For Sonya Auvray, Doña Vega began as a passion project. Having grown to love mezcal through years of drinking it alongside her Mexican family, the president and founder of Wetherly Group decided to produce a premium variety of her own– one that would encapsulate the spirit’s authenticity (Mexicans know mezcal as the spirit of the nation) while also updating it in such a way that would appeal to the US market, whose growing interest in the agave-based liquor shows no signs of slowing down.
Auvray's primary motive is to educate mezcal drinkers through her brand, as there are many misconceptions about this popular, yet mysterious spirit. The most common misconception is that mezcal is tequila, when in fact tequila is mezcal. Think of it like geometry for spirits—a square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle is only sometimes a square. Just because tequila was first to attain widespread popularity does not mean it's the original agave liquor, and mezcal's trending status most truly seems to reveal the growing impact of cultural exchange. Like Doña Vega's slogan says, the spirit is "so old, it's new."
Authentic, playful, and modern are the three words Auvray uses to describe Doña Vega, which features chic packaging design and a female production team. She later adds that it “represents the side of Mexican history that is creative, bold, and progressive. Brand loyalists will appreciate our authentic adherence to tradition but also our creative take on what a modern mezcal brand can be.”
Below, Auvray discusses exclusively with L’Officiel USA her thoughts on the growing mezcal market and how Doña Vega came to be.
What is Mexico’s relationship to mezcal? And what’s yours?
Mexico is the only place where mezcal can be produced. I’m Mexican, and my grandfather always had mezcal for any and all family celebrations. As it turns out, the past few years friends and I have transitioned from drinking tequila to mezcal, there is something more interesting about it. There is a saying that is very true… “For everything bad, mezcal. For everything good, mezcal."
What do you think has made mezcal such a popular spirit in the US?
The smoky note offers an interesting twist and brings a uniqueness to cocktails.
In such a saturated market, why did you feel compelled to launch Doña Vega? What sets it apart from other mezcal brands?
This has been a work in progress for almost three years. Yes, the market is saturated, but mezcal is still somewhat unknown outside the large cities and is growing at a very rapid rate. Many people think mezcal is tequila; however, it’s actually that tequila is mezcal. What sets us apart first is the spirit; we let our pinas mature for double the average of three to four years, and we distill only one-and-a-half times, meaning that we don’t add water to the agave. It’s pure! Second, being in the fashion world, I wanted to add creative elements. The label and logo were designed by creative artists. If you notice, the label is done in bright colors which is off-the-beaten-path of most labels [in an effort to make the bottle more recognizable].
What do you mean with your tag line “it’s so old, it’s new”?
Mezcal is older than tequila, yet it’s new and trending.
What’s the brand’s relationship to women? You mentioned women entirely run and produce it.
I visited 22 farms and ended up partnering with our producer because of the quality of the mezcal. I knew that the three daughters ran the business, however, when we went to sign the contract, it’s the wife that owns the business and the fields. I have a great rapport with the three girls. What I appreciate most is that they all went to school and have a modern way of thinking. Together, I think we have a great team!
Tell me a bit about the two mezcals. What’s the difference between the two?
They are two different types of agave. The Espadin is quite large in size, while the tobala is very small and round. The Espadin has a traditional smokey profile with subtle earthy and vegetal nuances that exemplify what mezcaleros have been doing for hundreds of years. Tobala has a sweet, round, and subtle profile: notes of crema, soft hickory, dehydrated fruit, cocoa nib, nougat, vanilla, and toasted oak.
How do you want Doña Vega to be enjoyed?
Both are great on their own; however, I personally like to add an ice cube. The Espadin is meant to be served in a cocktail, and the tobala is strictly a sipping mezcal.