Once while interviewing the Director of Photography for very hip, very prosperous media giant Vice Media, Jake Burghart, I asked the St. Augustine native what role growing up in Northeast Florida played on his eventual success. Aside from expressing fairly typical platitudes about the inherent drive that’s instilled in folks who grow up in places that are relatively obscure (or not New York/Los Angelos), Burghart talked about how everywhere he goes, he’s somehow drawn into friendships or collaborative relationships with people from Florida—who he reasoned must have been beset by a similar longitudinal-related sense of purpose.
In the case of Jacksonville Beach Native, current Mexico City resident and a partner in the distinctive Mezcal brand Noble Coyote, Brandon McCullers, that fortuitous Floridian fate has led him to partner with a vast assortment of people in various locales, from his time surfing his brains out and distributing beer throughout Costa Rica to his current gig where he works with an Oaxacan Evolutionary Biologist, a group of Maestro mezcaleros, and an ageless donkey.
“I fell in love with Mezcal, the brand, and the people involved when I moved to Mexico City and started doing distribution for Coyote,” says McCullers, who shortly after moving to Mexico from Costa Rica met Coyote founder, a biologist named Bernando Santo. McCullers has since become a partner in the company, which not only specializes in a unique spirit, but in a traditional way of making it.
While many relate mezcal to tequila, which is made exclusively with blue agave mainly culled from the state of Jalisco, mezcal can be made from any of more than 30 varieties of agave, giving the spirit a much broader flavor profile than tequila. The cooking process is also much different.
“Our mezcal is made old fashioned way,” says McCullers. “Smoked in a hole in the ground before being crushed with the assistance of a donkey after which the mash ferments in an open air fermentation tank for a week before being twice distilled in copper—three distillations for the Jabalí agave.”
A group of expert mezcal makers, known as maestro mezcaleros proceeds through the the entire production by hand—with the aid of the donkey, of course—in the same way that the spirit has been made for centuries. “One of our mezcaleros doesn’t know exactly how old he is, but does know he has been making mezcal for more than 70 years,” McCullers laughs.
“My love for mezcal just keeps growing and growing,” McCullers says.
Since joining the team at Coyote, McCullers has helped bring the artisanal-prepared spirit to the U.S., where it’s now available in New York, Illinois, and—perhaps due to that Sunshine State magnetism—here in Florida, as well.