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Posts from the ‘Tastings’ 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.

Quick look – Mezcal Vago tasting in Oaxaca

Had the chance to meet up with Judah Kupor yesterday and taste though the whole Vago line at his tasting room/office/bottling facility in San Felipe del Agua. Pretty amazing stuff, especially when you are able to do it side by side and really get a sense of the flavors that are being pulled out by the mezcaleros. Stretched out several hours (important when you are looking at 12-15 mezcals), the conversation rambled over tons of topics including the controversial ones of adding water (distilling to ABV vs playing with colas, puntas and yes, water), sustainability around the agaves, wood, just how many mezcaleros to work with under a brand, fair pay, challenging the mezcaleros to move beyond their flavor comfort  zone and tradition, and well, you get the picture of a wonderful long afternoon. At some point I’ll be able to go through the notes and put those ramblings to paper.

But the mezcal – if you haven’t already had the chance to give it a try, they produce some pretty incredible stuff and are playing around with some new ones as well. Tasting some Espadins side by side – from their very first batch on, it is quite the trajectory of flavor. For anyone who ever says, oh, that is just an Espadin, well shame, because the variety and complexity of this maguey is pretty extreme.

Three Tobalas

Three Tobalas

Also tasting side by side three Tobalas was also pretty interesting and again pointed to how much is determined by terrior, water, and distillation and storing – clay/copper/glass.

It is impossible to name stand outs – Madrecuixe, Tepestate, Mexicano, Sierra Negra (with 10% Espadin) – all compete equally and really just depend on the personal palette of the drinker. Me, I still want to go for the Elote every time because nothing quite puts the flavor memory of Mexico into a bottle quite like that one, and presents equally the vital role both maiz and maguey play in life down here.

I am looking forward to a trek out to Candelaria Yegole next week to see the full operation and of course what further hours of conversation will unveil.

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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

Tres’ mezcal road II

A signpost on La Ruta del Mezcal.

A signpost on La Ruta del Mezcal.

Yesterday we had a fine time at Tres‘ back room wending our way through their annual La Ruta del Mezcal with a variety of fellow aficionados and industry reps. A special shout out to Jayson Naona who organized everything. We obviously need more tastings like this.

A few items of note:

Erick "Almamezcalera" Rodriguez pours at Ruta del Mezcal

Erick “Almamezcalera” Rodriguez pours at Ruta del Mezcal

Two of the bottles Erick was pouring.

Two of the bottles Erick was pouring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erick Rodriguez aka Erick Almamezcalera poured some really interesting bottles. His batches are always small and distinctive. Yesterday he was pouring a Salmiana from San Luis de Potosi that was incredibly spicy and peppery even finding jalapeño notes. It would be a great match for meals. His Karwinskii was the mezcal equivalent of a spiced mango, full of classic agave fruit and peppery spiciness. By far the strangest thing at his table was the pechuga de iguana which flummoxes my descriptive powers. A lightening poll of other people I knew found similar responses that ranged from “otherworldly” to “indescribable.” It was certainly powerful, strong flavors and strong alcohol.

Erick also displayed the unique ceramic bottles from the 50-year-old agave mezcal he has started to sell called El Cuarenteño. Get into touch with him through his Facebook page if you’re interested in that. We’ll have a bit more on that project soon. And he was selling some really nice custom copitas which are well worth a look.

T-shirts in effect at Ruta del Mezcal

T-shirts in effect at Ruta del Mezcal

Bruxo gets into the T-shirt trade.

Bruxo gets into the T-shirt trade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mezcal t-shirts are officially a thing with the El Jolgorio crew wearing a variety, Bruxo offering its variant, Erick sporting his design and a few other versions wandering around. I’d be remiss if we didn’t mention ours, we’re already working on new designs so clearly there’s a trend here.

El Jolgorio had a big showing at a table manned by three people and looked constantly busy. It’s hard to read too much into that alone but the visibility of those bottles at bars and liquor stores tells me that they’re making a big impact. Their upcoming tepeztate is definitely something to taste, sweet and well balanced.

