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We asked Celaya Tequila Co-Founders (and brothers) Ryan and Matt Kalil the same five questions.
These are Matt’s answers.
Interview

Matt Kalil

We asked Celaya Tequila Co-Founders (and brothers) Ryan and Matt Kalil the same five questions. These are Matt’s answers.

Interview by Steve Nash
March 2, 2020
Photography by Clay Cook
Like his brother, Matt played football on the world stage, becoming the 4th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. After many years of hard work, dedication and a pro-bowl Matt retired along with his brother to pursue a new adventure - one rooted in family history.

WHY DID YOU CREATE CELAYA TEQUILA?

“We owe it all to our grandmother, Frecia Celaya, who was the granddaughter of Jose Celaya. Our abuela would always tell us stories about Jose and how he made his own tequila, and how he was kind of a legend in our family. Ryan and I grew up hearing these stories, and seeing how tequila - and tequila as an experience - was revered. Premium tequila was always there in family gatherings during good times and bad. So we simply couldn’t let the stories end with our generation. That would have been unfortunate. I feel like we had a duty. So we set out to honor Jose and Frecia and make a tequila they’d enjoy. And we think we’ve done just that.”

“Our abuela would always tell us stories about Jose and how he made his own tequila, and how he was kind of a legend in our family”

FROM THE NFL TO TEQUILA?
WE HAD TO ASK

“That’s true. Ryan and I both played for the same college football team - in different years - and we’re proud to be among the few sets of brothers who played together on the same NFL team. So you can imagine we’re pretty tight and very comfortable working together. When it comes to tequila, we both share a connection with it that was passed down to us through the generations in our family. So for some, the move from football into tequila may seem like a disconnect. But for us, it’s a part of who we are. It’s a natural progression, (laughs) unlike those new celebrity tequilas that keep popping up every day.”

Ryan and Matt

WHERE DOES CELAYA FIT IN THE WORLD OF TEQUILA?

“It’s funny because there’s this notion out there that tequila is a rough and tumble spirit. It could not be further from the truth. Sure, there are the cheap brands around and unfortunately, many people owe their first tequila experience to these ‘headache’ brands. It’s not universally understood that tequila is an art form, like any other fine spirit. Celaya is a premium brand. Made in small batches, in Jalisco Mexico, in a carefully controlled process. Think of it like a fine whisky or a single malt scotch. Celaya is at that level. In our family, tequila is meant to be sipped and enjoyed. That’s what Celaya is for. I invite people to explore good tequila, even if it’s not ours. If not, you’re really missing something. When done right, tequila is incredible.”

“It’s funny because there’s this notion out there that tequila is a rough and tumble spirit. It could not be further from the truth”
“Celaya is a small-batch, premium tequila. It’s for sipping and enjoying”

KNOWING THAT HE WILL FOR SURE READ THIS, WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITH YOUR BROTHER?

“In a word, it’s ideal. As I mentioned, Ryan and I have worked closely together in some form for a large part of our lives. And when it comes to tequila we bring different experiences to the table. I have a background as a restaurateur. Ryan has experience in creative ventures. We both love tequila and the process of making tequila. You put all of this together and you have a perfect team. Plus, because we’re brothers we can be brutally honest with each other. We know how to smooth out any differences and we know we’re both working towards the same goals. There’s a level of trust between us that can’t be matched. He’s the best business partner I could ask for.”

ANYTHING WE DIDN’T ASK THAT YOU’D LIKE TO ANSWER?

“I’d like to talk a little more about our grandmother, Frecia. She was our inspiration for all of this. It was through her that we came to understand the importance of exploring your heritage and understanding your family roots – knowing and honoring where you came from. She was the glue that bound previous generations with ours. And she had a way of telling stories that kept us riveted as kids, and fascinated as adults who were digging into their family history. Frecia and her stories are the reason we started making tequila. I wish she was around to see this, but I know that she’s looking down on us and smiling. I think she’d have loved it.”


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