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Mezcal: Shamanic medicine, fuel for the gods

Courtesy of Rachel Glueck.

Courtesy of Rachel Glueck.

Editor’s note: I met Rachel Glueck last month as she hopped through San Francisco on on a tour to introduce her new mezcal, El Amor del Diablo, to the United States. It was a bit of a test mission to gauge local reaction and to gather steam for her crowdfunding campaign to really get her brand and much larger ambition to bring the mezcal they’ve sourced to the United States. She’s a great spokesperson for mezcal and, like any of us, has a unique story to tell. I’ll write more about her and El Amor del Diablo soon but I was so impressed by her story that I invited her to write about it for Mezcalistas. Here in her own words is her story, what she’s learned about mezcal and the native dancers who are one of the distillate’s original devotees. 

Rachel and Noel. Courtesy of Alfonso Hernandez Segovia.

Rachel and Noel. Courtesy of Alfonso Hernandez Segovia.

From the south side of the border, modern mezcal culture can appear a bit…ridiculous. It’s all too easy to get swept away in the pizazz of mixologist magic, discussing for hours the flavor profiles of a Pierde Almas tepestate, all while admiring the particular curve of your fellow enthusiast’s moustache. Let’s face it: Mezcal has become a hipster drink. And that’s just fine, because this enthralling spirit deserves the attention and the respect it’s getting. Unfortunately, its essence often gets lost between the folds of industry talk. Mezcal, above all, is a sacred spirit – a gift for the people, from farmer to financier, hipster to hobo. To really know mezcal, you must know her for what she was from the beginning – what she still is to her native people: a shamanic medicine.

My husband, Noel Morales Meza, is well positioned to tell the story. A native of the mountains of Guerrero, he’s about as Mexican as they get. With his Nubian nose, big lips, and bull-like stance, he looks like he came straight out of the Olmec period. Morales grew up learning several native dances with the Diablos, the Tlacololeros, the Tigres, and the Huashkixtles. Today he is the leader of three Aztec dance groups in Mexico. Mezcal, he says, is an elemental part of the dance, regardless of what group you belong to.

In the state of Guerrero there are some 45 to 50 different types of dancers who come together for Mexico’s religious holidays – a complex blend of native and Catholic belief. Each group has a distinctive costume and a particular dance that portrays their story. The dance of the Tlacololeros symbolizes the planting of corn in the highlands and the farmer’s fight with the ocelot. The dance of the Diablos superficially represents the seven sins from the bible, but like most aspects of the native Mexican psyche, it developed as a means to keep indigenous traditions alive under the guise of Catholic belief. Far from being a submissive spirit, the role of mezcal in these groups, as you might imagine, has nothing to do with Catholic mass. Yet it is vitally important to the ritual of the dance.

Courtesy of Rachel Glueck.

Courtesy of Rachel Glueck.

“The old men of the dance drink mezcal to start the catharsis,” Noel tells me. “To start the dance you need to be in union with your character. You change your body, your energy, and your soul to be a jaguar, an alligator, a goat, a demon, an angel, or a crazy soul. You break the cacophony of life’s normal sounds. This magical union helps you to have the energy the dance requires.”

Mezcal is the catalyst to the shamanic connection of dancer to costume. It gives the dancers energy, cuts through their inhibitions, and connects them with their mask and costume. With mezcal the dancers forget about the people outside the mask. Noel tells me that dancers are “an element of the Energy Party, not an observer.”

Mezcal is also the fuel that keeps them going. Dances often begin before dawn and continue until late afternoon or past nightfall (or vice versa). With this medicine in the blood, the dancer doesn’t feel the dehydration, the extreme heat, or the pain. They don’t feel anything.

“Nothing?” I ask Noel incredulously. “Like they’re dead?” His face lights up – a man who’s finally found the words to express that spectral state he’s experienced so many times before. “Yes! Your body is dead because your costume is alive.”

“The hangover must be incredible,” I muse. Regardless of how pure a mezcal is, ten hours of dancing induced by large amounts of alcohol will ravage the system. “No manches!” he cries, reeling back. “It’s terrorific. But the hangover is also the time to pay the price for opening your soul and becoming an animal or a spirit.”