El Bruxo table at Ruta del Mezcal

El Bruxo table at Ruta del Mezcal

El Bruxo's marketing focus on their mezcaleros

El Bruxo’s marketing focus on their mezcaleros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was El Buxo’s semi-official launch in North America so consider yourself lucky if you were there. They were pouring one through five of their series which is much more extensive in Mexico. The number three Barril was a stand out. Their California brand ambassador, Irais Monroy, told me that they may bring in others as well, keep your eyes peeled. It’s really nice to see that their marketing is focused on their mezcaleros and the production features of each mezcal in their list.

Real Minero's Largo, at 54% it's something to contend with.

Real Minero’s Largo, at 54% it’s something to contend with.

The Real Minero, Rey Campero, Mezcaloteca line up.

The Real Minero, Rey Campero, Mezcaloteca line up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Minero, Rey Campero, and Mezcaloteca continued to prime the North American pump: They’re being poured at tastings like this one because they’re not completely certified yet. The word is they will be legal and in stores soon. When? That depends on the TTB but it could be as soon as summer. It’s the same line up you may have tasted at Mexico in a Bottle with things like the Real Minero Largo, Rey Campero Jabili, and Mezcaolteca’s Espadin with cacao. I’m sure they will strike a cord with many an aficionado and be the gateway taste for anyone new to mezcal.

 

Mezcal Wahaka's line up at Ruta de Mezcal

Mezcal Wahaka’s line up at Ruta de Mezcal

Wahaka’s Raza Zaidi was pouring their line up including the two vegan pechugas from their “limited editions” series. They are indeed limited, once gone, gone forever, and since they’re almost out of stock grab your bottles today. Wahaka will be releasing a four new bottles in that series which should be really interesting. This is where their mezcalero Berto gets to experiment. More of that please! The new bottles in the limited edition series should be on store shelves soon. Again, when exactly depends on the TTB.

A few more photos from the tasting:

Jake Lustig, fresh back from Agave Love in Australia, was pouring Don Amado and Mina Real mezcals

Jake Lustig, fresh back from Agave Love in Australia, was pouring Don Amado and Mina Real mezcals

A group photo of all the bar tenders, brand ambassadors, and related folks from Ruta del Mezcal II.

A group photo of all the bar tenders, brand ambassadors, and related folks from Ruta del Mezcal II.

It's officially closing time as bartenders lit the fumes from a greater than 50% bottle of mezcal and watched the flames burn down the bottle.

It’s officially closing time as bartenders lit the fumes from a greater than 50% bottle of mezcal and watched the flames burn down the bottle.

La Ruta de Mezcal comes through San Francisco this weekend

Last year Tres launched it’s Ruta de Mezcal tasting in the back room. It’s back in town this coming Sunday 2-6PM so grab your tickets. Last year it was positively packed, this year promises more – more vendors, more food, more improvements. Susan and I will be circulating so grab us if you want to chat.

If you haven’t been yet, Tres has a huge back room which opens onto their back lot. They’re taking a big step towards sustainability and purity in tasting by providing a tasting glass for everyone. Plus there will be a bunch of food including classic snacks and their truck out back serving bacon-wrapped hot dogs, elote, ceviche, and tacos made from a pig roasted on the premises.

The mezcal list this year is, to say the least, expansive. Here’s what we know right now. More may slip in.

  • Wahaka
  • El Jolgorio / Nuestra Soldedad
  • Tosba
  • Mezcaloteca / Real Minero / Rey Campero
  • Vago
  • Del Maguey
  • Bruxo
  • Benesin / San Juan del Rio
  • Ilegal
  • Don Amado / Mina Real
  • Almamezcalera

Personalities will abound like Erick Rodriguez, Jake Lustig, and many others. See you there!

The flyer for La Ruta del Mezcal II.

The flyer for La Ruta del Mezcal II.

 

 

 

Mezcal hits Australia with Agave Love

Phil Bayly

Phil Bayly

This coming weekend, March 22-23 Sydney will be hosting Agave Love which sounds like a fantastic confluence of agave producers and lovers. I recently chatted with the organizer, longtime Sydney restauranteur Phil Bayly about the event, his background, and the state of mezcal in Australia. Agave Love’s Facebook page has lots of updated information so take a look.

