Meet The Makers: Tom & Jack, Co-Founders of El Rayo Tequila

This is what happens when two lads from Peckham have a tequila-led dream

How many times have you and your best mate dreamt up a business after one too many tequilas? We bet you've probably lost count. But how many times have you made those agave-infused dreams come true? Probs not as many times as Tom & Jack, the two BFFs from Peckham who founded the hottest new tequila on the market; El Rayo.

In their 20 years of friendship, these two lads had found themselves on one too many hazy ends of nights out starring 3am shots laced with lime, salt and debauchery they'd sooner have forgotten. Sounds familiar. They wanted to actually see if they could enjoy tequila when they weren't on a night out. After explaining their dilemma to a bartender, she made us them their first Tequila & Tonic, and there it was. The beginning of the El Rayo journey.

We got the intel from the lads themselves to learn about how they created this game-changing tequila.

Nice to meet you, lads. So you went from tequila slammer shooters to makers of one of the best new tequilas on the market in just a few years. How did you make that happen?

After we discovered this new perfect way to enjoy tequila, we made the ridiculous decision to quit our jobs and head to Guadalajara, where we met Mario from Toro Pinto and immersed ourselves in their incredible culture. A far cry from the old fashioned stereotypes we’d been fed, it was vibrant, contemporary and full of art and design. This was modern Mexico. With the help of Mario and one of only 200 Maestro Tequileros in the world, Oscar Garcia, we set to work on developing the perfect modern tequila to represent it. Two years, multiple blends, a few logistical nightmares and a little bit of fun later, we launched in May 2019 - and have been supplying the world with T&Ts ever since.

That was a bold move. So tell us about your tequila - what's the deal?

El Rayo is the first Tequila in the world designed to be paired with tonic.

We spent over 18 months with the help of Oscar Garcia developing the perfect Tequila for this purpose. Crucial to the clean and fresh flavours are the 105 year old copper stills we use. These stills were originally made in Spain to make brandy in the 1920s but fell into disrepair. 28 years ago they were purchased and flown to Mexico to be put to better use!

Our unique production process is all about preserving and extracting the clean and natural flavours of the majestic blue agave plant. The result is a clean spirit that naturally packs a range of vibrant, fresh, herbal notes. 

So you currently have two tequilas. What's the difference between them?

Our No. 1 Plata naturally packs a range of vibrant, fresh and herbal notes which pair perfectly with bittersweet taste of tonic water. Twice distilled through copper stills retaining clean and natural flavours. From our No.2 Reposado you can expect a complex mix of vegetal and caramel notes which are designed to pair with tonic. Softened over 7 months in American white oak whisky barrels.

These flavours pair perfectly with the bittersweet taste of tonic water to create a modern, refreshing drink. Our perfect T&T is 40ml of El Rayo, topped with Indian tonic and garnished with a big slice of grapefruit. As a T+T is perfect as an aperitif it's best served with some delicious appertivos, olives, cured meats and breadsticks, or you could go classic Mexican with some soft-shell tacos.

Sounds like the dream. So as the liquid is made in Mexico, tell us what a working day looks like for two best mates running a tequila company? 

Usually the morning is spent catching up on emails and reviewing our various online platforms. We are a "Direct To Consumer" spirits brand so we spend a lot of time on our core platforms (Shopify and Amazon) analysing sales and marketing campaigns and planning activity.

We work with a lot of amazing partners helping with everything from content creation, to copywriting and helping manage and grow various digital marketing channels, so we usually have a meeting each day with various partners to review and plan our digital activity for that channel. 

We work a lot with Mexican creatives and suppliers who are 6 hours behind us, so when they wake up its our afternoon so the rest of the day is spent on calls with them. 

We hope there's plenty of tequila drinking in the midst of all of that. So what has been the biggest challenge launching your product? 

Tequila is a DOP product which means it is heavily protected (think Champagne or balsamic vinegar) so a huge challenge for us was getting all of the appropriate certification to create, produce and export a Tequila brand to the UK. We first had the idea in early 2017 and launched in the summer of 2019 so have over two year R&D and a lot of this time was battling the regulation, but it was worth it! 

We'll say! What's been your proudest El Rayo moment?

We launched on Amazon and 8 months later we were in the top 4 selling Tequilas in the UK! We have had some amazing trade listing and are poured in some of the UK's best bars, from Oriole to Nine Lives. Similarly, our off-trade launch was in Selfridges which was an amazing experience. We’ve also had some amazing press - GQ put us at no.1 on their best Tequila’s list!

Those are two of our favourite bars. What are your favourite joints in London for a killer drink?

Jack: For me, it's got to be Scout in Hackney. They develop their own mind-bending infusions of spirits and drinks. Last time I was there I had a horseradish vodka and a glass of Roese (salmon roe wine...)

Tom: And for me... It's hard to pick just one, I always love The Vault - the perfect hidden spot for some great drinks.

Tell us about the name El Rayo. What was the inspo behind that?

Coming up with the name was one of the hardest things about setting up the brand, and we went round in circles for months until my brother gave me a book about the history of tequila, and hidden in one of the pages was a tiny extract about the Mexican folklore story of the origins of Tequila:

El Rayo. The lightening. Mexican folklore tells of El Rayo striking the blue agave. This was witnessed by a local campesino who followed the burning glow into the distance and discovered the cooked agave plant. Tequila was born.

 

You guys must drink a lot of T+Ts. When you're not sipping on El Rayo, what's your go-to order?

Jack: I'm a big beer fan so usually a cold can of Neck Oil or Camden IPA often with a chaser of Pensador Mezcal (the best in the business)

Tom: Mezcal. Anything from Mexico works for me. In fact there are some great craft beers from Mexico too - you'll normally find us sipping on a Colimita when we spend some time out there.

What does the future look like for you guys?

We are all about championing modern Mexican culture and have just launched our print store where we are selling exclusive artworks designed by some of the best and brightest creatives modern Mexico has to offer. We have got a huge collaboration coming out towards the end of this year, too, so watch this space!

 

You can buy yourself a bottle or two of El Rayo, along with their epic prints and a set of their killer glassware from Ferm Living right here.