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Posts from the ‘Tastings’ Category

Mezcalistas and Flaviar: A very mezcal collaboration

We’re happy to announce the first in what we hope will be a number of collaborations with Flaviar, the Mezcalistas Mezcal Box. Flaviar is a company that we know very well over years of content sharing. They focus on providing samples of spirits in special selections like this mezcal box so that their membership base can try and then buy their favorite spirits.

We’re starting off slow to test this idea out. We hope it works out fantastically well so that we can curate mezcals from across the Mexican landscape for Flaviar’s global audience because our goal is to bring mezcal to the world, which is another way of saying that we’re not trying to choose one brand over another, we just want to get this project off the ground with some high quality mezcals that span the spectrum in a very sustainable fashion. If this is successful, we’ll definitely curate many more mezcal boxes down the line.

To purchase the first sample box just go here and you’ll be set up in minutes. You can also purchase full .750L bottles of these, and other, mezcals through Flaviar at this page. If you have any questions just email us!

Del Maguey launches sustainability training seminar

Misty Kalkofen, Del Maguey‘s Madrina (godmother) is a big ball of energy when it comes to her passion project – mezcal and sustainability. If you haven’t already checked out the sustainability blog at the Del Maguey website, you should. It is highly significant that the brand that pretty much launched the mezcal category as we know it today has a dedicated space on their website discussing issues impacting the mezcal industry– this is a real issue that the category as a whole must address.

But with that broad declaration, it is also true that trying to define and categorize sustainability  is a huge and daunting task, so where to begin? In Del Maguey’s case, it is with a new training seminar for industry people the begins to unwrap this very complicated subject. Clearly there is interest because there was a huge turn out of industry folk (bartenders primarily) at both the San Francisco talk at the Alamo Drafthouse, and the Oakland talk at the Starline. Bartenders are the gateway to the world of mezcal for most people, and having them as educated as possible on the key issues is critical to spreading the gospel of sustainability. Perhaps most importantly, the buying power they hold, and the choices they make in deciding which mezcals to put on the shelves is key in supporting brands that prioritize sustainability.

There is no doubt that mezcal is the “it” spirit. In addition to the constant stream of articles making this declaration, there are also the real numbers that back that up; a 20-30% category growth year over year since 2012. But this increasing demand is putting incredible pressure on an industry that has much to figure out, primarily how to scale now that it has been thrust into the international spotlight. And how to scale sustainably, to look for that sweet spot in the intersecting circles of ecology, economics, politics and culture, all with the issue of social justice in the background is no easy task, and one that Kalkofen takes seriously. 

Much of the talk about sustainability has focused on the agricultural, or ecological side, and the raw materials, i.e. agave, needed to continue its viability; and, with good reason. Mexico is really the cornucopia for agave,  Kalkofen delved into that with slides enumerating just how much Mexico contains the greatest variety of Family Agavacea, 251 of 330 species are found in Mexico. And of that 251 species, 150 of which are what we know as agave (others include yucca, et all.) In total, 177 of the species are endemic to Mexico, and therefore the protection in maintaining the diversity is integral to the survival of Agavacea.

The experience of the tequila industry, and reliance on hijuelos (the genetic clones of the mother plant) and monoculture growing style has been a great guide post on what not to do, and how to preserve the genetic diversity found in agave. There is now a greater emphasis on  using a mix of seed and hijuelos in growing. There are also commitments to using certified wood in the production process, and there are projects to help deal with the waste water and bagasso that is being created. But to adequately deal with scaling up production, Kalkofen said it is imperative to think 10-15 years out so that fields can be appropriately planned and planted, the labor issues can be resolved, and that infrastructure can be built.

Kalkofen used Vida production as an example. It takes four hornos, 50-60 tinas (fermentation tanks), and nine stills, all operating simultaneously to meet production needs. Contracts are continually renegotiated to account for the fluctuating agave prices, upgrades to facilities, and of course labor costs. All of these factor into what a bottle ultimately costs, and as Kalkofen points out, if you are paying $15 for a bottle of mezcal, someone, if not many, is getting screwed in the process.

Which leads us to the human factor in mezcal production. The mezcal boom has created economic opportunities in the communities where it is made. There is now money for the children of the mezcaleros to continue education beyond high school, and jobs for many who had left the area in pursuit of economic opportunities. This more than anything is the greatest impact of the industry, and now provides communities with the ability to invest in things we often take for granted like libraries, clean water projects, alternative energy (solar panels for one), internet access, and more.

 Of course while talking about these tough issues, we sipped a wide variety of mezcals from the Del Maguey line that cover the world of agave varietals – espadin, madrecuishe, tobala, papalome, tepeztate – and region – Santa Catarina Minas, Puebla, the Mixteca, Teotitlan del Valle. My two favorites of the day were the Madrecuishe and the Tepeztate, mostly because they were new to me. The special reserve Espadin is certainly a flavor bomb and should not be overlooked.

