Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Mezcals’ Category

When an espadin is not “just” an espadin

File under things that have been weighing on my mind. So many times I have heard the following words – oh, it’s just an espadin. With the heavy focus on silvestres, and the more exotic the better, espadins have somehow become sidelined, forgotten, and well just plain ole maligned. This maguey of course makes up the bulk of what is in the market – almost 85% – so to make it out to be the industry’s merlot, well is just ridiculous.

So, on my most recent trek down to Oaxaca, I made it a point to try as many espadins as I could, really to remind myself of how utterly different and complex they are and how immensely talented those palenqueros are to get so much flavor and differentiation out of one kind of maguey – showcasing their true mastery in making mezcal.

This is how I found myself one night doing a tasting of “just” espadins at Mezcaloteca. The oh so knowledgeable and charming Andrea Hagan and I talked about some of the different ones they had and then she put together a pretty bold selection: an espadilla (wild espadin) fermented in leather, distilled in clay and from the Mizteca region, an espadin from the state of Guerrero, an añejo from 1998 (in glass the whole time) and a regular ole espadin from Miahuatlan. I really like how Mezcaloteca runs their tastings, and how they pair your palette and interest to the mezcals they have on hand rather than the pre-selected flights so many of us are used to.

I tasted through these in the order listed and of course found huge variety in flavors and strength. And that regular ole espadin from Miahuatlan, well, in this tasting order where it was last, it frankly wasn’t very interesting. So I spent the next half hour or so changing up the tasting order to see how i could get the most flavor out of each espadin. And what I found was by putting the one from Miahuatlan first, pretty much guaranteed it had a better showing no matter what followed in whatever order. And what made the añejo stand out? When it was third up. The two other mezcals were so bold in their flavors it didn’t matter which was second or last.

So, the lesson here – order of tasting is everything to get the most out of the mezcals, and perhaps even greater – an espadin is never “just” an espadin.

PS – I bought the one from Guerrero (Sanzekan) as I am trying to expand beyond my Oaxacafile focus.

Death by Ruta del Mezcal

It was a whirlwind of a Oaxaca trip – not so much in time but in all that was done in two very short and long weeks.

The pretext for the trip was a wedding – my first Spanish teacher in Oaxaca marrying her Danish love, and former classmate of mine. Despite already being married for four years (in Denmark) the shindig in Oaxaca was huge, fun and no less of a celebration. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for Marisol and her introductions to her friends all those years ago, I am not sure my path in Oaxaca would have led me where it did (to mezcal).

From those crazy and late-nights beginning to the trip, everything just steam rolled through till the last day. My last trip to Oaxaca, in December of 2014 after a two year absence, was more family vacation, so sneaking in nights to the newest restaurant, mezcaleria, bar, etc was challenging. This trip I was flying solo and made the most out of it – from trekking out to pueblos, to hitting the new spots, to eating whatever and whenever I could. And of course to do this in the middle of the gorgeous and insane Guelaguetza, well, the sleep when I’m dead mantra seemed close to becoming a reality.

So overview thoughts before I start diving into these over the next couple of weeks.

