Call this perks of the job… I recently was invited to the kickoff for a new dinner series at Cala, Gabriela Camara’s Mexican restaurant outpost in SF, centered on mezcal. We’ve written before about the restaurant and its focus on not only sustainable food, but also sustainable mezcal. This was the dinner that really brought it together in a fantastic way.
The brainchild of Cala bar manager Marsilio Gabuardi, the idea is to pair a mezcal with each course. It’s not new, the difference here is that there is only a mezcal pairing – no cocktails, no wine, no beer, just mezcal. This first dinner highlighted Mezcal Amaras, which is pretty much the house mezcal at Cala. The surprise of the night was being able to taste new Amaras expressions, including a tepeztate and cenizo, along with three different espadins and their cupreata. We were joined by Amaras U.S. brand rep Sofía Acosta Rascón and, to the delight of all of us, Gabriela Camara herself. Read more
It’s a new calendar year and things are changing for mezcal. As we all hold our breath this Friday we do know a few things, and all of them have some impact on the mezcal world.
It’s never been so cheap to create a mezcal brand
There are more mezcal brands on the market in the United States than ever before. With the growing interest in the cocktail space and even the retail world, the business case is there and brands are being built to fill niches in the market. We routinely talk to distillers, brand creators, and others who are interested in creating or bringing a mezcal brand into the United States.
In Mexico there are even more brands, so many that it’s been difficult to even imagine what’s going on in the mezcalosphere. That points to one fascinating contradiction in our moment: The production is there, the business interest is there, arguably the consumer interest is also there. But there are some big questions. Read more
Rays of sunlight in the struggle for sustainability?
We all knew that the big liquor companies were coming to mezcal. Zignum, Beneva, and others have been around for a while but the really big distributors like Diageo jumped into the game last year, signing a distribution deal with Mezcal Union, while Pernod Ricard sounds like it’s launching a mezcal in the next few months. Read more
The latest in Craft Distillers’ Mezcalero line which delivers extremely small production batches from a variety of locations around Oaxaca.
– Location: San Baltazar Guélavila
– Agave: Cultivated espadín and agave de lumbre
– Maestro Mescalero: Cirilo Hernández
– Quantity: 184 cases / 1104 bottles
– Distillation Date: March 2014
– Bottled: June 2015.
– ABV: 48%
– NOM: O14X
These are the sort of one off distillations that used to define mezcal so this series is something of a relic of another era and testament to all the riches that remain. As I’ve said before, the mere existence of Mezcalero is fantastic, the fact that they continue to produce such high quality mezcals so consistently is even better. Read more
Since its premiere at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle 2014 Raicilla Venenosa has been a constant presence at better mezcalerias. It was the first racilla legally imported into the United States and was only recently joined by a second. The distinctive flavors of this other Jaliscan mezcal are well worth seeking out.
– Location: Mascota, Jalisco.
– Agave: Agave maximiliana.
– Maestro Mezcalero: Don Ruben Peña Fuentes
– Quantity: 800 bottles
– Distillation Date: April 2014
– ABV: 42%
Esteban Morales really brought raicilla to the United States and we’re all the richer for his work with Arik Torren to make that happen because raicilla is so different from other mezcals – once you try it you’ll instantly understand why it deserves its own category. Read more
The Los Nahuales Special Edition No. 1 is the first and, hopefully only the first, in a series of special editions from one of the longest standing and most prominent mezcal brands in the United States.
– Location: Santiago Matatlán
– Agave: 41.3% wild cuishe Agave karwinskii and 58.7% Sierrudo, a type of Agave americano.
– Maestro Mezcalero: Karina Abad
– Quantity: 1520 bottles. The majority only available through K&L Wines. 720 bottles are distributed by Craft Distillers
– Distillation Date: April/May 2015
– ABV: 48%
– NOM: O14X
This is the fruit of another of those mezcal world happenstances. While hanging out at Marco Polo with Karina Abad who manages Los Danzantes’ entire production Ansley Coale and K&L Wines’ David Driscoll cooked up the idea of Karina doing a batch all on her own. The rest is in the bottle but you can get a portion of the foreshadowing and narrative in Driscoll’s blogging about that trip. Read more
Long known for her flagship espadín La Niña del Mezcal’s Cecilia Murrieta is releasing intriguing bottles that span the agave spirits universe.
– Location: San Pedro de la Cueva, Sonora
– Agave: Agave yaquiana
– Maestro Mescalero: Rafael Encinas
– Bottle: 627 / 1000
– Batch No. : B001
– ABV: 48%
Bacanora has had it’s own Denominación since 2000 but it’s been traditionally produced in Sonora for quite some time. Unfortunately not many variations are imported, mostly we’ve had to rely on samizdat bottles that we bring in ourselves or find on friends’ bars. To date the most prominent brand imported in the United States is Cielo Rojo. Read more
For all the accolades and press that mezcal has received, it is still an outlier when it comes to the mainstream bar world. That’s why when the San Francisco Symphony asked us for help in procuring mezcal for their big Opening Night Gala event we jumped at the opportunity. A major part of our mission is promoting mezcal so what better way to put mezcal front and center than at one of the most prominent cultural event in San Francisco? Read more
Ven a Comer is this year’s MexIAM motto.
Last year’s Mexican Consulate tasting was a good snapshot of what a lot of mezcal makers’ ambitions. As I wrote at the time, there was an awful lot of mezcal out there trying to get into the North American market. The production volumes were enormous, and there were a tremendous number of brands vying for attention. The strange thing is Read more
I’ll never forget that first sip of Ancho Reyes, the chile liquor from Montelobos. It was of course at a mezcal tasting held, appropriately enough, for the screening of Viva Mezcal at Guelaguetza Restaurant in Los Angeles. Ivan Saldaña, the mad botanist/chemist behind Montelobos Mezcal, pulled a bottle out for some of us to try. This was the spring of 2012: What we now know as Ancho Reyes was months away from launching in the market. At that moment we hadn’t a clue what this was or how it would eventually take the cocktail market by storm. We tried it several different ways – neat, over ice, with club soda and across the board, the reaction was, well, highly enthusiastic to say the least. The flavor was so deep and spicy, it was the perfect essence of smoked chile in a bottle.
With that kind of a track record, you can imagine the buzz about the soon to be launched Ancho Verde. I was lucky enough to get an early try, and to catch up with Ivan to talk about this new addition to his portfolio. Saldaña has a long history in the agave world. As a scientist he has a deep background of studying agaves and how we process flavors, and in 2011, he launched Montelobos Mezcal. He is also a big proponent of pushing for sustainability in the agave world, especially to make sure that Read more