Erstwhile Mezcal

Erstwhile Mezcal is an importer based in Brooklyn, New York. We specialize in artisanal and ancestral mezcal.

More than a mezcal brand, Erstwhile is a platform for the core values and and social missions that our founders believe in: mezcal education, transparency, promoting small family producers to an international audience / fan base, empowerment of women in the mezcal / wine & spirits industry.

We set ourselves apart from others in several ways. First, the small producers we work with are independent family businesses.  They are Erstwhile’s partners, not employees. We pay our producers fairly. We do not ask them for exclusivity or discounts.  We care about our producers’ economic empowerment and put our money where our mouth is.  We seek out small producers who are interested in exporting out of Mexico, but do not have the means to do so on their own.  We help them get certified and licensed for export. We feel good about the fact that we help our producers clear these hurdles from the get-go, independent of their work with us in the future.

Unlike family-owned brands, we are not encumbered by loyalty to any particular family.  When you support Erstwhile, you support not just one but all the family producers we partner with.

Second, we are committed to transparency.  Look at the back label of every Erstwhile bottle: it gives full disclosure of where you can find our partner producer in Oaxaca and buy directly from the source if you so choose.  Talk to us in person.  Read our website, product pages, blog posts, newsletters, social media.  We are proud and open about who we are, who our partner producers are, and every aspect of how we do business.

Third, we are committed to mezcal education, both as teachers and as students.  That is why Erstwhile takes a curatorial, rotating approach when deciding which mezcals we want to bring you.  We bring you not one but a variety to showcase mezcal’s infinite nuances: different agave species, different flavor profiles, different producers, different production methods, different [fill in your suggestion here, we want to hear from you!].

Our vision and commitment to you: keep on discovering kickass distillations by small family producers who want to grow through export; promote these producers and their mezcals; introduce them to you and to mezcal lovers all over the world.  We do not sacrifice excellence to maximize profit or convenience. We commit the Erstwhile name if and only if it is an excellent or extraordinary mezcal. No matter how small the volume. No matter how cumbersome the logistics.

Erstwhile is a woman-owned, woman-operated business. We support fellow women in mezcal production and all aspects of the mezcal / wine & spirits industry whenever possible.

the vision of

Our Founders

Erstwhile Mezcal was co-founded by two mezcal enthusiasts: Yuan Ji (former antitrust attorney) and Kevin J. Brown (the mastermind behind Geographicus Rare Antique Maps).  Yuan and Kevin are no strangers to amor a primera vista.  Mezcal and Oaxaca go so darn well with their other passions (cocktails, tacos, history, and swashbuckling adventure, to name a few).  It is hard not to be smitten.

Upon returning from their first of many trips to Oaxaca, Yuan and Kevin had a vision that has sharpened in focus with the passage of time:

  • A platform for mezcal education, transparency, sustainability, and fair dealings with small independent family producers. 
  • A mezcal project that empowers small producers to grow via export, and that promotes small producers to an international market / fan base.  
  • A company that brings some core values of antitrust policy to the mezcal market: clearing barriers to market entry for small producers; providing as many great options as possible to mezcal consumers and enthusiasts all over the world. 

A mezcal portfolio after their own hearts.  With a reputation for mezcal made the old-fashioned way, of only the finest quality or extraordinary provenance.  Painstakingly curated after many a tasting trip through the Oaxacan countryside.  Sourced from master mezcaleros’ personal libraries.  Made available for the first time to mezcal lovers in the U.S. and international market beyond.

The mezcal of choice for doers.  For risk-takers, nonconformists, creative folks, independent thinkers, and swashbucklers.  For people who lead lives believing if their dreams do not scare them, the dreams are probably not big enough.  

When you sip an Erstwhile Mezcal, you experience the complexities and flavors of a slow, small-batch handcraft, honed and passed down from generation to generation.  You support the families and partake in the family traditions of Erstwhile’s partner mezcal producers.  You make into reality a world that Erstwhile Mezcal’s founders dreamed about, and then built with their hearts and souls.

Yuan and Kevin

some of our

Media and Press Mentions


In this writeup for PACIFIC, a magazine affiliated with The San Diego Union-Tribune, Carolina Gusman spotlights a March 5, 2020 mezcal presentation, tasting and fundraiser that Erstwhile Mezcal hosted in conjunction with Tahona Bar in San Diego, California.  All ticket proceeds from the event were donated to S.A.C.R.E.D. (Saving Agave for Culture, Recreation, Education and Development) for their project of replanting tobalá agave seedlings, and gifting seedlings to mezcal producers and farmers in need of agaves.

Rabbit Hole

In this article for Rabbit Hole magazine titled “The Mezcal Invasion”, B. Alexandra Szerlip does a deep dive into mezcal’s history, production process, and rising popularity worldwide.  She gives a kind shoutout to Erstwhile Mezcal’s mission to help small, independent family producers get certified and licensed for export to the United States and beyond.


The Spirit Guide Society

In Episode 104 of The Spirit Guide Society podcast, host Pedro Shanahan samples five expressions of small-batch mezcal from Erstwhile Mezcal’s flagship line at Las Perlas, a legendary mezcaleria in Los Angeles, California.  Pedro also chats with Yuan Ji (founder of Erstwhile Mezcal) about Erstwhile’s social mission of promoting small family producers in rural Mexico, and empowering them to export for the first time.