You should really get excited about the guest list which includes luminaries like Julio Bermejo, Ivan Saldaña,Esteban Morales, and Marco Ochoa to name just four. The format sounds incredibly fun, it’s a roving tasting and discussion about agave distillates. That’s something we can totally get behind.

Can you tell me a bit about your background with agave distillates?

I started working with Tequila in 1980 with Tomas Estes at his first Cafe Pacifico, Amsterdam.

Together we set up 18 Tequila Bars in six countries in cities like Paris, London, Milan, and Cologne. In the early 90’s I returned to Australia which is where I am from. I opened a Cafe Pacifico in Sydney in 1997 the first tequila bar in Australia and ran it for 16 years. I was awarded the first Distinctivo T by the CRT in the Southern Hemisphere in 2006.

I have been going to Mexico regularly since the early 80’s visiting distilleries but with my focus on tequila. I first went to Oaxaca in ’85 to see and visit some palenques. It was pretty wild then, mind you not much has really changed. I always had an interest in mezcal and had a small range in Sydney from the beginning especially Ultramarine.

As mezcal started to grow I began to follow it and expand my collection making various trips to Oaxaca to see what I could find and bring back. I met Graciela for Real Minero in the late 2000’s and that grew my interest in the different varietals using different agaves. From there I met Ivan Saldaña and my passion grew from the drink to the plant itself.

Agave Love flyer

Agave Love flyer

How did you come up with the idea of creating a conference about tequila and mezcal?

From visiting Mexico and the tequila region then to Oaxaca the thing that struck me was it is not just about the drink but it is the people behind it. I have met and been inspired by so many amazing people like the ones I have mentioned and others like Ron Cooper and in particular the producers themselves I decided to ask them if they would consider coming to Australia so the people here could have the opportunity to meet and hear these people in person so they may be inspired as I have and get a greater understanding and appreciation of the variety of styles and regions. It took me years to educate Australians about tequila and they finally got it!

We have had a long history here in Australia of a market flooded with false tequila, we have finally overcome that.

What I have found is that with the influx of mezcal, the price and the intensities and complexities in flavours that it was really confusing Australians and they were wanting to drink mezcal like tequila. I saw a need to really educate them in to understanding what these spirits are and why they are so different and how to appreciate them.

Tell me about the specific format of Agave Love

I have presented at a lot of bar shows around the world and the one thing I don’t like about them is that they are in big halls located usually out of the centre of  cities and it is all about brand not really category so I picked some of my favourite small bars which are all within walking distance and asked them if they would come on board to host this event. Everyone of them embraced the concept and it has grown from there.

I wanted to create more intimate environments that relate to the spirits. I also did not want to do a 101 class although I did make one talk for the virgins, but I wanted to take people to the next level and really go deep into these categories. It would seem to me a waste to have these professionals just scratching the surface after coming all the way here.

The Agave Love lineup

The Agave Love lineup

I also wanted to create a situation where it was not possible to go to everything. I want to leave people hungry to want to know more and hopefully compare notes of what they had missed so there are 46 different sessions over two days but it will only be possible to get to a maximum of eight from the whole conference.

I found it necessary to add another venue just for distributors to be face to face with consumers and talk about their products. This I have called Agave Central with about 50 different brands of tequila, mezcal, raicilla, and sotol; not to mention all the different expressions. This will be set up similar to ‘Whisky live’ where it is not about who has the biggest stand, it is a table with a table cloth and let the products speak for themselves.

All the tastings will be blind with a range of six different brands in each. I have selected who may have their products where so as to keep it even and balanced on topic.

Benito Juarez loved mezcal

At least we hope he did because we had quite a tasting in his honor last night at Lolo in San Francisco. Mezcal Head, aka Ken Taylor, joined me to pour a fantastic variety of Oaxaca’s liquid pride in honor of one of the state’s greatest heroes. Courtesy of Lolo’s crack bartending staff we even managed to add some wrinkles to the tasting.