These dances aren’t merely about worshiping a patron saint, or celebrating a holiday. The dancers give their bodies over to practice for a multitude of reasons: for pleasure, for pride, for a sense of identity, to connect with their ancestors, and to pay the price for favors and miracles.

Every July, in the town of Mochitlan, Guerrero, where Noel’s mother was born, there is a festival to celebrate the patron saint, Señora Santa Ana. Overnight, the streets of this tiny village fill with 4,000 people, 25 different types of dance groups, thousands of fireworks, and liters and liters of mezcal. Each year, four or five families volunteer to provide the food, sacrificing and cooking up their finest bulls into huacashtoro (a mestizo beef stew), along with barbacoa, atole, tamales, beans and tortillas. For three days both the food and the mezcal are free for anyone and everyone.

Courtesy of Rachel Glueck.

Courtesy of Rachel Glueck.

“The mezcal is for everyone at the dance,” Noel says. “It makes a union for people to forget their social role: no poor, no rich, no brown, white, or Indian. Only people who believe in a common thing: a saint, a ritual, a tradition.”

In the streets, great swaths of people come together to watch and participate in the dance. A wave of colorful headdresses, demonic masks, jaguars, and machetes billow in the sultry space between bodies, as bottles of mezcal are passed between friends and strangers. Doctors, farmers, shopkeepers, professional drunkards, and government officials are shoulder-to-shoulder, swaying, laughing, releasing. The dancers are privileged to the otherworldly transformation, but all who partake in the alchemical elixir of maguey experience a catharsis.

Noel and Rachel only have a few days left in their crowdfunding campaign with the goal of creating an association of ancestral mezcal producers that preserves the craft, culture, and communities of mezcaleros. Learn about their vision, help fund their project, and get insider’s access to the world of mezcal through their rewards

Michoacan mezcal makes quite an impression

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Lately the mezcal world has been swooning for Michoacan. First it became street legal in 2012 joining the states that can legally label their agave distillate mezcal. Lots of people already knew that the local mezcal was fantastic, it just wasn’t reaching far beyond the state’s borders. Then stories started circulating about the cupreata, the wooden stills, and many other novel elements used frequently in the state.

And then we finally got a bottle here in the US through the Fundacion Agaves Silvestres Vinos de Mezcal line and it blew our minds. The production method alone causes fits of the imagination, cupreata isn’t seen anywhere else, then it’s hand mashed in a wooden tub appropriately called a canoe, fermented in stone vats; oh and the still is made out of wood and copper.

Maria Elena Perez's contribution to the Wahaka and Fundacion Agaves Silvestres project.

Maria Elena Perez’s contribution to the Wahaka and Fundacion Agaves Silvestres project.

I figured that Michoacan had to be part of my next Mexican itinerary and that we’d find out more then but others have been faster to the punch. Per our repost of Cristina Potter’s Mexico Cooks! blog she made the trip recently and found a fantastic palenque. A few weeks ago an attendee at our Meet the Karwinskis Mezcal Martes event at Lolo strongly suggested that our next tasting should feature solely Michoacan mezcals. Then out of the blue Ron Kunze, one of our long time fans, correspondents, and fellow travelers popped up with news that he’d just returned from Michoacan with a suitcase full of mezcal that we needed to sample RIGHT… THIS … MINUTE!

Not one to look gift mezcal in the mouth I jumped right in for a miniature survey of the world of Michoacan distilling. We started with the Bruxo Pechuga. Strangely it looks like Bruxo is available in England but not in the United States which means that we’re beholden to shoppers like Ron who are willing to bring a bottle back. This one has a very distinct yellow tint but it’s not as unctuous as some pechugas and quite flavorful without being fruity.

Bruxo Pechuga

Note the yellow tint of the mezcal.

Note the yellow tint of the mezcal.

While tasting the Bruxo we perused a mezcal menu Ron brought back from a restaurant in Morelia that he swore by. It gives a a great sense for the variety and complexity of mezcal production there. 1.5 ounce pours, lots of cupreatas but many more agaves, and a clear sense of centrality to the dining experience.

