We’re flying back to San Francisco right now after such a wonderful week in DC and a truly amazing Mexico in a Bottle. Check out our photo gallery to relive the event. A special thanks to everyone who attended, it is so gratifying to see so many happy faces and hear from so many people who really enjoyed the tasting. A tremendous thank you to the Mexican Cultural Institute for taking a giant leap of faith and allowing us to take over their gorgeous space. Everyone was justifiably wowed by it. The combination of vivid murals, the tiled room, and expansive layout is perfect for our traveling encounter with Mexican culture. If we can manage it (or the Institute will allow us!), we’ll definitely be back. Read more
Posts tagged ‘wahaka’
At first you may not think the three things have much in common but Mexican cover bands have been remaking Morrissey obsessively with fantastic results for years and Mexrrissey in particular has taken that idea to its logical conclusion; a traveling show of Spanish language covers of Moz’s greatest and most interesting songs. There are even Smiths covers on the line up. Listen up: Read more
Don’t look now but Wahaka has added even more bottles to its line up. While the core of the portfolio is still solid they are building out limited edition bottles that expand on last year’s genius marketing idea of their “Vegan Pechugas,” the Espadín Manzanita and Espadín Botaniko which were fantastic and disappeared from shelves quickly. And by genius marketing idea we don’t mean to slight the contents of the bottles because people have been making vegan pechugas for quite a while. It’s just that someone in the C-Suite of Wahaka Enterprises was canny enough to make something of that label.
Now Wahaka is building on those releases with a new set of mezcals allocated to the six states of California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Illinois, and New York which, I bet, represents a simple map of the most mezcal sold by volume in the United States. The labels are in the same style of last year’s vegan pechugas, black and white with sharp graphic definition. The NOM remains the same as the rest of their production – NOM O148X – and all were made by their master mezcalero Alberto ‘Berto’ Morales.
The bottles are:
- Jabali – From cultivated agave.
- Tepeztate – From wild agave.
- Nanche: The latest in the vegan pechuga series made from espadin and nanche, a small yellow fruit grown throughout southern Mexico and Central America.
- Guajolote con Fruta: This is their maestro mezcalero Berto’s first commercial pechuga made from meat along with “a ton of fruit…tangerines, bananas, cantaloupe.” Guajolote is Nahuatl for turkey so it harks back to deep cultural roots.
Wahaka dropped their vegan pechugas just in time for the holidays. These are limited production so call your local liquor store and see if they can get you a bottle. Both bottles match up perfectly with big holiday meals. I’m just sad that I couldn’t get them in time for Thanksgiving because they are the perfect complements to that sort of meal. The labels go a different direction from the classic Wahaka design though still integrate their main symbol.
The category of vegan pechuga is pure brilliance. Pechuga literally means “breast” which refers to the traditional practice of suspending a turkey or chicken breast (or rabbit, or goose, etc) along with a selection of local fruits over the still so that it’s cooked during the distilling run and all the fat and some of the rest of the matter from the meat and fruit dissolve into the simmering alcohol mixture. As the steam rises and is rendered into mezcal it generally retains some of the round, occasionally fatty, occasionally fruity, flavor and texture from the breast and fruit.
Wahaka’s approach is really cool and a brilliant marketing stroke because that riff on the trend away from eating meat just resonates. But it also builds on a long tradition of adding local fruit and herbs to distillates. The Balkans feature travarica, the Poles Żubrówka, Italians occasionally add herbs to grappa etc. The big difference is that most of these are infusions. Occasionally you’ll run into a true French eau de vie where a fruit or herb is added during the distilling process but it’s not a particularly wide spread practice. That’s why the whole pechuga tradition in mezcal is so unique and fantastic. That’s also why I’m so excited about these bottles because pechugas are ripe for this sort of experimentation. Wahaka mezcalero Alberto Morales is really onto something here.
Per the Wahaka release Morales “adds a bag of of botanicals to the Botaniko.” No word on which specifically but it has very distinctly herbal and grassy notes. It’s cuts right through any fatty foods so it pairs well with a holiday goose, turkey, or ham. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t work well alone or with other foods, it’s just that on my first sip I thought, “herbal!” then thought “This is the perfect accompaniment to a big dinner.” I’m looking forward to spending some serious time with it.