  1. There has always been that fine line of parallel city existence between Oaxaca and San Francisco -two joined souls. And never did this seem more clear with the unbelievable gentrification that has happened in Oaxaca over the past three years. The money poured into welcoming tourists is quite obvious (wow that new airport, the newly paved roads – though still laden with topes, the new andador on Garcia Virgil…) The new mezcalerias – I think there are now 8 or 9 now? The prevalence of high end restaurants, cafes and their specialty roasted coffee, a cerviceria – your basic food hipster paradise.  It is quite overwhelming and with an incredible exchange rate (15.5 pesos to the dollar) well, heavenly, for me, not so great for the average Oaxacans who have been dealing with increasing wage inequality and inflation. Which leads to…
  2. Mezcal is expensive in Oaxaca. The new rules and regulations of both CRM (Comercam) and the government body that oversees business registration have created an interesting market in the city where pretty much everything now sold in bars, restaurants, stores has to be branded. The newly regulated industry has opened some pretty big doors for the middlemen who seem to be the ones getting rich. Now getting a decent copita means paying 30 pesos at the least all the way up to 200 pesos for rare stuff. Again, this is not so much a problem if you are either wealthy or a foreigner, but as an average Oaxacan well suddenly your mezcal is pretty damn expensive, unless you have a connection.
  3. The looming (or not) agave crisis and sustainability issue of the industry. The price of agave has come down, more agave is being grown, but still, it is a fragile balance and the slightest thing could throw the whole thing out of whack (another agave shortage/pricing issue in Jalisco where they have been known to use the Oaxacan agave sugars for fermentation; blight; economic shifts of pay, inflation, etc.) And of course the fact that there is no overseeing body regulating the cultivation, re-planting of wild agave, etc despite everyone talking about this for years, and well, you have a kind of mishmash or desmadre of a situation brewing.
  4. The growing influence of the European market on mezcal. It’s an easier market to enter for the most part, it’s educated when it comes to complex spirits, and of course, so much easier for travel as Oaxacans don’t need to jump through the demanding US Visa hoops.
  5. The growing visibility of women in the industry. Always a part of it, but now coming out of the shadows a bit as people/brands/cooperatives recognize the great marketing opportunities and stories to be told. Also there is the increasing independence you see as women become more educated and are waiting to have children, or have more control over when they have children.
  6. And perhaps finally, the increasing lack of transparency you see in the industry – ironically at the same time of increasing CRM regulations. These regulations have allowed for a greater disconnect between the mezcalero and the end consumer, creating even more of a market where the drinker, and sometimes even the head of the brand, really has no idea where the mezcal comes from.

It was an amazing trip, as always, and no matter how many times I have been there, no matter how much time I have spent, each trip reveals something completely new – can we say mole amarillo with conejo?

Guelaguetza dancers

Guelaguetza dancers

Maestros del Mezcal tasting

Maestros del Mezcal tasting

Reyna Sanchez in her palenque

Reyna Sanchez in her palenque

Feria del Mezcal

Feria del Mezcal

Flor de agave in Sola de Vega

Flor de agave in Sola de Vega

Mezcal price list in Mezcalogica

Mezcal price list in Mezcalogica

A “wild” tasting

I had a chance to check out the Maestros del Mezcal tasting in Oaxaca. It was completely focused on wild agaves (silvestres) and included a collection of live plants. There were some pretty amazing mezcals from small producers – from varieties we do not see, or rarely see, in the US. I had a Sierra Negra that blew my socks off, a Chato from the Siera Sur, and a truly sublime wild Espadin from the Sola de Vega region. None of these are CRM (COMERCAM) certified, and unless the producers work with someone who has money and is looking to develop a brand, it is unlikely most of them will be certified. There was also the chance to try maguey tortillas which had a lovely sweet flavor to them.

A little bit of a surprise was how many more women were present on the producer side, which is really exciting to see as this is a tough barrier to crack – more on this later as it is a focus of my trip here to Oaxaca.

I had a wedding to go to later in the day so I was trying to be as moderate in tasting as I could be – pretty damn near impossible when presented with so many different varieties of magueys and flavors. At some point someone will need to figure out the pricing issue – small bottles were selling for 50-100 pesos, larger bottles for 150-250 pesos. For rare silvestres, that just doesn’t seem like enough and certainly doesn’t include the hours of labor of the palenqueros.

It was a great kick off for the mezcal adventures to come over the next couple of weeks.

Maguey tortillas

Maguey tortillas

Sample - wild agave

Sample – wild agave

Sample - wild agave

Sample – wild agave

Los Borrachos – throwing a mezcal tasting when #lovewins

It takes some cojones to throw a mezcal tasting in San Francisco during the annual SF Pride celebration. Add to that the historic Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage, a Giants home game, and the farewell Grateful Dead concert, and you are looking at truly committed mezcal lovers who made their way through mayhem to taste some really new and exciting mezcals, paired with great eats.

