Interview: Lobos 1707 Tequila + Mezcal Founder Diego Osorio

The Chief Creative Officer on storytelling, his place on the shelf and everyone's place at the table

A glimpse at the agave spirits section of most liquor stores will reveal crisp, clear spirits and amber, aged iterations—all of which marry respect for tradition with a quest for the future of quality. As the category booms, it continues to crowd but rarely does a new liquid warrant attention quite like Lobos 1707. Founded by Diego Osorio, the luxury brand drew considerable attention upon its launch last November because basketball star LeBron James stepped in as an early investor. But this is not just another celebrity brand. This is Osorio’s vision, and one he maintains as Chief Creative Office. Offering the role of CEO to Dia Simms, a legend in the liquor industry for her former role at Ciroc, was one of his first deft decisions.

Talent empowers the brand. They refer to themselves as the “Wolfpack” (a nod to the brand’s name). But of greater importance is the liquid itself. The luscious Lobos 1707 portfolio includes a Joven, Reposado, Extra Añejo and Mezcal Artesanal. You may wonder why there’s no Blanco (or “silver”) at the entry level. That’s because all of the liquid gets finished in Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry barrels from Spain. And they benefit from this flavorful process substantially.

The sherry connection pertains to Osorio’s upbringing. “My family has been in the business a long time,” he tells us. A few years ago, as Osorio was pursuing a career in acting, he began to consider side projects. “My cousin told me to view the spirits industry as another way of storytelling. I began to do research and found the story I wanted to tell: that my great-great-grandfather—who I share a name with—was aging tequila in Spanish wine barrels as he transported it to Spain. I knew that was a story that should be told, and could be told, and it makes sense in a marketplace, as well.”

Osorio began to fund the brand out of pocket, but reached a plateau. He opened it up to friends and family for investment. Through his network, someone brought it to the attention of James and his business partner Maverick Carter. In his pitch, Osorio was very clear that the liquid came first but the brand needed to have a personality. “It needs to stand for something. With my role, I make sure that we adhere to that. Everyone that touches the brand wants it to fit in one of their boxes. I have to fight that and sustain our vision. I even have to remind myself who we are as we figure out shelf placement and labeling and box cards, all of these elements that come together to create an identity.”

Before addressing the tequila and mezcal, it’s worth looking at the vessel that contains it. “It’s another tool to tell the story,” Osorio says. “We live and we die by our liquid. Everything starts from there. So when I started designing the bottle, I wanted something human-esque and personal. It has our family crest on it, with the two lobos, the wolves. This gave the name to the brand. On the back, it has an agave compass, to honor the fact that this is a Mexican product.”

Two years ago, we sat in on a developmental tasting of the liquid in Osorio’s apartment. The tequila and mezcal in the bottle succeeds (and separates itself from others) for a few key reasons. First being that, “I put two master distillers into one kitchen and each has brought his unique position. The Spanish master distiller has been doing sherries and brandies for roughly 50 years. He wants to honor that. The master distiller from Mexico wants to honor the tequila itself. What they do together creates our unique profile. This is who we are.”

Second, the brand utilizes a solera system—which is typically employed in the production of wine or brandy, not tequila. It’s a continuous blending and maturation process. Osorio explains it best: “It’s like the way a bread-maker has his mother yeast. We have our mother body. It’s literally called La Madre. It’s what gives you the flavor of what’s to come from what came before it. It unites the liquid.” It also guarantees consistency.

The Joven holds its own against competitors but the Reposado truly outshines competition. It spends six months in American white oak barrels, then gets blended with a touch of Extra Añejo and finished in the PX wine barrels through the solera method. The Extra Añejo, aged three years in American oak, also rounds out in the the solera system. Tequila sippers will appreciate its smooth, sweet nuance. Of course, the mezcal is an entity unto itself, drawn from 100% Espadin agave and roasted in a Oaxacan fire pit.

When asked about the crowded tequila market, Osorio says, “Our liquid speaks for itself,” but adds “and then we do have LeBron. We have a different image than anyone else out there. We have our voice. That’s what we bring to the table.” Reiterating one of the brand’s key messages, Osorio says, “If the table isn’t big enough, it’s time to build a bigger table.”

Images courtesy of Lobos 1707