The set up just before our What Would Benito Juarez Drink tasting, aka our birthday commemoration tasting for Benito Juarez at Lolo.

The set up just before our What Would Benito Juarez Drink tasting, aka our birthday commemoration tasting for Benito Juarez at Lolo.

The big surprises were that we got to taste two different lots of the Del Maguey Minero from Santa Catarina Minas and the Tosba Pechuga instead of the previously scheduled Tosba Tobala. If you were looking for contrast you needn’t have looked any further. We started with a side-by-side tasting the Del Maguey Minero. The old lot was SCM 114, the new lot SCM 121 both from NOM-O41X. The older lot had a much deeper and rounder flavor while the new one was bright and citrusy. If ever there was a demonstration of the unique nature of every distillation run, that was it. Definitely a real treat for the evening. Both were full of the round fruit that ties together the Del Maguey mezcals.

We moved onto the Pierde Almas Dobadaan Lot 18-D NOM O120X which was very dusty and lean bodied. Ken found barnyard notes on the nose that the rest of us couldn’t pick up on. That’s not the first time he’s found something that others have missed, he has a great nose for these things. And, no he wasn’t using barnyard as a negative term, it’s more that woodsy smell. Everyone agreed that the Dobadaan was a great contrast to the roundness of the Minero. One of our tasters later said “if I was introducing someone to mezcal I’d start with the Minero exactly because it is so fruity and round.”

The Vago Arroqueno del Barro Lot S – 05 NOM O188X was a showstopper with an undulating curve of flavors between fruit, dry, citrus, and a lasting aftertaste of dusty clay no doubt from the clay pot distillation. It’s one of the special releases we mentioned earlier in the month.

We finished with Tosba’s Pechuga Lot 004 NOM O164X and were ready for a big fatty pechuga but were met with a sharp and lean flavors which may have been a bit washed out by the mezcals that preceded it. Ken and I chatted about whether we should have placed it earlier in the tasting. In previous tastings it’s been much more flavorful so perhaps the variety and intensity of flavors washed out the tasting experience. We’ll definitely return to this pechuga later on to see how it performs when it’s not preceded by such big hitters.

As a sign of mezcal’s popularity ours was just one of two public mezcal tastings in San Francisco last night. Wahaka’s Raza Zaidi was pouring for one of La Urbana’s Monday night tastings. With this sort of abundance, who can complain? La Urbana’s next tasting isn’t until 4/20 (…) when they will be pouring Don Amado. In the interim they are hosting a chef’s dinner Thursday March 26th that sounds interesting. Check it out.

WWBJD? Find out at our next tasting

A mural of Benito Juarez by Jesús Cristóbal Flores Carmona.

A mural of Benito Juarez by Jesús Cristóbal Flores Carmona.

It’s March so we’re asking ourselves What Would Benito Juarez Drink. His birthday is the 21st but we are commemorating that momentous event along with the rest of Mexico on the 16th with a mezcal tasting at Loló.

For those familiar with our tastings over the summer, you already know the drill. For those who don’t: We meet at the back bar between 6 and 7:30 PM to taste through a cluster of mezcals, talk about their backgrounds, compare notes, and meet fellow mezcal aficionados. The price is $25.

This time out we’ll taste:

Tosba Tobala
Del Maguey Minero
Mezcal Vago Arroqueño
Pierde Almas Dobadaan

Needless to say these are some very special mezcals and this is a fantastic opportunity to contrast how different they are. This tasting will be even more interesting because Susan is on the road so we’ve enlisted fellow mezcal blogger Ken Taylor who writes over at Mezcal Head to pour with me. If you’re interested RSVP by emailing me. Hope to see you there!

Become a Mezcanaut, a true mezcal explorer

Mezcanautica logoNeed help navigating the rapidly changing and dangerous shoals of the mezcal world? Well, we have the event for you. Coming March 13th-14th in Oaxaca City Mezcanautica is set up to be a deep dive into the issues and questions driving the mezcal world today. Punning aside this looks like it’s going to be incredibly exciting and my Skype call with the organizers over the weekend only confirmed that expectation. And what an intriguing team it is: Graciela Angeles Carreño from Real Minero, Ulises Torrentera from In Situ, and Marco Ochoa from Mezcaloteca with an assist from William Scanlan who has been working with that group for some time. William also graciously helped translate.

