In the spirit of transparency, here’s some background on how the whole idea of how Mexico in a Bottle – Washington, D.C. came about: DC is my hometown, but now, my immediate family lives with me on the West Coast. I miss DC, I miss my friends, and I really needed to come up with a reason to visit. Then there was a random meeting and conversation I had with Pati Jinich, the terrific Mexican chef, culinary anthropologist, and resident chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute in DC. She told me that the Mexican culinary scene in Washington was growing. A seed was planted and I told Max that DC needed to be on our shortlist of event cities for 2017. Read more
Posts tagged ‘alipús’
The Alipús line continues to evolve. The latest addition is an ensamble which originally was designed to replace the San Andrés, now it appears it will complement it. The details:
- Location: Santa María La Pila, Mihuatlán, Oaxaca
- Agave: 80% Espadín, 20% Bicuishe
- Maestro Mezcalero: Don Valente Ángel García Juárez
- Quantity: 800 bottles in this batch. More to come.
- ABV: 47.2%
- NOM: O14X
As with its predecessor, the San Andrés Ensamble carries the pink label of the Alipús line because it is also made by maestro mezcalero Don Valente Ángel García Juárez in the same location as the original San Andrés. That original was made solely of espadín and quickly Read more
Craft Distillers, the Ukiah based distributor of well known and loved brands like Alipus, Mezcalero, and Los Nahuales has launched quite an impressive series of blog posts that dig deeply into everything that goes into their mezcals. They start with this really fun post on shipping a Hoga still to Oaxaca
And work through all the steps in making mezcal while addressing some important process questions like the impact of shredders and yeasts.
It’s rare that someone takes this much care examining issues and techniques, let alone for someone in the industry to do it publicly so we heartily commend Ansley Coale’s crew for taking on this labor. It’s fascinating and provides great information for all the discussions that mezcal nerds have all the time. Take a look, you may end up spending your entire day working through their posts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alipus is already a big force in the mezcal world because of its high quality, entry level of price point of $48, and presentation of the diversity of espadin. But now Craft Distillers has a fourth bottle in their Alipus line, the Santa Ana del Rio which brings a new set of flavors. It’s been out for at a few months now but we’re finally seeing it in more bars and retail locations so ask for it next time you get a chance. Our brief tasting notes: undulating mouth sensations from alcoholic heat to flavor and back again. All were entirely pleasant but in definite contrast to mezcals with more consistently viscous, alcoholic or lean mouth feels. Herbal and agave flavors that vary considerably along with the mouth sensations.
I definitely see the possibilities of a regular mezcal Monday. Last night it was at Rio Grande on Market Street—a kickoff of sorts for SF Cocktail Week and hosted by Ryan Fitzgerald, former Beretta star bartender/mixologist, driving force for the Tequila Interchange Project (TIP), and now western sales rep for Del Maguey.
The $20 entry fee (all proceeds going to TIP) got you an evening of mezcals, mezcal cocktails, beer ,and tamales. Pierde Almas, Alipus, and Del Maguey were being poured. I am still trying to embrace cocktail culture – I’ve always liked my drinks neat, or as minimally embellished as possible but, in the spirit of cocktail week, I asked for a mezcal variation on an Old Fashioned.
It was still early, the crowd small, the bartender carefully scraped ice from an ice block on the bar, then lovingly measured, poured, and stirred my drink as I replayed Mr. Mixologist over and over in my head.
Del Maguey’s Vida is the bartenders’ choice for mezcal cocktails. It’s versatile and works with just about anything as we’ve previously written. I think in the coming year or so, Puritita Verda (Pierde Almas’ lower price point mezcal) will give Vida a run for the money.
The variation on the Old Fashioned was good – I prefer cocktails that have a more savory flavor. To go the opposite extreme, I asked the bartender to mix a mezcal variation of a lemon drop. I was hoping it could come close to that sublime lemongrass infused mezcal I had in Oaxaca last spring. Sadly the cocktail was far too sweet for my palette and the mezcal was completely overpowered by the citrus.
I tracked down Ryan to get an update from him on NOM-186, which is still making its way through the channels in Mexico. TIP has been at the forefront making recommendations and counter proposals to help ensure that some of the more draconian parts of it (the branding of the word agave for one) are modified and that small producers aren’t completely SOL. We’ll have a more in-depth piece about this next week.
