Earlier this month, I had a chance to chat with comedian Ron White – you probably know him best from his work on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour – in conjunction with his latest round of tour dates featuring a night in my home town of Norfolk, Virginia. We chatted for quite some time…enough time, in fact, for me to pull together a piece for the Pilot (“Interview: Comedian Ron White Prefers His Shows Live“), an altogether different piece for AntennaFree.TV (“Pilot Error: Comedian Ron White Reflects on ‘Señor White’ and Takes Us Through ’12 Miles of Bad Road’“), and still have a bit more material left over.
It’s not really “left over,” though, as I made a point of keeping this portion of the conversation for Bullz-Eye. I mean, come on: if Ron White talking about the tequila company he co-owns with his brother-in-law, fellow comedian Alex Reymundo, isn’t something that’s got “Bullz-Eye” written all over it, I don’t know what does.
Once upon a time, White was quoted as saying, “There were years when I was a beer and tequila guy, then I got real fat. And then I found that you could actually go on a diet and drink scotch. Then I got hooked on scotch, and if you get hooked on scotch, then everything else just tastes wrong.” Apparently, he’s changed his tune a bit on tequila now that he’s selling the stuff. Then again, from the sound of it, this tequila probably tastes a hell of a lot better than the stuff he was swigging back then.
The topic of tequila came up somewhat offhandedly, when I asked White about his writing regimen. In the process of explaining that he writes most of his material on the road, getting input from the team of folks who travels with him, he began listing off the travelers by saying, “I’ll have an opening act, usually my brother-in-law, who’s also my partner in my tequila company. He and I own a company called Number Juan Tequila. Best tequila in the world.” He didn’t mention it again after that, but having thrown that tidbit into play, I decided to pick it up and run with it a few minutes later.
Bullz-Eye: So how did this tequila company come about?
Ron White: Well, my genius brother-in-law, Alex Reymundo, has been working on it for probably four years, going down to Mexico. He’s from Mexico. My wife (Margo Rey) is his brother, and they were all born in Acapulco. Their father was a cliff diver – no shit – and they moved down here when Margo was one or two and were raised in Texas, but he’s always had this connection. They always went back on long holidays, extended holidays, especially at Christmas, where they’d get in the station wagon, all seven of ‘em, and plow on down to Acapulco, which is, uh, not very close to here if you’ve ever looked at a map. [Laughs.] It’s way down there. I can’t even imagine, ‘cause I’ve driven in Mexico before, and this was back in the ‘70s. But they did it, so their connection to Mexico was always real. They all speak Spanish fluently, and they all speak English fluently.
So he started going down there, and he talked to a buddy of his who said, “You’ve just gotta come taste this tequila!” And Alex went and tasted it, and he said it was the best tequila he had ever tasted, and he wanted to meet the people that were making it. So he went to Jalisco, Mexico, and went out in the fields and kind of studied tequila for a while. I mean, one of our ads for radio was gonna be, “We don’t always drink tequila.” [Laughs.] “Nah, we’re just fucking with you. We always drink tequila!” But he went down there and met this family, and they were making this tequila but only selling it in Mexico. They sold it in resorts, and it was really, really, really expensive stuff. Like, ridiculous. Like, $150 or $300 a bottle or whatever. But they had the capacity to make a lot of it. I mean, not compared to Patron, but compared to what they were making. But they had no presence in the United States.
So Alex went down there and made a deal with them, which took a while. [Laughs.] He had to convince them that they could trust him to do a good job. But he’s done an amazing job. We’ve already won two gold medals for our Extra Anejo, we won the Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest and the Mexico Spirits Competition in San Diego, which is use. In that one, we won the Gold for our Extra Anejo, our Blanco and Reposado both won Silvers, and we won Best in Show for Packaging for the whole thing. And he did all that! I mean, he did it. He picked out and had the bottle made, the labels, everything it takes. The box, the pictures… It was a lot of stuff that he did just out of passion.
So I always said… [Starts to laugh.] Because, you know, I didn’t know what he was doing, but I knew he believed in it, so I always just kind of said to myself, “If he gets it on the shelf, I’ll come on board.” And I did. And I love the tequila, and…it’s fun. It’s a fun story. And neither of us need it to live, you know, so it’s not like we’re living out of a car while we’re trying to figure out somebody to buy this juice. But it’s a fun project, and my son’s involved, so he gets to go out there to great bars and go, “Hey, this is my dad and my uncle’s tequila!” But to watch people’s face when they taste it… It’s just an amazing-tasting tequila. It’s really a cognac-y tasting stuff. The old one is. It’s five years old, the Extra Anejo. What else can I tell you about it? [Laughs.]
BE: Well, I was just going to say a moment ago that I associate you so much with scotch that it was surprising to hear that you’re partners in a tequila company, but it definitely sounds like some upscale stuff if you’re comparing it to cognac.
RW: Oh, yeah, it is. Give it a try! You can order it online. And we need the sales. [Laughs.] The Number Juan Extra Anejo is my favorite, but the other two are winning awards, too. It’s really amazing just how long America bought just really shitty tequila – I mean, really shitty – when you consider what could’ve been done just by waiting seven years to harvest the plants. It tastes different every year up until the seventh year. If you take no short cuts and you really know what you’re doing… They’ve been harvesting plants, this family, for a hundred years, and they’ve had small distilleries for 35 years. But now they have… The uncle has a much bigger, more modern distillery right down the street, so if we run into volume problems, he’s not running at capacity, either, and he’s making almost exactly the same thing from the exact same plant.
So that’s Ron’s take on the Number Juan line, but in the interest of equal opportunity, we thought we’d close by offering up this video featuring Mr. White’s business partner and brother-in-law, Alex Reymundo, filmed as he was prepping for a photo shoot that spotlighted the Number Juan brand. It’s not terribly long, but he does provide a bit of tequila history that ties nicely into some of Ron’s remarks.