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Tequila’s Smoky Cousin Gets Push From World’s Biggest Distillers

  • Pernod Ricard joins Diageo in the growing market for mezcal
  • With vodka sales slowing, companies see new opportunity
A worker throws an agave plant inside the fire pit to roast at the Mezcal Union production facility and distillery in the San Baltazar Guelavila region of Oaxaca, Mexico on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016.
Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

A Mexican liquor is beginning to win over the hearts of U.S. consumers, and it’s not tequila.

Pernod Ricard SA, the world’s second-largest distiller, is creating a brand to join rival Diageo Plc in the growing market for mezcal, a premium agave-based spirit. The brand, which will hit U.S. shelves in the first half of 2017, is the latest investment in the category by a large beverage company.