Baltimore Brothers band together to create Los Hermanos 1978, a Black-owned tequila brand

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Brothers William and Donta Henson started the process of creating their own tequila after the pandemic granted them more free time. After a year of working with a Mexican distillery, the pair launched Los Hermanos 1978 in September. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

For many, the Coronavirus shutdowns led to an excess of free time, and William and Donta Henson were no exception. The brothers took to taste testing tequila. William would visit Donta and his wife at home, and each time they would try a different brand of the beverage. 

William ultimately decided that Casamigos was the best, and he encouraged the people in his life to make it their go-to brand. But, Donta thought that he and his brother may be able to make their own tequila. 

“I [thought,] let me look into this because this might be something we could really do, and I don’t want to let an opportunity go past me,” said Donta. 

In April 2020, he began reaching out to U.S. distilleries and asking if they were taking on new brands. Some were not because they had been charged with transforming their operations to make hand sanitizers. Those that were, wanted the brothers to go to Mexico and have the ingredients shipped back to the states. 

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Donta determined it would be better to work with a distillery based in the heart of Mexico’s Tequila Country. They landed on Casa Maestri, a third-generation, family-owned brand. 

“That was important because, for us, being a small brand just starting out, we wanted to work with somebody that had the time to work with a small brand, rather than jumping in with a big corporate company and getting kind of lost in the shuffle,” said Donta. 

In November, the brothers traveled to Guadalajara, toured the distillery, picked flavor profiles and designed bottles and labels. Thus, Los Hermanos 1978 was born. 

“Los Hermanos” translates to “the brothers,” and 1978 marks the year that Donta was born. The pair received their first shipment of tequila in August and launched their brand in September. 

The main quality Donta and William wanted their tequila to possess was smoothness. Its agave is hand-selected, slow-cooked and distilled into separate small batches to create a blanco and reposado, which has been aged for eight to 10 months. The blanco has notes of bright citrus, and the reposado has caramel and vanilla notes. 

“I think just the level of smoothness in these tequilas along with the flavor profiles definitely separates us from the competition,” said Donta. 

While the pandemic may have given them the opportunity to start their own business, it also delayed almost every part of the tequila-making process. However, Donta said he knew the wait was worthwhile after hearing reception from customers. 

Currently, Los Hermanos 1978 tequila is sold at Chat’s Liquors on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The brothers are waiting for approval from the Comptroller of Maryland to begin selling their spirits in the state, but they plan to have their tequila in Glen Burnie, Baltimore and Towson liquor stores. 

The duo recently won awards for their tequila at the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition. The blanco was awarded a silver medal, and the reposado was awarded a bronze medal.

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