When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Donta Henson and his brother William took on a new hobby: tequila tasting.
Every other week, William would bring a new tequila over to Donta’s house for him and his wife to try. After a while, people started turning to William for tequila suggestions.
“He became a spokesman,” said Donta. “People would go out and take pictures of tequila and send them back to him.”
“I said to him, ‘We could probably start our own brand and really do something,’” Donta said.
They laughed it off, but a week later the thought was still on Donta’s mind.
“I didn’t want to let an opportunity pass me,” he said.
That spring, the brothers, who were born in Pasadena, Maryland, decided to start their own tequila brand.
Donta reached out to distilleries around the U.S. Many weren’t taking on new clients or had begun using their distilleries to make hand sanitizer.
He found one distiller in Jacksonville, Fl., who directed him to Mexico.
In November 2020, the brothers flew to Guadalajara to tour Casa Maestri, a family-owned distillery.
“Us being new into this industry, it would be better to go with a family owned business because we could get the hand-holding that we needed in the beginning,” Donta said. William works for Baltimore City and Donta for Medicare.
At Casa Maestri, they picked out their flavor profile and designed their bottles and labels.
“We thought we knew about tequila when we went, but when we got there we found out we didn’t know anything about tequila,” he said.
Their tequila, Los Hermanos 1978, hit the market in August 2021. The name means brothers in Spanish and 1978 is the year Donta was born.
The brothers sold their tequila – a blanco and a reposado – at one store in West Baltimore, and since then it’s taken off.
The tequila is currently available for purchase at more than 80 locations across Maryland and Washington, D.C.
The pandemic provided an opportunity for Donta and William to take the time to start their brand, Donta said.
“Life slowed down for a lot of folks,” Donta said, “I don’t think we would have made it any other time.”
Los Hermanos 1978 is now available at 88 locations across Maryland and D.C. They just expanded to the Eastern Shore and are about to spread to Montgomery County, which will bring them up to 100 locations. The brothers are currently partnering with Bayside Cantina in Canton to make two signature margaritas.
Moving forward, the brothers hope to keep expanding and getting the word out about their brand.
“Our story resonates with people,” Donta said, “but at the end of the day, we just have good tequila.”