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Bacardi Buys Illegal Mezcal for US$130 Million



It's official: spirits giant Bacardi Limited is the new owner of the iconic Ilegal Mezcal.

As far as brand marketing goes, Ilegal Mezcal is perhaps one of the most skilled storytellers of the modern mezcal scene. Best known in the US for its provocative campaigns, during the 2016 US election cycle, Ilegal Mezcal took to the streets with posters of "Donald Eres Un Pendejo" (Donald, You're an Asshole).  Wild street posters and stencils bearing the provocative phrase began popping up overnight, transforming the urban canvases of New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.



The campaign aimed to unify those opposed to Trump's more contentious remarks, giving a voice to a community dismayed by xenophobia, all while channelling the spirit of rebellion of Ilegal Mezcal.

Ilegal Mezcal was started in 2006 by American John Rexer, who named his brand as such as a nod to his audacious days of smuggling mezcal out of Mexico to be served in his bar in Guatemala. According to Rexer, he even dressed up as a Roman Catholic priest to smuggle his mezcals, so as to not arouse suspicions.

All Ilegal Mezcal expressions are made with Espadin agave at Palenque Mal De Amore. The brand has been officially certified as an artisanal mezcal by the Mexican trade agency Consejo Regulador del Mezcal.


(Source: Alec Kugler)


Bacardi Limited first took a minority stake Ilegal in 2017, and more recently decided to fully complete its purchase and own 100% of Ilegal in a US$130 million deal. While Bacardi already owns several agave spirit brands such as Patrón and Cazadores, this acquisition of Ilegal marks Bacardi's first foray into the niche premium mezcal segment. 

Mezcal enthusiasts often contrast Ilegal Mezcal with competitors such as the likes of Del Maguey. However, while Del Maguey works with a network of small-scale villagers (thus producing its "single village" mezcals), Ilegal Mezcal is produced entirely by Palenque Mal De Amore. This model would allow Ilegal Mezcal to quickly increase production as the brand expands.



"We believe that Ilegal has the credentials to own and lead the super-premium mezcal category at a global level.

Ilegal perfectly complements our portfolio and bringing it into our business sets the brand up for even greater growth as mezcal captivates more and more consumers,” said Barry Kabalkin, the vice chairman of Bacardi.


88 Bamboo Editorial Team