[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Is it really mezcal?[/caption] What is a mezcal? Who can label their bottles with the word "mezcal"? Those are the existential questions that bedevil this industry. For a second there we thought that they were more or less settled, even if you didn't like the result, with NOM 70 this past spring. But now a new struggle has emerged between one faction that argues that the term should be applied to those who have a claim to tradition. But the profound irony of their stance is that "mezcal", per the new NOM definition, now means less 'traditional product' than 'anything goes.'
Mezcalistas, like everyone else in the mezcal business, is experiencing its own share of growing pains. Limited resources (it's a 2.5 person shop) and capital constraints (bootstrapping all we do) come smack up against all we want to do for the category, all the time. It's simultaneously painful and euphoric to be in this place of so much possibility and so much work.
Just when you think you’ve reached peak tequila along comes this Teslaquila story to blow all your assumptions out of the water. The latest chapter was Elon Musk's October 12th tweet:
Last year we had that billion dollar (actually $700 million up front with sweeteners which make it worth more than a billion if the brand performs over the next ten years, but who's counting!)
Visual approximation pic.twitter.com/sMn3Pv476Y— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 12, 2018
[caption id="attachment_25071" align="aligncenter" width="1500"] [media-credit name="Vago" link="http://www.masmezcal.com/mezcalvago/2017/12/8/tepeztatesierra-negra-8ljd2-9rsgb-y734b-33krw" align="aligncenter" width="1500"][/media-credit] A close up of Mezcal Vago's limited edition Sierra Negra bottle.[/caption] Vago’s latest release, an incredibly small batch of Sierra Negra by Aquilino Garcia Lopez highlights smart and ethical behavior in the mezcal world. Each bottle that Vago releases is accompanied by a blog post that includes a highly detailed tech sheet that delves into everything you’d want to know about the bottle, the agaves and processes that produced it, and the people who made it. Dig into that, spend some time with it, think it over. All that information helps you put the scope of work that brought that bottle to you into perspective.
The tina is the fermentation vessel for mezcal. The exact translation in Spanish is tub, bathtub, vat, or large jar. Traditionally these are made from wood similar to a large wine barrel with an open mouth. Originally fermentation vessels were animal hides and naturally occurring rock holes. The wood tina now dominates the mezcal world. They are used repeatedly, and when I’ve asked mezcaleros for how long I’ve never managed to get a good answer. The wood type includes pine, oak, and cypress but I wouldn’t be surprised to find other types involved. Many tequila producers use a very similar fermentation vessel which can be called a pipon while some use the "tina" term just like mezcal.