Erick Rodriguez and Adrian Vazquez, Los Borrachos, put together this tasting event at Bartlett Hall to showcase traditional mezcals. In addition to brands already in the market like Wahaka, Tosba, Del Maguey, Don Amado, Alipus,  and Mezcalero there were some new bottles from the Heavy Metl fold – Rey Campero, Mezcaloteca, and Real Minero – which will soon be imported to the United States as well as fresh bottles from Erick’s Almamezcalera label. Totally new to the market and making their debut were Mezcal Los Gentiles and Chaneque.

IMG_3829

How you pace yourself at events like these is the big question. I go for tiny tastes. I also try to focus on mezcals I’ve never had first and see how it goes from there.

Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera

Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera

My first stop was with Almamezcalera. Erick was pouring three new mezcals all distilled with spices and herbs and made from espadilla, a wild espadin, and distilled in clay and wood. I will not call these “healthy” mezcals, as I think mezcal holds medicinal properties period. I started with the Cilantro and Hoja Santa which was incredibly herbaceous (of course) and vaguely anis like. At 54% it was big, spicy and smooth. Next up was the mezcal distilled with ramos – considered a cleansing herb – and at 61% it was surprisingly non-alcoholic, very green and herbaceous. It felt more medicinal in the same way that Fernet does. Last up was the cinnamon and cacao, also at 61%, which was neither sweet nor perfumey which was what I was expecting and why I tasted it last. All three of these mezcals would work great as both aperitivos and digestivos.

IMG_3831

Next up was Chaneque, a major reason I braved the insanity to come to the tasting. I had tried their madrecuishe once in Oaxaca and was intrigued. Juan Carlos Rodríguez, owner of Chaneque, had the whole lineup, and a couple of special mezcals under the table. I rolled through the 59% Coyote from Matatlan; the Mexicano from Sola de Vega (surprisingly musky and not the usual hot sweetness I’ve come to expect from Mexicanos); a 52% 8yr aged (in glass) Espadin from Zoquitlan which blew my socks off with its thickness and richness, and proof of why an Espadin should never be considered pedestrian; a very dry and mineral 52% Tepestate from Sola de Vega that had a strong bite in its finish; and finally a 47% Tobala from Matatlan that had the perfect sweet finish to it. Chaneque should be in the market in a couple of months with the Espadin, Madrecuishe, and Tobala.

Clase Azul Cenizo Mezcal

Clase Azul Cenizo Mezcal

The 49% Mexicano from Los Gentiles was very subtle and had the lovely sweetness you get with this maguey. I saved their collaborative project from Clase Azul – a 44% Cenizo from Durango – for last. This project is an experiment with only 6,000 liters produced (a drop in the bucket for this tequila brand). Created with the idea of economic development and jobs – it is part reforestation/cultivation of a wild agave, part art project with is ceramic black bottles, and beaded tops, and a price point of $225.

Creme de Poblano soup from Mayahuel

Creme de Poblano soup from Mayahuel

Thankfully among all the mezcal was some pretty delicious food from Lolo, Uno Dos Tacos, Colibri, Mosto, and Mayahuel in Sacramento which wins the prize for most dedication to come all the way to SF in the midst of the traffic nightmare. And their creme of poblano chile soup – delicious. For me the true treat was the delicious drunken cake from Polvorón Panaderia in Hayward – course textured, moist and only slightly sweet. And their Tres Leches is the bomb. If you can’t get to Hayward, don’t worry, you can get the cake at Uno Dos Tacos.

Pastry from Polvorón

Pastry from Polvorón

 

 

 

How Mexicans get their mezcal

Puntera mezcal

The high alcohol Puntera mezcal at Palenque Roaguia.

In Mexico lots of people don’t pay taxes on their mezcal, they don’t see brand labels, and it’s probably not certified by COMERCAM: Many Mexicans buy their mezcal in bulk directly from the distiller. Or they depend on the underground railroad, friends, family, producers, bring garafones, big plastic containers up to the size of gas cans, into the city from the country side and then it’s broken down into used glass bottles.

It’s so common and pervasive that it’s easy to forget. But being in Mexico City and drinking with friends you see all these unlabeled bottles in home bars and that’s what they’re full of. Whereas we may have cases of wine in our closets, there’s a set here who has cases of mezcal ready from that annual pick up/drop off.