A sweet surprise to the night – a chance to try Tosba, a mezcal produced in the Sierra Norte in Oaxaca (a mountainous and heavily wooded area east of Oaxaca city) and not yet available in the US (though they are working on it). Mezcals from the Sierra Norte are not commonly found outside of the area. They are rumored to be made with the purest and sweetest water in Oaxaca. Tosba is a family operation, and Elisandro Gonzalez-Molina is the US face for the brand. He was pouring an espadin and a pechuga – both were delicious. The espadin was smooth, balanced, and earthy with an underlying finish of sweetness that hung on my lips. The pechuga was divine – with a complex layering of savory, subtle roasted maguey, and fruit. I definitely put it in the top 3 of pechugas I’ve had. It was a great way to end the night.
As a heads up, I will be pouring mezcals at the Third I Filmmakers/VIP party this Saturday night at the Castro. On the table will be Pierde Almas, Del Maguey, Alipus, Metl, and the Tosba Espadin. Of course we’ll also have a private reserve surprise. Tickets are still available!
While the Los Danzantes line of Alipús mezcals have long been available in Mexico they’re just premiering in the United States right now. Craft Distillers is the importer and they should be on store shelves sometime this August. We recently sat down with Craft Distillers’ Elizabeth Grivas for a tasting of the three mezcals they are bringing into the U.S. market.
Per the tasting notes San Andres was “fermented in cypress vats and distilled by Don Valente Angel from agave Espadín grown at about 5,000 feet on thin calciferous-soiled low hills and terraces.”
We found a big push of agave in the nose and a nice integrated agave/smoke combination in the mouth. It’s a very powerful tasting mezcal with strong fruit but doesn’t overwhelm with alcohol. This was the tasting favorite so we brought it into our Pop Up Mezcaleria where it showed exceptionally well in the company of Del Maguey’s Minero, Metl’s Blanco Blend and Pierde Almas’ Dobadaán. Many tasters named it a favorite and commented on the great contrast between strong agave fruit and alcoholic push.
San Juan del Rio
Made by the same palanquero as Los Nahuales (as it is known here in the U.S. – it goes by Los Danzantes in Mexico), Don Joel Antonio Cruz y familia, the San Juan del Rio Alipús is made from 100% Espadín. Per the tasting notes from Craft Distillers it was fermented in oak vats and is the fruit of non-irrigated Espadín “grown in sunny mountain-top plantings in ferriferous soil at 4,600 feet.” They describe it as “Fruity, rich, smokey, pleasantly sweet.” In our tasting we found a full agave nose with a slight sweetness and light smoke notes. It was smooth on the tongue and displayed an even alcohol note. The palate reveals even more smoke which is the dominant impression left after a swallow. This is definitely the smokiest Alipús which should appeal to scotch drinkers who appreciate some peat.
San Baltazar Guelavila
The tasting notes describe the San Baltazar Guelavila as having been “fermented in pine vats and distilled by Don Cosme Hernandez from agave Espadín grown at about 5,700 feet in hilly, white, and rocky soil.”
We couldn’t identify the nose on the San Baltazar Guelavila with the frustratingly vague “ineffable” being used by one participant. But it has a very round mouth feel with sugar cane notes and lots of smoke. The San Baltazar Guelavila garnered the most mixed opinion of the Alipús line with some describing it as burnt, some as chemical tasting, some as earthy and mineral in aspect resolving in a briny tail.
UPDATE: June 6, 2014
Santa Ana del Rio
Craft Distillers just released a new bottle to the Alipus series. Tasting notes updated here.
As we’ve previously posted, we’ll be hosting our first mezcal tasting in San Francisco on July 25th. We’ve got some pretty exciting news to share about the event. First, we’re thrilled to present the US premiere of Alipús and will be featuring their San Andrés mezcal made by Don Valente Angel. It will also be the first opportunity for people here in the Bay Area to taste the Metl Espadin, Madrecuishe blend made by Señor Don Lucas of Miahuatlan. You definitely want to be among the first to experience these new mezcals. Also in the line-up – Pierde Almas’ Dobadaan and Del Maguey’s Minero.
Additionally, we’re working with Oakland’s Tamarindo Restaurant on some great food pairings, including Tacos de Chicharron made fresh from El Taco Bike, and Tortas Ahogadas with a divine chipotle sauce. We’ll also be showcasing a brand new cocktail developed by Tamarindo that will feature the Wahaka Joven. And no party is complete without musical beats from DJ EKG.
For ticket information, please check here.
Max, Bricia and I are looking forward to seeing you!