Interview with Master Mezcalera Justina Ruiz Perez

Global Brand Ambassador, Monica Bautista Cortes sits down with Justina Ruiz Perez to talk about how it feels to work with Casa Cortes, what it's like to be a woman in mezcal and this history of this new partnership.

M: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Can you tell us your name and where we are? 

J: My name is Justina Ruiz Perez and we are in the Gotzengo Palenque, San Francisco, Sola de Vega. Thank you for coming today. It is an honor to work with the teammates from Casa Cortes.



M: You are smiling a lot! You seem so happy.  

J: I am! I feel happy seeing the first bottle of Ancestral Mezcal. I did not expect you to bring the bottle here.

M: Of course, we wanted you to see what we created for your mezcal. Tell me, the palenque here, when did you guys start working in it?

J: I think it was almost 16 years ago we moved here to produce mezcal.

M: You moved here with your whole family? Your son is older now, is he starting to learn to produce as well?

J: Ha Ha! Yes, of course. Actually, my son Juan already knows how to do it and me, I’m always learning. *ha ha*

M: As you know, this is the first Ancestral mezcal for Casa Cortes. It is a very important release because of that, but also because you are our very first Mezcalera. Until now, it has always been men. Can you talk a little about that, and your experience working with Casa Cortes?

J: I don’t even know how to explain it. *ha ha* I'm happy because we found a place where that pays us fairly for our mezcal. At other places they paid less. Also, someone from Casa Cortes comes to visit us at least once a week. Everyone is very nice and they always say we are part of their family now. No one has treated us like that in the past. 

M: I can tell you that we love coming here to see you. Everyone is so welcoming. We consider this a special place. 

J: Of course! *looks back at family* Do you want to say something? Do you want to add something?

*pause, talking*

J: Ha ha.. They are also happy. Because, we had never found someone to work with us like this. Most people pay very little. Right now the maguey is very expensive, which makes it difficult. Also, when someone comes and makes a purchase, we usually never see them again. I like this better.

M: I know that Rolando searched for a long time to find someone in Sola to work with. It is very important to Casa Cortes that we work with people that share our love of mezcal. Can you tell us about your first experience meeting him? Were you here the first time he came?

J: I wasn’t here so I’m not sure how that started. But, he came back of course. Like I said, someone from Casa Cortes is always here! *ha ha* So, I was here when Don Rolando came the second time and I saw he was a very kind and very respectful person. Also, the people who work with him and visit us are always very respectful and very kind.

M: When Rolando talks about when he first met you, he says he was surprised that you had a mezcal with him, because normally women don't drink it or they just don't drink. He said liked that you did have a mezcalito with him.

J: Well, the truth is, he was very excited to meet everyone and at that moment no one was drinking with him.. I do not know why, but they were not. As I said, he was so kind and respectful that I felt I needed to share a drink with him. 

M: Was it just one or several?

J: Well… I think I will say it was just one. *haha ​​*

M: As you know, your mezcal is going to be enjoyed by people all around the world. Is there anything you would like to say to someone in another part of the world that is drinking your Ancestral?

J: I think I would ask if they liked it!! *ha ha* But also I would say thank you that they are trying the mezcals that are from here from San Francisco, Sola. Also, I would tell them about the process. I would tell them that our mezcal is handmade with a wooden mallet and distilled in clay pots. It is very unique in that way.

M: Which part of the process is your favorite? Do you like crushing the maguey with the wooden mallet? I tried and it is very tiring! 

J: I never thought about it actually. You do have many sleepless nights during the first distillation and then the second one. That’s what's hard for me. Also, crushing the maguey is difficult, because we use large wooden mallets and it takes all day.

M: How did you choose which maguey to use for this mezcal? Is it what you have at the time or do you have one specifically in mind?

J: Ah, it’s because there are a lot of Coyote reaching maturity right now. But, for the most part Coyote is bought more than the Espadin or the other maguey

M: I think that is the end of our interview… is there anything we missed? Or anything you wish to add?

J: Only that I'm happy to share this ancestral mezcal. I am happy that Tio Rolando continues to come here and share this mezcal in other places.

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