Bacardi acquires super-premium artisanal mezcal brand

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Ilegal Mezcal is well-positioned in a category that's 'captivating more and more consumers', says Bacardi. Pic: Bacardi
Ilegal Mezcal is well-positioned in a category that's 'captivating more and more consumers', says Bacardi. Pic: Bacardi

Related tags Bacardi mezcal premiumisation Premium spirits Us Tequila

Bacardi Limited has become the sole owner of ILEGAL Mezcal: accelerating its growth in the super-premium mezcal category.

Bacardi has partnered with ILEGAL since 2015: and believes the brand has ‘the credentials to own and lead the super-premium mezcal category at a global level’.

Mezcal growth

The super-premium plus mezcal category is growing at a fast pace and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16% over the next five years, according to IWSR.

Between now and 2027, the agave category – which includes both mezcal and tequila – is expected to be the sixth largest category globally, and it recently overtook American Whiskey to become the second largest category (by value) in the US.

At 86% of global market share, the US dominates the super-premium mezcal category (2022 IWSR).

“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, Vice Chairman of Bacardi Limited. 

ILEGAL says it is known for its lifestyle branding, as well as priding itself on its responsible and sustainable business. It works with fourth-generation maestros mezcaleros in Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca, Mexico. The mezcal is double distilled in small batches using 100% Espadin agave. ILEGAL Mezcal is 100% natural and uses no artificial colors, yeasts, flavors, or additives. It is certified as artisanal mezcal by the Consejo Regulador del Mezcal (CRM).

John Rexer created ILEGAL in 2006, after years of working with small distillers in Oaxaca to make mezcal for his bar in Guatemala. He will continue to ‘guide the vision of the brand’, says Bacardi.

“We are excited about the next stage of the journey,” says John Rexer. “Success for ILEGAL goes beyond seeing more of our bottles on shelves; it’s about building our business the right way. We will always be committed to artisanal production, the Oaxacan community, and our core values. Being a part of Bacardi will bring ILEGAL to a larger audience while maintaining our commitment to sustainability and growing the business responsibly.”

ILEGAL Mezcal is available in Joven, a full-bodied agave flavor with a light smoke; Reposado, aged six months in medium-charred American oak; and Añejo, aged to taste for 13 months using a combination of new and used American oak, medium char barrels.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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