The event in brief

Mezcanautica is envisioned as an annual event and since this is the first edition the theme is appropriately “The Origins of Mezcal.” It will encompass workshops, lectures, tastings, and a mezcaleria tour. The full price of the event includes all of the above except the mezcaleria tour because no one really knows how much you’ll end up drinking; best to leave that to your budget, if you know what I mean. You can find the full schedule here.

Saturday will have workshops presented by Marco, Graciela, Ulises, and others on a variety of fascinating topics ranging from Marco on the history of mezcal to Erick Baron on how to classify the scents in mezcals. The Sunday workshops will take you into the field with Graciela guiding you through the Real Minero palenque or you can visit palenques that work with Mezcaloteca. There will, of course, be structured tastings.

The lectures sound really interesting. Remember that great map of the diversity of agave across Mexico? That was created by Jorge Larson who will be giving a talk on the Denominacion de Origen. Others will address the aromas in mezcal and a dive into the evolution of agave in Mexico.

Agaves de Mexico map

And then there are the mezcaleria visits. You could do it all by your lonesome but the sort of company that this sort of event attracts will simultaneously deepen your understanding and appreciation for the culture that creates mezcal while allowing you to taste truly rare distillations.

The origin

I was really curious why such an event hasn’t happened before. Oaxaca has it’s annual Feria de Mezcal timed with La Guelaguetza in the summer and is quite a drinking scene. Graciela told me that a loose group of mezcal promotors, creators, and purveyors had long been interested in creating a more academically focused event that pulled together the people who would speak to the big questions and ideas in the mezcal world. It’s just that they’d never been able to get the organization right.

Everyone involved agreed that their goal is consumer education. Marco noted that the primary focus of “other mezcal fairs is try to sell product rather than educate consumers.” Ulises articulated the goal of Mezcalnautica as giving “the consumer credible information based on academic research and findings.”

While this conference is obviously focused on Oaxaca, everyone involved is thinking about the larger global market, especially in North American. Mezcanautica was created to really dig into the question of what tradition means and build a branding message for the North American market that is clear and resonates. As William Scanlan put it, “the US market hasn’t been pumped full of misinformation yet. This is our opportunity to give them something that’s lacking, an academic perspective, and define mezcal as a traditional, cultural, and spiritual beverage.” It’s a tough road but it is early days in mezcal’s international reputation so it’s still very possible to own that message.

Not your everyday mezcal topics

They aim to address the messaging issue by really digging into the traditional culture invested in the creation of a mezcal and the cultivation of agave. Jorge Larson is going to focus his speech on the idea of defining the Denominación de Origen (DO) by the community that produces the mezcal rather than the geographic distribution of the agave. That may sound esoteric but consider that most European wines are defined by their community names and standards rather than what vines grow wild within a certain geographic area. Sure, it’s much more complex than that but the point is fascinating. Put another way, should we be defining mezcal by the taste of the community that created it rather than by the agave that goes into it?

If you’ve been to Mexico in a Bottle or one of his earlier tastings then Iván Saldaña’s topic at Mezcanautica needs no introduction: He will be presenting on terroir and the implications for flavors in mezcal. Despite a Mexico in a Bottle audience member’s argument that we should abandon the use of the term terroir and embrace instead the Spanish word terruño, Ivan and everyone else in the world has stuck with terroir as the common description of the land and local process that gives a mezcal a distinct flavor. This is obviously one area where, despite anyone’s effort, the French have won. Aside apart, Ivan contributes enormous intelligence to this topic and is an incredibly engaging speaker so I really look forward to hearing his latest thoughts on the question; especially because the mezcal world is expanding so quickly that classic community oriented terroirs are appearing on the more global market so frequently. 

