London fine wine and spirits merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd has taken on a mezcal for the first time in its 320-year-old history.

The agave-based spirit has been growing in popularity among bartenders, spirits aficionados and independent merchants in recent years, and Waitrose recently decided to introduce it to a wider audience.

Now Berry Bros spirits buyer Rob Whitehead has opted for an independent brand called Pensador as he aims to capitalise on the trend.

“It’s been almost 10 years since we took on our first tequila, and since then we’ve seen a slow but consistent growth in the category,” he said. “The numbers are still small, but it’s something people are interested in, and every brand we’ve listed has performed well. The time felt right for a mezcal.” 

The off-trade tequila category was worth less than £20 million in 2018 (Nielsen) and mezcal is only a fraction of the size.

However, it is a trendy category and it can be enjoyed like rum or malt whisky, as a luxurious, complex, sipping drink, while it also makes a great base for cocktails.

Londoner Ben Schroder founded Pensador in 2016, sourcing the liquid from a distillery in Mexico’s southern Oaxaca region.

Master mezcalero Atenogenes Garcia uses Espadin and Madrecuishe agaves and produces the mezcal in the traditional method, involving an underground pit oven, a horse-drawn mill stone natural air-borne yeast fermentation, and fire powered copper pot stills.
The estate production runs are just 400 litres per batch, and it is distilled twice and bottled at 48% abv.

A 50cl bottle has an rrp of £42, and Schroder has already gained listings with Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, plus high-end London bars such as Dandelyan, The American Bar at The Savoy, and Soho House. 

“I’m really pleased with Pensador,” added Whitehead. I could have chosen a bigger brand, but the category is still fairly open, and Pensador passed my inviolable first hurdle – Is it good to drink? I’m excited to introduce our customers to the brand and I’m looking forward to expanding our agave range further in the future.” 

Pensador pays homage to the distillery’s location on the Calle Pensamientos, but it also means “thinker” and aims to remind consumers to “take it slow and think about what they are drinking”. 

Schroder has established a company called Meanwhile to distribute the brand.