love members’ clubs because it’s kind of what Careyes is: exclusive and luxurious,” he says. “Giancarlo and I love this idea of being candid. In members’ clubs, you can’t be on your phone. You can’t pose for photos. In Careyes, you have to be in the moment. You have to be yourself and be with the people around you.” Laúd is certainly something worth sharing with others in those moments of togetherness.
Images by Rocco Brignone