The Manzanita as the name implies is made with apples which are also distilled with the base mezcal during the second distillation. Per the Wahaka release these are local heirlooms which raises another thought, which heirlooms are in Oaxaca? No doubt that’s yet another contribution to the fantastic biodiversity there. While also a great food pairing this mezcal has a great round flavor to it that rewards drinking it alone. It would be perfect after a big dinner or a nice session with friends.
Either way don’t miss out on these both because they’re excellent and I love to reward experiments like this.
Join us tomorrow for the first ever Christmex at San Francisco’s Mexican Museum 10-4. You’ll be able to take in the museum’s fantastic collection, purchase fantastic imported crafts from Michoacan, and listen to great music all while sipping Mexico’s great spirit of mezcal. In attendance:
- Wahaka Mezcal
- Mezcal Tosba
- Tamales and treats from Tina Tamale
- Son Jarocho collective from 12-2PM
- Great holiday gifts imported directly from the finest crafts people in Michoacan by Mexico by Hand
- And the incredible collection at the Mexican Museum!
We promised some exclusive items for our Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle tasting this Sunday, September 14th. Now we can tell you about a few of them.
We’re proud to announce that Raicilla Venenosa will premiere at our event. It’s the first legal raicilla in the United States brought to you by Esteban Morales known for his Guadalajara restaurants and obsession with agave distillates. I’m going to write more at length about this project later because, while Esteban is a crack restaurateur, he will probably be remembered for projects like Venenosa. It’s really that special.
Earlier this summer we were pleased to republish a Mexico Cooks article about Uasïsï Mezcal because we always love the Mexican treasures that Cristina finds. Now we’re happy to announce that we’ll be pouring this totally artisanal mezcal made from 100% wild cupreata in a special tasting highlighting mezcals from Michoacan which is quite an exciting development.
Alberto “Beto” Morales is no slouch. He runs Wahaka’s palenque and an equal parter in the business so he’s quite busy. But that didn’t prevent him from producing something new that will be previewed at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle this Sunday. Wahaka’s Raza Zaidi will be pouring two limited edition mezcales, the Espadín Manzanita and Espadín Botaniko, which should be released later this year. Take it from us, you don’t want to miss them, here’s a quick snap shot of the new labels.
Oh, and there will be more so definitely get your tickets today!
Earlier this year we asked mezcal wrangler extraordinaire Erick Rodriguez, aka Erick Almamezcalera, what he thought about the current state of the mezcal world. We’re publishing his comment along with a follow up lower down in this post in anticipation of his West Coast swing which starts tonight in LA and runs into next week. He will be leading tastings of Vino de Mezcal, the super rare (indeed they may already be sold out) line of mezcals from a variety of locations across Mexico imported by the Fundación Agaves Silvestres.
We can’t stress how rare this line of mezcals is and how they communicate just an iota of the world of mezcal out there. It’s a fantastic way to expose yourself. And, yes, the price does reflect the work involved because the distillation runs are very limited. Should you need any conscience cleansers the project was created both to bring you these limited delights and to funnel revenue into a truly worthy project of planting wild agaves outside of the town of Oaxaca in San Dionisio Ocotepec.
The translation comes to us courtesy of Gabriel Baum of ModernLanguages.com.
Per Erick Rodgriguez here’s what’s up with the world of maguey:
The point of view of many people who only know that mezcal comes from one or two states, or alternatively who only know what is happening in this current “boom”. .. If we don’t do something there will be a lack of maguey-mezcal in a not too distant future.
As was foreseen two years ago, the “looting” of maguey raised a level of disquiet among people who may or may not have known that this supposed “looting” (there is really no such thing) had already been going on since the 70’s. There are people, the same as those who exist in all types of Mexican businesses, who pay the mezcal producers for their maguey or for their mezcal at a higher price. This happens and will go on happening because there is no price that is worthy of their mezcal. There were tequilas that were made in Oaxaca from the 70’s onwards, that were marketed this way, here and abroad; for example Tequila Porfidio. From that point onwards there were irregularities, there were no rules or regulations for mezcal let alone anyone who would stand in the way of this development. Because, remember, traditional mezcal was only drunk and marketed within the communities in which it was grown, and elsewhere it was only known as a nasty drink of bad quality, or a poor person’s drink. So the village chiefs bought it or bartered it for their daily needs.