The mezcal menu from a restaurant in Morelia.

The mezcal menu from a restaurant in Morelia.

Next up the most distinctive bottle of the day, La Perla del Tsitzio Cupreata Enterrado 9 meses which has the most beguilingly fruity, even bubble gum like nose, incredibly full mouth feel, and an incredibly fruity palate. It reminded me of a fruity zinfandel. Per the product description it was buried underground in a glass container for nine months which sounds fantastic, they do that to some wines in the Mediterranean and distillates in the Balkans, but I still haven’t been able to find a convincing explanation of how this method alters the bottle’s contents.  The La Perla site has a description of this method which, while mouth watering, still leaves me a asking questions:

En el mes de octubre se lleva  a cabo el desentierro del mezcal reposado en vidrio bajo tierra durante nueve meses, el primer lote de producción que es el de enero se entierra dejando una muestra fuera cabe señalar que es una producción limitada de 350 litros promedio ya que se somete al reposo únicamente el primer lote de producción  a los nueve meses se desentierra y se lleva a cabo una sesión sensorial comparando olores y sabores del mezcal reposado y el blanco del mismo lote enseguida se brinda una comida con platillos mezcaleros preparados por las cocineras tradicionales disfrutando de un buen ambiente.

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La Perla del Tzitzio

After that we jumped into the land of the unlabeled bottle. Lots of mezcal never makes it into branded bottles and Michoacan is no different. Take this fine, apparently hand blown, blue bottle. Ron told me that the mezcalero said the bottle was almost more expensive than the mezcal inside which, once you get past the beauty of the bottle, is a pretty sad testament to the undervaluation of mezcal in Mexico.

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This next example looks medicinal partially because it came out of a pharmacy so I bet they just bottle it in the most readily available plastic bottles, the same ones that we use for rubbing alcohol. The mezcal within was of the rougher and more alcoholic variety. For once, the bottle did not belie its contents.  To the right you can see an example of a much more normative technique of mezcal bottling. We all have concerns about how rapidly the plastic breaks down but for consumption not too far from the creation date and expedience this definitely does the trick.

2014-07-22 18.47.55Unknown Michoacan mezcal

Last of all we sampled this nicely packaged gift set which contained an amazing little universe of silvestres that are generally hard to find if not impossible in the US, especially the Sierra Negra. None of these were revelatory, all were simply good, reminders of the remarkably high level of production across Mexico. I’m also an admirer of the small bottles wrapped in a single package because it’s a great entry point for anyone like the 95% of mezcal drinkers who only take the occasional sip. And it makes a tremendous gift so take note distributors and brands!2014-07-22 18.48.28

Obviously Michoacan has arrived as a mezcal producer and is gearing up to move into the United States in a big way. Just in recent weeks a few  producers told me that they’re ready to go, just waiting on COMERCAM certification or the final details of their export arrangements before they start shopping their products around. We’ve heard rumors that Bruxo will arrive soon so our fingers are crossed. In the interim we are proud to announce that you’ll have a chance to taste some Michoacan mezcal at our September 14th Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle event so definitely buy your tickets today!

Piñas

Piña literally means “pineapple” in Spanish but in Mexico it is also used to describe the heart of the agave because it so closely resembles a pineapple. The piña has become one of the main motifs in the agave world and suffuses tequila and mezcal culture. It’s one of those key images that triggers all sorts of nostalgic associations about the hand made nature of agave distillates and centrality of agave to Mexican culture. As one example, Fortaleza tequila has a ceramic piña for its bottle top but you’ll see it repeatedly in the marketing and media coverage of agave distillates. Just take a look at three images from our travels below to get a sense for how dramatic and evocative it can be.

Maguey piñas shorn of their leaves and ready to be cut

Maguey piñas shorn of their leaves and ready to be cut.

Cutting the piñas

Cutting the piñas

Field of magueys

Field of just shorn piñas. Note the different sizes of the quiotes.

Psst… want to try some mezcal?

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We just announced our initial brand list for the Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle tasting, culture, and art extravaganza this coming September 14th. Get your tickets today and check out the line up below.

