Maluma Joins Contraluz Team To Build First Cristalino Mezcal Brand

Maluma Joins Contraluz Team To Build First Cristalino Mezcal Brand
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Colombian singer Maluma is lending his star power to make a new cristalino mezcal shine a little brighter.

Maluma, born Juan Luis Londoño Arias, first tried mezcal about seven years ago, soon after his 21st birthday, when a fan came up to him in a Mexico City airport and told him that she knows as a Colombian he drinks aguardiente —a spirit flavored with anise that translates to “firewater” — but she thought he’d like mezcal more.

“She told me you’re already 21 so you can drink, and I laughed because in Colombia it’s 18 years old,” Maluma recalled. “For me, aguardiente was a bit too strong, and I didn’t find the pleasure in it that I was looking for in alcohol. Mezcal felt more spiritual. I felt a little trip when I had the mezcal. I felt like I was connecting myself with the universe and having a more spiritual experience with alcohol. I was not drinking to get drunk, I was drinking to have an amazing time.”

Years later, Maluma’s father asked him to meet with representatives from Casa Lumbre, the parent company behind brands like Montelobos mezcal and Ancho Reyes ancho chile liquor, to try some of their products. Maluma fell in love with a cristalino mezcal, a smoky spirit made from Espadín agave, which is then aged for six months in former American whiskey barrels — about the length of time it would take to make a reposado mezcal. What sets it apart is the aged spirit is then charcoal filtered, which removes color and softens the oak influence so more of the agave shines through. The resulting liquid has notes of vanilla and honey and is lightly smoky.

Maluma then went down to Oaxaca to visit agave fields and palenques, and learn how mezcal was made.

“It was very magical how they put the agave under the ground and how they got the smoky flavors form that,” Maluma said of the process of burying agave in the ground to cook it. “Everyone works there with such passion, and that’s beautiful to me.”

The singer knows that a Colombia guy promoting a Mexican product might raise some eyebrows.

“In Colombia, people are so in love with aguardiente, and as a Colombia guy, taking mezcal to Colombia seems a little weird,” Maluma said. “But I just tell them to try it, don’t be skeptical to it, if you want to go back and keep drinking what they were before, like tequila or aguardiente, that’s fine, but just give it a chance. But once they try it, they don’t want to come back. It’s like music, when you have a good song, just listen to it once, an if you like it, just play it one more time.”

Contraluz has been for sale in Mexico since 2016, and made its American debut at $60 a bottle about a month ago in nine states with plans for expansion. Maluma said it will launch in Colombia in the coming months and hopes to take the product worldwide. He’s serving as part of the creative team, having input on product design, event activations and promotional campaigns.

His favorite way to drink it?

“With Contraluz, it’s kind of dangerous because you can drink it at anytime. Last night I came to the hotel and I was so tired, and I thought I don’t’ want to drink. But I saw that bottle looking at me and it was like, ‘Yo, this is good for you. Have one glass and you can go to bed,’” he said laughing. “Every occasion and aspect you can drink it.”

But if he had to choose, it would be on ice with a bit of lime.

“That way you can sip it and keep talking with your friends. It’s very social. When I say it’s magical, it’s because once you start drinking can, you can talk in any language, you can talk with everybody, it makes you feel more natural,” he said. “This project is going to be massive and worldwide. I’m very proud of it.”

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