There are obviously many more speeches to attend which fill out pretty much any interest in the world of mezcal. Dr. Abisaí García will be talking about the history of agave in Mexico while Xitlalli Aguirre who also contributed to that famous Artes de Mexico map of agave distribution across Mexico will be returning to that topic for her presentation.

Jules Verne loved mezcal

20,000 Leagues Under the SeaAnd now for the fun stuff. The phrase Mezcanautica comes from Ulisses’ term Mezcanaut in his book Mezcalaria to mean ‘an explorer in the universe of mezcal.’ While we can guarantee that you won’t meet Laika on this journey, you will encounter the awesome aquatic branding courtesy of Mariana Garnica, Marco Ochoa, and Belem Romero. They took the Mezcanaut idea into a parallel and opposite direction by embracing the iconography of the 19th Century Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and diving down under the waves to discover rarefied mezcals and agaves. It’s fun stuff, check out more of Belen’s art.

Up up and mezcal to the future!

Everyone involved with Mezcanautica would love to see it flourish not only as an annual event in Oaxaca but as a roadshow across the United States. It’s early days for that latter concept but things like this have been known to come together quickly so stay tuned, you may be able to receive your official Mezcalnaut Badge of Courage in a nearby town soon.

The details

Cost for a ticket is just shy of $300 US or $4,500 Mexican pesos for all events in the three day conference except for those evening mezcaleria jaunts. You can register here. Just be warned that the proceedings will all be in Spanish so start that language refresher course today. Email William Scanlan for more details including how to take advantage of group rates at local hotels.

Mezonte Raicilla from Candido Romero – Tasting notes

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Shaky hands, low lighting, but you get the idea of the Mezonte front label.

The back label with all the glorious production details.

The back label with all the glorious production details.

Last week I tasted two Raicillas, this Mezonte and the Raicilla Venenosa Maximilliano. Clearly we need to drink more Raicillas. That’s a problem because there are only four on the market in the United States and the odd personal import like this bottle of Mezonte. Perhaps worse, they’re hard to find in Mexico. This is obviously part of a great unwritten tragedy because they taste amazing and are a huge contrast to classic Oaxacan mezcal flavor set. I can only hope that we’re in the “Rise of the Raicillas” chapter of this book where Esteban Morales‘ launch of Raicilla Venenosa in October is the first of many which will culminate in the return of the repressed distilling heritage of Jalisco.  For the time being it’s a really hit and miss game. If you find bottles like this, buy them and pay full freight to encourage their production because, as I’ve heard from Esteban and others, Raicilla production really needs financial support.

This bottle from Pedro Jimenez’s Mezonte label is an extraordinary example of the genre. Pedro is renown in the mezcal world for his Guadalajara bar Pare de Suffrir dedicated to all species of agave distillates. Plus he created one of the most engaging documentaries about mezcal with Viva Mezcal. You have no excuses if you haven’t watched it yet.

Pedro’s Mezonte label is focused on promoting solely traditional mezcals, especially those from Jalisco and Michoacan. They’re all very unique and small productions that represent the true spirit of their producers. This bottle made by Candido Romero was an explosion of floral notes throughout the nose, really something that you could go on sniffing for quite some time. It has a very lean body and eschews the big viscosity common in Oaxacan espadin. It has a light floral flavor to match the nose. I can’t emphasize how balanced it is: The flavor is an expression of the nose which only enhances the flavor ad infinitum.

Bottle No. 10 in the second Vino de Mezcal series featuring Ixtero Amarillo.

Bottle No. 10 in the second Vino de Mezcal series featuring Ixtero Amarillo.

The label is just as extraordinary as the bottle’s content. The list of all the details of its production are extensive and enlightening. Lovers of Mezcaloteca will recognize it immediately. The details are incredible including that it undergoes a 21 day fermentation. It’s made from Ixtero Amarillo which, my tasting partner Ken Taylor aka Mezcal Head, noted also recently made an appearance in the Number 10 bottle of the Vino de Mezcales line.  Sadly there are only 60 liters of this bottling but that’s just they way it should be. It’s a limited vintage and we have to learn to start treating these things like the living treasures they are.