Participating brands include:

  • Alipus
  • Benesin
  • Fidencio
  • La Niña del Mezcal
  • Mezcal’s Club (El Tinieblo, Sangremal, Jaral de Berrio)
  • Mezcales Gourmet (Forever Oax and Banhez)
  • Mezcal Tosba
  • Mezcal Vago
  • Mezcal Valvodinos
  • Montelobos
  • Wahaka Mezcal

We’ll also be featuring some new mezcal arrivals from the Mexican state of Michoacan along with a couple of other special mezcal surprises.

Restaurants doing the special pairings of mezcal cocktails and bites include:

  • Beretta
  • Colibri
  • El Techo/Lolinda
  • La Urbana
  • Loló Cevicheria
  • Sabrosa
  • Tamarindo

Don Bugito will also be on hand with their delicious insect based treats that are the perfect accompaniment to mezcal.

Mezcal panels and chats will be led by mezcal luminaries including Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera (dubbed the “Indiana Jones of mezcal”), Raza Zaidi of Wahaka Mezcal, Ivan Saldaña of Montelobos, Marco Ochoa of Mezcaloteca, Graciela Angeles Carreño of Real Minero, Cecilia Murrieta of La Niña del Mezcal, John McEvoy the Mezcal PhD, Susan Coss and Max Garrone of Mezcalistas, Jaime Qui of Agave Tips and more.

And finally, guests will be surrounded by a mezcal influenced soundtrack by DJ EKG, mixed media, art and photos by Jhovany Rodriguez Iniesta, Lorena Zertuche, Txutxo Perez, Omar Alonso, Mariana Garcia, Fernando Lopez, Mezcal Cuish, and more.

Mexico in a Bottle is joint Mezcalistas and Agave Tips production.

Don’t delay, get your tickets today!

Tahona

Tahona is another one of those words that does double duty in the Spanish vocabulary. It used to mean mill or mill house but in Mexico it also means the large stone wheel that is used to crush the roasted hearts of agave known as piñas into a fermentable mash. As you can see from the images below it’s quite a dramatic sight.

The tahona is usually pulled by a donkey and that donkey frequently has a jocular name like “Superman” that gives credit for keeping the entire distilling operation going. Horses and oxen can be also provide the labor. Many palenques also use tractors. In older or more remote palenques the tahona can also be made out of wood.

To date every artisanal mezcal uses a tahona to crush its piñas. Traditionally tequila was also made this way but the industry moved to mechanical extraction processes and only a few traditional distillers like Fortaleza and 7 Leguas still mill all their piñas with tahonas. Recently Patron launched a new brand defined entirely by being milled with a tahona.

 

Making mash the traditional way in San Dionisio

Making mash the traditional way in San Dionisio

Traditional mill for making maguey mash

Traditional mill for making maguey mash

Palenquero Enrique Jimenez

Palenquero Enrique Jimenez

The grinding wheel at Palenque Roaguia

The grinding wheel at Palenque Roaguia

Inside the Wahaka Palenque

Inside the Wahaka Palenque

Mezcal in the Aegean aka Noxious mescal on Naxos

Our man on Naxos sent in this photo to demonstrate just how far we have to go in explaining mezcal to the world:

Picasso attempts to describe agave distillates

Per our correspondent this is the menu of the “Mexican” restaurant on Naxos. It obviously has much to account for including a paucity of tequila selections. Should you need to know what to look out for, avoid, or correct the place is called Picasso, which perhaps reflects just how much they know about things Mexican.

Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle

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We warned you to save the date. Finally we’re ready to announce all the details.


Mexico in a Bottle
Art, Music, Food, Mezcal, Life
Where: Public Works, 161 Erie St, San Francisco, CA, 94103
When: September 14th, 2014
Buy Tickets Today!

 

Mezcal is the embodiment of Mexico. More than just a beverage, it represents more than 500 years of history and culture. Mezcal’s story isn’t just about alcohol; each bottle is a living link to Mexican history, tradition, art, and music. It’s life and death all in a bottle.

