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Experience Tequila founder Clayton Szczech has been drawn to Mexico all his life. He made his first trip south from his native California with a backpack and a friend at the age of 17. He has been returning to travel, work, live and learn for over 15 years. Along the way he got a degree in sociology and worked for a decade in bilingual environments as a social worker, teacher, interpreter and entertainer.
Clayton’s relationship with tequila started like that of most people. A combination of youth, immoderation and ignorance made them enemies. Wiser with years, he was willing to give the elixir a second chance while living in Xalapa, Veracruz as an English teacher. The time was right. As a dedicated history buff, amateur anthropologist and Mexi-phile, Clayton was compelled to travel to the Tequila Valley and learn first-hand how and by whom tequila is made.
The journey eventually led him from the volcanic valley of Tequila to the verdant Highlands, from the most highly-regarded distilleries in Mexico to backyard moonshine mills on dusty mountain roads, and beyond. Always eager to learn from others and make friends, Clayton is now well-connected in the tequila world and counts industry insiders and some of the best tequila makers in the world as personal friends and mentors.
In addition to leading tours in Jalisco, Clayton makes regular research visits to distilleries and agave plantations and studies with maestros tequileros in the private sector and at the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT). In 2010 he became the first American guide to receive the CRT’s prestigious “Double T” certification for tequila knowledge and excellence in tequila tourism. While back home in Portland, Oregon he hosts the Portland Tequila Tasting Club, conducts public and private tastings and provides education, professional development and consulting services to the bar and restaurant industry.
Clayton is known in the Tequila region for his enthusiasm and sense of humor, while his clients appreciate his combination of no-nonsense organizational skills and laid-back attitude.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work at my dream job,” Clayton says, “I’m teaching, traveling, interpreting, sharing a passion and yes, drinking. What’s not to love? I consider myself privileged to be able to present this extraordinary region of the world and the beverage it has given us. I sincerely hope you’ll join me.”