Focus: Ramirez Liquor

No visit to Los Angeles is complete without a stop at Ramirez Liquor. I usually hit the one at Soto and 7th so I can check out tacos on Cesar Chavez. They have a few other locations around the city, each carrying a terrific selection of all things agave and craft beer, including some craft beers from Mexico. Their mezcal selection is pretty impressive and they even have some bottles of Metl in case you want to grab any before they’re all gone, forever.

Six full shelves are dedicated to mezcal which is impressive in a store that seems to carry every kind of tequila on the market. They also have a half shelf of Sotol, though still no Raicilla (but they thought it would be soon). They carry most of the mezcals currently available in California and had the full line of Del Maguey, including the Iberico and Arroqueño, plus the sublime Conejo from Pierde Almas. But be prepared to drop about $150 – $200 for these beauties.

I picked up a bottle of El Silencio as I have yet to try it, and stumbled upon a 22oz new release from New Belgium Brewery – a cocoa mole porter. You can also order online and they will ship to you.

Bottle of El Silencio

Bottle of El Silencio

photo 4

The cocoa mole porter

Heads up – they just opened a tasting bar in Whittier. You’ll be able to sample tons of craft beers, wines and maybe, just maybe mezcal…

 

The bat in mezcal

Uasisi bottleAmong the cluster of new mezcals at the Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle tasting we were very curious to try Mezcal Uasïsï which literally translates to “Mezcal of the Bat” in the indigenous Purepecha language in Michocan where it is produced. Our great friends Peggy Stein and Doug Wheeler, who run Mexico by Hand a fantastic small business that brings folk arts and artisanal crafts from Mexico directly to the United States, poured Mezcal Uasïsï at the tasting.

Fellow blogger Cristina Potters who writes about the Mexican culinary universe at Mexico Cooks already wrote a great piece about the mezcal which we were fortunate enough to republish in Mezcaliastas. I was really curious about it so I talked to Mezcal Uasïsï’s brand manager Juan Mendez to get a sense of their process and what’s going on in the world of Michoacan mezcal.

First of all, let’s get to the pronunciation: Juan rattled off a number of ways native Michoacanos would pronounce it but recommended Washici. Uasïsï’ literally means “bat” which is an allusion to one of the agave plant’s natural pollinators. Plus it’s just a great name.

Juan told me that the agave is all grown around Etucuaro just northwest of Patzcuaro and is part of a continuous 400 year old tradition. If true that makes the local mezcal industry similar in age to Oaxaca’s and says quite a bit about the widely distributed Mexican distilling history.  Juan plays the role of brand manager and works closely with the mastro mezcalero Ignacio Pérez Scott who makes Uasïsï and represents the fourth generation of his family to make mezcal. As with many brand creators Juan works closely with Ignacio to make the mezcal and maintain the brand. Juan’s mother Maira is the general manager while his two brothers and two sisters also share in the business.

The mezcal is produced entirely from wild Agave cupreata which takes eight to ten years to mature. The local growing conditions are very different from what we’re used to seeing in the valleys of southern Oaxaca. Most of the plants are at 1,075 meters above sea level and grow in valleys of dark, rich, soils shot through with the pine groves that you see everywhere in Michoacan.

Production is completely traditional starting with the underground oven which the maestro mezcalero dug out himself and lined with bricks. The roast time is 72 hours for 2.5-3 tons of piñas. The roasted maguey is then crushed by hand with an adze in a wooden canoe. It is fermented solely with wild yeasts and takes exactly 8 days. Per Juan fermentation is “exactly a Monday to Monday process and we still use an alambique de madera which means that we lose 30-40% of production because of the still. But it’s very traditional for us.”

I was curious whether they’re branching out into mezcal distilled from other agaves, making a pechuga or doing anything else different but Juan tells me that they’re very focused on the mezcal joven for export because they want to keep things simple in order to make sure that the process goes as quickly as possible. They also make a mezcal that is infused with tamarind for two months but they don’t have plans to export it. Juan told me it’s just too tricky to get it registered so they’re keeping it local for now. I’d love to try that out because the classic pechugas made with fruits are pretty incredible.

