What does Erstwhile mean?  What is the story behind Erstwhile Mezcal’s logo?

We get asked these questions a lot from folks who are getting to know us for the first time.  I figured it is high time that I write a blog post addressing these excellent questions.




When we set out to design Erstwhile’s flagship line, we wanted to create something beautiful in every sense of the word.  We were confident that the quality of our agave spirits would speak for itself, but the packaging needs to not just match but elevate its content.

A woman warrior holding a flowering quiote, riding a velociraptor and charging forth.  That is Erstwhile Mezcal’s logo in a nutshell.

Erstwhile Mezcal is a woman-owned, women-led business.  Elevating underrepresented voices in our industry, including those of women, is one of our core values.  In almost every mezcal producer family we have met and work with, there is at least one strong, capable woman in the family who runs the show.

We want the logo to honor that strong female presence alongside the spirit of the agave plant.  The Erstwhile woman is strong and capable.  She’s got spunk and grit, but not at the expense of beauty and femininity.  She is warm.  She is whimsical.  She has a great sense of humor.



But you do not want to mess with her. The Erstwhile woman is surely going where she sets her mind to, and there is no stopping her. She is such a badass that she can hoist, in mid air, an entire flowering quiote. With one hand.

Quick note on the quiote, for those who are not familiar. Quiote is the stalk that shoots out from the core of an agave when the plant is mature and ready to produce future generations.

Depending on the agave varietal, the quiote can shoot up to a height as tall as 30 feet so that they are far out of reach from animals and harm.

It is a majestic sight to behold.

Why velociraptor? This warrior needs her steed. A velociraptor is an Erstwhile creature (more on that in a moment). And I think we can all agree that a velociraptor is much more awesome than, say, a horse. She is fast, and steadfast. She is ferocious but loyal. She has a delightful Game of Thrones sensibility, and a great smile to boot.

I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to ride the Erstwhile velociraptor if given the chance!




No two Erstwhile bottles are alike. The black-and-white backdrop image, which you can see if you look closely into each bottle, is different for every Erstwhile limited-edition release.

Look for old family photos from our partner producer families, vintage photos of Oaxaca, and snapshots from our mezcal-fueled travels in future Erstwhile bottles.


José Lucas García, 7th generation mezcal producer from San Isidro Guishe, Oaxaca.


We designed our bottles as an epistolary gift to you – a series of postcards to chronicle the faces, places and stories that have made Erstwhile the mezcal project possible.

Think of our bottles as a family photo album in progress. We invite you to join the Erstwhile family, and help us fill the blank pages of this evolving photo album in the years to come.

In terms of aesthetics and design, we chose this photo because it makes the bottle pop visually. When viewed from a distance, the black-and-white palette is especially stunning in a full bottle. It makes a beautiful marble-like background, and a striking contrast against the warm red-and-yellow palette on the front of the bottle.




ERSTWHILE  /ˈərstˌ(h)wīl/


Definition: belonging to an earlier time or tradition

Synonyms: bygone; long-ago; of old


My co-founder Kevin and I wanted a name that has enough gravitas to match the antiquity, beauty, history and tradition of Mezcal production.  We also wanted a name that, ideally, connects with the English-speaking consumers and mezcal fans in the United States.

Though not commonly used in modern day English, the word “erstwhile” has been part of the English lexicon since the 16th century.  It is formed from two Old English words: ær, meaning “early”; and hwīl, similar to the modern word “while”.

“Erstwhile” is apropos for Mezcal because, like the craft of mezcal production, it has been in existence for hundreds of years.  It conjures antiquity, history, and tradition.  The idea of something impossibly beautiful and complex, first made in a bygone era and then honed from generation to generation, witnessing and withstanding the passage of time.

Oldest Known Map of Oaxaca City, from the archives of Erstwhile Mezcal

Oldest known map of Oaxaca City, from the archives of Erstwhile Mezcal

Many mezcal brands on the market nowadays have Spanish names. Back when my co-founder Kevin and I were brainstorming names, most if not all of the other ideas we came up with were also in Spanish, paying homage to the land where our partner producers live and craft their agave spirits.

But in the end, we chose a name with roots in old English.  We wanted a name that connects with our fellow consumers and mezcal enthusiasts in the United States, many of whom do not speak Spanish.

The more we know about a mezcal’s Erstwhile provenance, by which I mean its past and its origin, the richer the experience of each sip.

A handcrafted agave spirit is Erstwhile by its very nature. Celebrate it while it lasts, for there is no guarantee that you can experience it ever again once the batch is gone.  That is part of its beauty – one of the many reasons why I love mezcal and agave spirits.

Yuan Ji

Founder of Erstwhile Mezcal