Thanks to the media coverage and to the interest of a few people or brands, it was marketed and distributed in this new “boom.” Some do it openly, others are masked and, as a result, there are a whole lot of people and personalities behind each marketer of mezcal. Nowadays “everyone knows about mezcal” and wants to have a brand, some because of the cachet, some because of fashion.
People! There are a lot of types of maguey in other states, it’s just that Oaxaca has the greatest number of types and varieties in the world. But another problem that we have is that we are using the wild maguey as a draw. People know that maguey is scarce and they want to stockpile all that is left on the mountains and in the valleys before someone else buys it and it acquires more prestige as a mezcal. Many people want to have something that maybe in the not-too-distant future might be a piece of history as in “once there was a maguey called Cuarentero and this Master Mezcalista only has one maguey of this variety left”
There are internal regulations or rules that are followed by each marketer or that say “This maguey is an ‘x’ and we are replanting 2000 new plants so drink it with pleasure because mezcal of this variety will always exist – Are there really such rules? Or are we really saying “Drink this because it is like the last panda bear on the planet and this is your only chance”.
Regulatory centers? People, we know this was badly done right from the beginning in 1994; it’s a matter of wiping them out and starting afresh. It’s a matter, for example, of taking actions with one’s own producers, otherwise it’ll be the same as what happens in every “boom”.
Well, maybe if each time is different, the difference is that the biodiversity of the maguey plants is being lost and won’t be with us for the next “boom” which will take place again in 15 to 25 years. And we don’t know if we’ll know what to do. Significant interests exist behind the scenes and they will continue to be driven by the industry. Taking action with your producers would be a good start. Make them part of the decision-making process and make them feel supported by paying them better so that they don’t have to sell off or squander their maguey.
The latter is what is happening in Durango, lately more than 5 tons of juice are leaving WEEKLY, and the owner was very clear with me: “I would like to have cash jingling in my pocket. If I turn it into mezcal it’s not so good for me and if I sell it as juice they pay me better and I don’t have to wait for them to come or to distribute it. If I store it it’s not good for me either because I haven’t got money for promotions, bottles, labels, transport etc. These days they pay me better for the juice and that’s what we need, money coming in so that we can go on sowing maguey.”
So, what will you do Mezcalista friend? Would you take some real actions? Help spread the category/concept of mezcal or just advertise brand names and drinking places? Where to start? Who’s responsible for all this? Many people who have been organized since the 90s produce almost 4 million magueys a year to cover their demand. Does this tell you something?
Whenever you’d like to discuss and have work groups on the subject… It would be a great pleasure for me to be invited and to take part. If you have any questions or doubts we can discuss them. Personally. I am at your disposal. Erick Almamezcalera.
We chatted really quickly with Erick earlier this week in advance of his tasting tour of the West Coast:
What I’m bringing this time to the USA is the voice and responsibility of master mezcaleros, we want people to be able to identify different types of mezcal and the methods of production that are being used, the types of maguey and where agave distillations are produced in Mexico. We will show that there are three types of mezcal, namely industrialized, artisanal and traditional. We will get to know what is “Mezcal Wine.” (Vino de Mezcal) What to look for? What is there behind each one of the distillations, creating traditional micro-harvests each one of which has the fully named varietals. Our mezcals are a traditional Mexican drink extracted from wild agave and made by master mezcaleros with ancestral knowledge, respecting traditional manufacturing processes and, as a result, offering us soul enriching experiences and unforgettable states of consciousness.
With the responsible consumption of our mezcal you help to keep this thousand year tradition alive, you support the sustainability of more producing communities, you strengthen fair trade and you help avoid the inclusion of industrial structures in the production of this drink.
Christmas comes early this year, I just got a shipment of Wahaka’s Vino de Mezcal series and it’s a doozy. These bottles really stuck in my head after that February tasting, an incredible variety of flavors, agaves, and origins that you just don’t find in pretty much any mezcals domestically. As it says on the label “Difusion Cultural Mexicana,” these bottles truly are liquid Mexican culture and just a hint of the diversity of mezcals. Here’s the list:
- Espadilla from Puebla
- Lechugilla from Sonora
- Espadilla con pechuga y mole poblano from Puebla
- Cupreata from Michoacan
- Papalomé from Puebla
- Cupreata from Guerrero
I chatted quickly with Wahaka’s Raza Zaidi about the line. He thinks that the mezcals from Puebla may be the only legally imported examples in the U.S. They are in very limited supply and only available at bars and restaurants so definitely seek them out and order the full flight as a holiday treat for yourself. An Espadilla conejo from Puebla is also available in the restaurants and bars below. Right this second they’re available at the following locations:
And should soon be available at
We were interested to hear that Wahaka finally received its USDA Organic certification earlier this month. I chatted with Raza Zaidi, Wahaka’s San Francisco principal, via e-mail to see what the brand is up to. The organic designation is particularly interesting since only three other mezcals (Del Maguey, Montelobos, and Mezcales de Leyenda) have it and it seems like a powerful factor in the American market. Of course, if we missed another mezcal with that designation definitely tell us, this is a really interesting piece of the mezcal industry that we’re investigating further.
