Part three in my series of articles exploring the possible outcomes of NOM 199. The big question is how can such a small, and woefully underfunded group of mezcaleros and afficionados fight NOM 199 aside from signing petitions and hoping for the best? Well, for a couple of organizations the answer is through Mexico's own constitution which has been amended over time to explicitly spell out a mandate to support the human and economic rights of the indigenous community.
[caption id="attachment_4219" align="aligncenter" width="600"] If you're going to play with the meaning of words and spirits, you had better be ready for some strange stuff.[/caption] Second in a series of articles breaking down the proposed NOM 199 into layman's terms. Read my first article on the three key things to know about NOM 199 and read the rest of our coverage of this topic. Let's imagine, Philip K. Dick style, that NOM 199 is now law and bottles of komil line the shelves of your local liquor store. The next big question for you, the faithful consumer of what were previously called agave distillates or mezcals, is "What exactly is in a bottle of komil?"
I doubt the authors of NOM 199 had this in mind when they were defining komil. Or maybe that was the idea after all. In case anyone was wondering, komil means "perfect" in Uzbek.
Touring Mezcal Country The explosion of mezcal, and growing interest in where it comes from has created a mini tourist boom, primarily in Oaxaca, but also in other regions where it is produced. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you ask,
[caption id="attachment_4198" align="aligncenter" width="480"] An example of current wording on a label of an agave distillate in the DO but not certified. Under 199, the only thing that could be said is Komil.[/caption] With all that's being written about NOM 199, and there is a lot to write about, we wanted to drill down into the whole issue of the word Komil and exactly who will have to use it if the proposal is adopted. Wading through the legalese is not easy. Key language is deliberately buried in this sweeping proposal. In order to make it super clear and easy, here is a breakdown of who gets to use what words:
[caption id="attachment_4137" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Photo by Davina Baum.[/caption] What a time was had at our very first (and completely sold out!) Pop up Pulqueria, hosted by Old Bus Tavern in San Francisco's Mission District. Little did we know the sky would open up and unleash a torrent of water, making it the perfect night to eat pozole, drink mezcal, and of course, wash it all down with some fresh pulque, tepache, and curados.
[caption id="attachment_4118" align="alignright" width="150"] The menu for the evening[/caption] Jonathan Barbieri, artist and owner of the mezcal brand Pierde Almas, knows how to tell a story, as evidenced by the audience at Oakland’s Calavera entranced by his words describing the days of selling mezcal when it was illegal contraband. Produced in palenques outside of small pueblos and then sold by women who were more likely to avoid being stopped by authorities, it is a romantic tale and sets a nostalgic mood. It lays the perfect foundation for the bigger story that night - his latest project is producing an “ancestral corn” whiskey from the very palenques that now fuel the burgeoning mezcal industry.