It was great to see such an engaged audience, and hear a lot of tough questions being asked – it is after all the point in pushing for greater transparency in the industry. I continue to remain hopeful that the mezcal industry will not follow in the footsteps of the tequila industry, and that with seminars like these, industry and consumers alike, will pressure brands toward sustainable practices.

Washington, D.C. – Events galore

 

A quick update on Mexico in a Bottle – Washington, D.C.

  1. We are sold out! Yes, 100% sold out so if you have a ticket you’re a lucky soul. (And no, we don’t have a wait list and can’t sell any tickets at the door. We’d love to be able to sell more tickets but we’re at the building’s capacity. Hopefully you’ll understand!)
  2. Even if you didn’t get a ticket we have some other events in the area this weekend that may be of interest to you. Just click through for all the details.
    1. Wine and Spirits Tasting at Grand Cata
    2. Spirited Conversations – NOM 70
    3. Bar Ilegal Cumbia break down with Wahaka Mezcal
    4. After Party at Espita 

The Spirited Conversation that was

Last night’s inaugural Spirited Conversation at Midtown’s Cantina Alley was fun and super interactive. Rion Toal of the Maestros del Mezcal cooperative tasted us through six mezcals from five different producers and led the talk that covered a broad range of topics from distinctive production styles, agaves used, background on the makers, cooperative programs, hot topics of sustainability, economic impact, and the need to know more about where your mezcal comes from. Read more

Cala SF launches mezcal dinner series

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

Oaxaca notes: An encuentro of (many) Maestros del Mezcal

It was a fabulous three weeks in Oaxaca that now feels simultaneously like I was there for forever and that it was all a dream. I’ll just sum it up in five words– so much damn good mezcal.

Max did a great little write up about how the mezcaleria scene is changing, with differentiation coming in style and design and of course breadth of offerings. To my great dismay, I was not able to get to Cuish to see live and in person their newly revamped space. By all accounts, it is beautiful and is at the top of my list when I return. I have such high regard for what Felix Hernandez Monterrosa and Hilda Martinez Popoca have done for mezcal in Oaxaca. When they opened their doors in 2011, Read more

Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle San Francisco 2016 in glorious photos

It’s a wrap! Sunday’s Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle is officially in the books as an unmitigated success. Thanks to everyone who attended, our ticket buyers had a fantastic time and everyone who presented, poured, cooked, imbibed told us they loved it and can’t wait to come back. Extra special thanks to Michael Skrzypek for taking the photos that you’ll see below because they really bring the entire tasting alive in ways that words fail.

Just to lay out the basic and highlights: Read more

Sign of the times: The ever growing list of mezcals at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle

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So many copitas to fill.

What a difference a year makes. Last year we had a full house of mezcals at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle. There was a great mix of small and medium batch production, seven of the eight states in the denominación were represented, and some new brands launched.

Fast forward to today: We are literally bursting at that seams. The sheer quantity of brands being imported into the United States today is difficult to track. We have plenty of new brands at our tasting which we try to make representative. We’ll have the newly relaunched Los Javis line, Mezcal Malpais from Guerrero, Marca Negra‘s full line, Meteoro, Gracias a Dios, El Cortijo, Siete Misterios and – for the first time at our event – the full line from the Cortes family including Agave de Cortes, Nuestra Soledad, and El Jolgorio. Read more

Tenzing portfolio tasting

The Cocuy Pecayero line upBecause we are gluttons for punishment, the day after Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle Chicago Max and I went to the Tenzing Wine and Spirits portfolio tasting. When we put together the calendar we had no idea our tasting was just before the Indie Spirits Expo and that there would be so many people in town. Call it kismet.

Fortified by a hearty early lunch at Little Goat, we walked over to the Morgan Manufacturing building, a beautiful and huge event space with lots of brick. Being San Franciscans we tend to notice brick as we don’t see a lot of it here what with earthquakes and all.

Tenzing has a huge portfolio that focuses on smaller production houses and companies that incorporate biodynamic and organic farming practices. They have a solid mezcal and tequila portfolio. We were particularly interested in trying Read more

Our kind of town

Quiote's Dan Salls prepares his variation on Al Pastor Tacos for Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle Chicago 2016

Quiote’s Dan Salls prepares his variation on Al Pastor Tacos for Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle Chicago 2016

Chicago is, to paraphrase Sammy Cahn’s lyric, really our kind of town. And we can’t wait to do it again next year! This town loves its mezcal, evidenced not only by the number of agave centric places that have opened (or will open) in 2016 alone, but also by the enthusiasm of everyone we met. The events leading up to the big tasting day – a special tasting at Las Flores, a Vago event at Estereo, a Dark Matter coffee cupping that included a special mezcal Read more