Join some of the biggest figures in the mezcal world as we celebrate Mexico’s greatest spirit through tastings, art, music, and a series of exclusive discussions of the hottest topics in the mezcal world.  And to keep that whistle wet, the hottest Mexican restaurants from the Bay Area will pair exclusive bites with magical mezcal cocktails.

Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle brings together figures as varied as:

  • Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera, the “Indiana Jones of Mezcal”
  • Raza Zaidi of Wahaka mezcal
  • Ivan Saldaña from Montelobos mezcal
  • Cecilia Murrieta of La Nina del Mezcal
  • Clayton Szczech of Experience Mezcal
  • John McEvoy the Mezcal PhD
  • Max Garrone and Susan Coss of Mezcalistas
  • And many more.

We’ll taste mezcals from a wide variety of brands from some of the biggest in the business to tiny production mezcals not currently available in the US as part of our special tasting series and panel discussions led by Jaime Qiu & Adrian Vazquez of Agave Tips. And, you’ll get a chance to work through horizontal tastings to get a real sense for just how distinct each bottle really is.

Fine cuisine and cocktails from some of the best Mexican restaurants in the Bay Area including:

  • El Techo
  • Lolo
  • La Urbana
  • Colibri
  • Tamarindo
  • And more!

Mixed video by Fernando Lopez, art installations from Mezcal CUISH, Proyecto Palenqueros, Lorena Zertuche, Jhovany Rodriguez, Txutxo Perez and music by DJ EKG.

The Tiny Print

  • The event is 21 and over so bring your ID as we will card anyone who appears younger than 30.
  • We will be tasting high percentage alcohols that mostly range from 45-50% so we recommend that you don’t drive. BART and MUNI both have stops very close to Public Works and taxi rides will get you where you need to go without incident.
When: September 14th, 2014

Time for a visit with Los Abuelos

Photo courtesy of Colores Mari: Original caption "Se llama Félix, es el papá de mi papá y cumple 80 años en mayo... " https://www.flickr.com/photos/nachoeuropa/4252512120/in/photolist-7tMeGu-NZWKd-rkmVs-S5zbq-aaYeXL-aaVrwv-aaYdN3-aaY9Yo-aaVnGt-aaYb9C-cTBWN9-cqJWNL-9ppdgF-qbztt-cSrPFm-cSR4yN-cSrPGw-cSR4y1-cSrPFS-h2dpN-Y5F4w-7AUmPg-7AY9Ro-8yPkXw-8nfUHs-hFdsN7-6AFcq1-4Xbz55-4T6WaF-8cxAjc-5rD6pv-hz1U8-4nwFYw-ngWCY8-6ZEmyh-hz1Tt-hz1Tk-hz1TA-hz1TU-bojdJ7-z8oPt-6hzyy8-6hDJc9-8cxAf4-hFcwhe-2au4a-9vCsYD-351NKq-aR44J2-9qDvBs/

Photo courtesy of Colores Mari on Flickr.

Our next Mezcal Martes tasting at Lolo in San Francisco invites you to “Visit Los Abuelos,” the granddaddy mezcals. Boldly flavored where few venture. Join us on August 12th 6-7:30 we will be tasting the following mezcals for $25.

Del Maguey Minero

El Jolgorio Tepeztate

Mezcal Vago Mexicano

Pierde Almas Tobala

Last time out we met the Karwinskii family, before that the bedrock espadins, this tasting we get back to the broad shouldered mezcals that are widely available bottles for a reason: They are literally bursting with the bold flavors that represent mezcal in the global dictionary of taste. Not that they’re overwhelming, they’re perfect matches for Lolo’s menu and offer great contrasts when tasted alone.

Please RSVP, we look forward to seeing you there!

“The perils of the mezcal boom”

The title is more ominous than the AFP article and video piece but it does provide a great snapshot of the mezcal industry now. A few distillers have created their own brands and managed to crack the North American market like El Jolgorio which is featured here. They have been a big and colorful force in the United States over the past year along with Vago and similar brands controlled by their producers.

Other distillers continue a long business of selling their product through intermediaries so that it ends up white labeled. This can be dicey for both sides since brands don’t control a stable supply while producers don’t have a stable outlet for their production. We’ve seen contracts broken and unhappy partners left and right. We’ve also seen this business structure continue to work just fine so it probably won’t disappear soon.