Raza told me that the certification process was pretty straight forward for Wahaka because “we were always 100% organic” and only use two ingredients estate grown agave and water. Susan and I have visited a number of palenques and know that most of them are organic simply because they operate in a traditional manner. They don’t use any pesticides or additives because they’ve always depended on the simplest of factors to create their mezcals. You actually get the sense that many palenqueros are suspicious of the organic label exactly because it carries the whiff of something foreign and bureaucratic.
Since most of the artisanal or craft mezcals we’ve found are de facto organic I’m really curious how mezcal makers see the value of the USDA stamp. Raza told me that Wahaka knows that the label will increase domestic sales but also brings with it a positive impression of quality. “Our motivation was to increase awareness of the purity of the product and to increase sales in US.” Raza put a point on the troublesome reputation that organic has in Mexico by noting that “most people in Mexico know that artisanal mezcals are by definition organic, here in US not so much.” That is, obviously, a continuing battle in the American food industry.
Wahaka has a bunch of other little news bits, they’re now bottling their silvestres, the Joven Tobalá and Joven Madre Cuishe, at 42% and will release a sample pack of their 5 mezcals in 200ml bottles. Just like those great St. George gin sample packs which make perfect gifts or a quick portable bar. There’s also that imminent Vino de Mezcal series that we mentioned a while back; that series should hit a mezcaleria near you later this month. Wahaka is also aiming for a special end of year release. It’s keyed to the holidays but we’ll see whether they can overcome all the bureaucratic hurdles before then. We certainly hope so.
I spent the weekend in sunny Monterey attending the 4th Annual Tequila and Mezcal Expo. The tasting presented a nice contrast between the worlds of tequila and mezcal.
Mezcal was well represented by Wahaka, Beneva and the Craft Distillers lines; Mezcalero, Alipus and Los Nahuales. Craft’s Ansley Coale made for an excellent guide through their mezcals. He’s quite an engaging speaker on the world of mezcal so if you see him at a tasting make sure to pick his brain. He guided us through their selections which included Mezcalero #6 which should be released later this year. It’s extremely different from the 100% espadin #5. It’s a silvestres blend from Mexicana, Madrecuishe and Bicuishe semi-cultivated on hillsides. It’s a full and round mezcal that stands up to the promise of the entire line of Mezcalero bottlings. Once it hits stores I highly recommend seeking out a bottle, it’s one of the more nuanced mezcals out there and the entire Mezcalero project is well worth following. We will, of course, offer a review once it’s released.
The Beneva blanco was a more straightforward mezcal with a bit of cinnamon on the palate while a retaste of the Wahaka line reminded me that they have a fantastic set of contrasts. I know that at least Wahaka will be at the Craft Spirits Carnival this Saturday and Sunday October 13th and 14th at Fort Mason in San Francisco so that’s a great opportunity to taste through their line and see what all the buzz is about.
As expected the tequilas were a great contrast with the traditional stalwart Fortalezza making a fantastic showing. As far as we’re concerned they can do no wrong and offer the best contrast to mezcal because their blanco has a similarly broad mouth feel that doesn’t shy away from full agave flavors. Tasted side by side with the Mezcalero #5 or #6 you can readily see that they’re from the same family and understand how the terroir, fruit and processes diverge. The other big highlight from the tequila side of things was the T1 line which was represented by the maker German Gonzalez in his trademark hat. The blanco is leaner than the Fortalezza but similarly devoted to bringing out the flavors of its agave. I look forward to tasting it again soon along side a few other blancos and mezcals.
Oh and I fulfilled a lifelong ambition and met William Faulkner! For a second there I thought his ghost would join us in drink but it turned out to be a mariachi harpist with great chops. Not nearly as good as the author but fantastic entertainment.