Espolòn Tequila creator diesBy Nicola Carruthers
Cirilo Oropeza, creator and master distiller of Campari Group-owned Espolòn Tequila, has died at the age of 80.
Oropeza died on 5 October 2020 in his native Mexico, surrounded by family. With more than 50 years of industry experience, Espolòn was said to be the lifelong aspiration of Oropeza.
Oropeza’s passion for spirits started in 1965 when he began his career at Ingenio Potrero Distillery in Veracruz, Mexico, managing sugar cane quality control for the site’s rum. He had previously described himself as “intensely curious” and was fascinated by yeast.
Four years later, Oropeza took on a supervisor role at Oso Negro’s gin distillery in Tlaxcala, Mexico, and soon after assumed management of the gin and vodka distillation process.
The 1990s saw Oropeza move to Jose Cuervo’s distillery in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he supervised Tequila production.
Oropeza’s expertise was soon recognised by an entrepreneur, who asked him to help build a new distillery and Tequila brand in the Jalisco Highlands in 1995. This led to the creation of Espolón Tequila, with the first bottles shipped globally in 1998.
“I consider these Tequilas my second sons and care for them as I would my own family,” Oropeza once said of Espolón.
Oropeza was widely recognised for his passion and dedication to every step of the distilling process. He was also known to serenade the yeast with classical music daily during the fermentation process as he believed it would help the yeast activate due to the vibrations of the sound waves.
The Espolòn brand was snapped up by Italian firm Campari Group in 2009.
“Cirilo Oropeza was a true legend in the world of Tequila and the spirits industry at large – unrivalled in his curiosity, passion and dedication to his lifelong dream, but above all he was a great man and a true Camparista, loved by his collaborators,” said Bob Kunze-Concewitz, Campari Group CEO.
“His contributions and unconventional methods undoubtedly changed the Tequila category. As he perfected his craft, we joined him in his exuberance at watching Espolòn conquer the palates of connoisseurs around the world.
“He will be dearly missed, but his techniques will live on and inspire generations of Tequileros to come. All Camparistas thoughts go to his family.”
Oropeza had spent most of his time in Arandas, Jalisco, and resided part time in Puebla City, Mexico. He is survived by his wife, four children and one grandson.