But this video also highlights two big issues: First, some, no one is sure how many, distillers are finding it difficult to enter these paths to the new markets. The competition in Mexico is growing as the international market grows and new sources for mezcal open up like the state of Michoacan which has barely touched the North American market. But the issue where we’d really like to see more on-the-ground reporting is on sustainability because it’s such an important and tricky problem to address.

Mexico Cooks! guest blogs Michoacán Mezcal Uasïsï, Brought to You By Mayahuel–The Goddess of Maguey

This week we are re-publishing a trio of posts from the brilliant Cristina Potters at Mexico Cooks! about pulque, mezcal, and what Michoacan brings to the table. We started with pulque on Wednesday, moved to a mezcal primer Friday, and we wrap up with today’s post on a very special mezcal from Michoacan.

The region is seeing renewed interest since it joined the ranks of officially recognized mezcals. Recently we’ve tasted quite a few from the mezcal obsessed who have toted them home in their luggage. We look forward to seeing some on specialty liquor store shelves soon. You can find the original version of this post here.

Michoacán Mezcal Uasïsï, Brought to You By Mayahuel–The Goddess of Maguey

Mezcal Camioncito
When you read last week’s article, Mexico Cooks! had just boarded a guajolotero (often called ‘chicken bus’, in English slang) to go with friends to meet a mezcal producer in Michoacán.  I also left you with homework, class: did you read the article linked here?  Give it a once-over, if you didn’t already, and then let’s get going down the road.  Click on any photo to enlarge it for a better look.  Photos by Mexico Cooks! unless otherwise noted.

Mezcal Cupreata 3
Close to the northern edge of the Tierra Caliente, outside Etúcuaro, Michoacán, there’s a well-hidden vinata (mezcal-making setup)–it’s just beyond this field ofcupreata maguey.  To get there, you need to go with someone who knows how to find it.  The mezcal producer, Ignacio Pérez Scott, is the fourth generation of his family to dedicate himself to production of the liquor.  He produces traditional mezcal which he then sells to select bottlers for branding.  We’re visiting the vinata with Maira Malo Hernández, owner of the mezcal brand Uasïsï (wah-SHEE-shee), and her daughters, Viridiana and Mayra Méndez Malo.  Sra. Malo’s daughters and her sons, Juan, Carlos, and Jorge Méndez Malo are also part of the Uasïsï team.

Mezcal Don Nacho con Maira
In the shade of the vinata, mezcal producer Ignacio Pérez Scott shares an affectionate moment with Maira Malo Hernández.

Uasïsï, the name Sra. Malo chose for her mezcal, is the Purépecha word for bat.  It’s this bat that pollinates thecupreata maguey, among other magueys.

Mezcal con Flor
Don Nacho (“don” is an honorific title, used with great respect, and “Nacho” is the Mexican nickname for Ignacio) told me that his cupreata maguey (seen here with its spike of yellow quiote–the maguey flower) takes eight to ten years to mature. Once it matures and throws up the flower spike, the plant can be harvested.

Mezcal Maira Partiendo Piñas
When the producer harvests the maguey plant, the first task is to remove the quiote (flower stem); the pencas (leaves) are removed next. The pencas were removed from the places where you can see the diamond shapes on the outside of the hearts.  The pencas can be used in cooking, particularly in making traditional barbacoa and mixiote. The corazón (heart) also known as piña (pineapple) of each maguey plant is then chopped into smaller pieces for baking. In the photo above, Mezcal Uasïsï owner Maira Malo Hernández pitched in to chop some of the piñas. Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH (Maira Malo Hernández).