Right now they’re making 1,500 liters/year of the joven and, Juan, claims, they can ramp up to 5,000 liters/month if they have the export pipeline. I was very curious about this scale because most mezcal producers would struggle both with agave supply and still throughput but Juan told me that his maestro mezcalero owns more than 200 hectares, which is just about 500 acres, and that 70% of that land has cupreata  growing on it.

The sustainability of this operation has to be really tricky. Juan and I talked a bit about that issue and he acknowledged that they’re working on cultivating cupreata on a small portion of the land. Right now they only use wild because the cupreata doesn’t clone itself. They have to let the quiotes grow before they can cut them down to collect the seeds for their nurseries where germination takes 2-3 months. With luck new cupreata plants grow up over two years when they’re ready to be planted. Juan told me that “many producers are using the plants without replanting them. It’s very important for us to do this sustainably. We don’t want to damage the wild life. We don’t want to bother the bats because they do the pollination process. The majority of our maguey is still reproduced by bats, perhaps 80% by bats and birds.”

As we were finishing up our talk Juan talked a bit more about the realities of the bureaucratic and economic systems that he and many in the mezcal industry are facing. His is the classic lament of the mezcal world because he is waiting for Comercam to visit and finalize the certification of Uasïsï so that they can legally start exporting. They’re already looking for a distributor but for the time being you’ll need to hunt it down in Mexico City, make the trek to Michoacan or know a special someone to bring some back for you.

The old world exceeds the new when it comes to mezcal

Mezcal DerrumbesLately I’ve noticed a mini-trend, lots of new mezcals are appearing in Europe either before they come to the U.S. or perhaps even without consideration of the U.S. market. When I talked to Esteban Morales earlier this summer he made it clear that his Mezcal Derrumbes would have a place in the U.S. soon but would get to Europe first because it was easier to release it there first. Sure enough, you can now order it through the UK and they’ll even ship to the U.S.

But that’s just the beginning of something that may be a trend because once I started poking around I found at least a small cluster of mezcals available in the UK but not the U.S. including:

Granted, some of these may be rebottlings, some of this is definitely just the great fruit of international variety. Perhaps someone will pop up and tell us what’s going on.

As I noted above some of the ecommerce places in the UK offer these awesome mini bottles that you can rarely find here. Here’s one for Patron. This is exactly the sort of thing that people want because they would love to taste before buying an entire bottle. It’s the same factor driving the half or one-and-a-half ounce pours in bars and restaurants. Cuish offers a bundle in Oaxaca that look like this:

Cuish mini-bottles

The next best thing is the St. George Spirits‘ 500ml three pack of their gins. Now that’s something I’d love to see for mezcal lines so that they’d be more affordable. I bet plenty of people would go for that as a gift.

Which is another way of saying, perhaps the UK has something on us…

Anyone out there in the mezcal world want to step up and explain why this is happening or is it as simple as restrictive American liquor laws?

 

 

Expansion news from Vago, at least a little bit

I noticed this little item about noted San Antonio bartender and mezcal aficionado Houston Eaves moving on from the bar scene to work with Vago outside of Oaxaca so I had to reach out to Vago’s Judah Kuper and get the full story. Is Vago really expanding? Judah told me “funny, we are expanding to 1 employee.”

Apparently Vago has been on the lookout for other mezcals and for someone to help his father-in-law Aquilino García López. It sounds like a nice match, friends and business partners. Some could even cast it as a working vacation: “My friend Houston who is a member of the Tequila Interchange Project and one of the great bartenders of Texas is coming to help for 6 months in Oaxaca. He used to run a hotel in Costa Rica and speaks fluent Spanish, also he has been a huge agave advocate. I’m a bit overwhelmed down here doing everything production wise, so his help is going to be great.” Judah also assured us that “Vago did have an unbelievable first year and we of course would like to keep up the growth as much as possible without compromising our quality. I really think our mezcals will just get better and better.”

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