Mezcal Tamaño de la Piña
Here you can see the size of the chopped piñas de maguey.  Each piña can weigh as much as 80 to 100 pounds.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Uasïsï Pino al Horno
Pine logs, stacked firmly into the fire pit.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Mezcal Horno
Don Nacho is tamping the volcanic rock evenly into the pit, on top of the pine logs.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Uasïsï Horno Incendido
The fire in the pit is red hot and smoking.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Uasïsï Piñas and Fire
The fire is burning evenly now, and the piñas are ready to be placed in the baking pit.  The pit will be loaded with approximately 150 piñas weighing a total of about four tons.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Uasïsï Horno Tapado
The burning pit is covered with petates (woven reed mats) and then with mounded earth.  The piñas need to bake for a full week.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Mezcal Piñas al Horno
After a week, the piñas are thoroughly baked and are now uncovered.  At the bottom right-hand corner of the photo, you can see some petates (woven reed mats). Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Mezcal Chopping Trough
The more than six foot long pine-lined trench where the baked piñas are hand-chopped and smashed with axes.

Mezcal Machacando Piñas 2
The vinata crew has moved some of the baked piñas to the trough and are hand-smashing them with axes so that they can be placed into the fermenting tanks. Don Nacho and his crew use no machinery during any stage of their mezcal production.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Mezcal Tinacos
These are the tinacos (covered storage tanks) where the baked and smashed piñas are fermented.  The fermentation process takes a week.

Mezcal Alambique
Post-fermentation, the process of double-distillation begins.  This is the alambique (still), made of pine.  As the mezcal distills, the metal top allows condensation to drip back into the still.

Mezcal Alambique 2
The other side of the alambique.  Don Nacho explained that the wooden still will last for about one year; after that, the wood will be replaced.

Mezcal Fire Hole
This is the fire hole, where a pine wood fire actually cooks the fermented maguey piña mash to distill it.  Above the metal arch of this fire hole are several inches of concrete, the top of which you can see in the photo just before this one.  No fire actually touches the wooden still.

Uasïsï Ad
The finished product: Uasïsï Mezcal Joven.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Uasïsï Bottle with Labels
Both sides of the bottle.  The front label, on the right, tells you that this is joven (young, unaged) mezcal with 48% alcohol content.  The back label, on the left, gives all the pertinent information about the mezcal: the number and lot of the bottle, the exact provenance (village or state) of the mezcal, as well as the type of maguey used.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Mexcal Uasïsï stand
Tamarind or pear flavored mezcal Uasïsï: made slightly sweet with real fruit, it’s perfect for dessert.  Photo courtesy Uasïsï MMH.

Cata Mezcal UNLA
This Uasïsï tasting was held at UNLA (Universidad Latina de América) in Morelia, Michoacán.

And what, you ask, does Uasïsï joven actually taste like? To start with, if you have tasted other mezcales, you probably and immediately think smokey. Uasïsï is not in any way smokey.  To my palate, Uasïsï joven tastes fresh, like the green of the maguey.  It has slight lingering tones of Michoacán pine.  It carries a hint of flowers.  Because the alcohol content is high, the first sip feels strong in the front of the mouth. As it moves to the back of the tongue, it mellows.  And the moment you swallow that first drop, filled with the flavors of Michoacán, you immediately want another.  Uasïsï is an extraordinary drink, destined to be a star in the world of mezcal.

Mexcalli Mezcalería
Now that you know you want a bottle (or two or three–don’t forget about the tamarind dessert mezcal) of Uasïsï mezcal, where can you get it?  The Uasïsï home base is Mex*Calli Mezcalería, Buenavista #5, Pátzcuaro, Michoacán.

Cristina con Maira y Luis Robledo Morelia en Boca May 2014
Otherwise, my good friend Maira Malo Hernández and I (pictured at Morelia en Boca 2014 with Mexico City chef and chocolatier Luis Robledo Richards) invite you to buy Uasïsï at:

  • Itacate Morelia
    Blvd. Juan Pablo II #315
    Morelia, Michoacán
  • Agua y Sal Cebichería
    Campos Elíseos #199-A
    Col. Polanco, México D.F.
  • La Catrina Comedor & Mezcalería
    Av. 5 de Mayo #661
    Zamora, Michoacán

It’s entirely possible that Uasïsï mezcal will be coming soon to a liquor store near you.  Check back with Mexico Cooks!from time to time and we’ll keep you up to date on the possibility of export to countries outside Mexico.  And if you’re planning to be in Mexico and would like to visit thevinataMexico Cooks! can make that dream come true.  The experience is magical.