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[caption id="attachment_7736" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] [media-credit id=3 align="aligncenter" width="1024"][/media-credit] This was the past - what's in the future for mezcal and the wider world of Mexican alcoholic beverages?[/caption]
It's that time of year where we try to synthesize some meaning from the past year's events and make a few predictions about the year ahead. There were certainly cataclysmic events in the world of mezcal in 2017: Huge deals were made, all sorts of new products launched, earthquakes ravaged rural Oaxaca and urban Mexico City. All the while the linear growth of mezcal continued driven by cocktails but there are new trends in higher end boutique bottles as well. Look closely and you'll see a relatively cohesive set of trends with only a few outliers.

Validation

If there is one word that sums up 2017 for mezcal it is "validation." When big guys like Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and Bacardi get into the category through straight out acquisition or distribution deals you know it is not a passing trend. The repercussions of all these moves have barely hit the market yet so 2018 will be the first time we really get to see how this plays out in terms of the mezcal in bottles, the pricing for bars and on retail shelves. We get the sense that this is as much a dating game for both sides of the equation so we expect lots of smaller changes before anything big happens. The first major trend we expect to see is more of the labels priced for cocktails to expand.

[caption id="attachment_7051" align="aligncenter" width="675"] The cover from Emma Janzen's book.[/caption] (As you’ll read Emma is Chicago based so it’s only natural that we have a book release party during this weekend’s Mexico in a Bottle Chicago pre-game show. We’ll be at Estereo 3-6PM this Saturday so drop on by to talk to the author yourself and have a cocktail while you’re at it.) I had the pleasure of meeting Emma Janzen at Tales of the Cocktail this summer but it’s only since then after reading “Mezcal: The History, Craft & Cocktails of the World’s Ultimate Artisanal Spirit” and chatting with her that I’ve had the chance to unpack the themes in her book and the process that she took to get there.

Like a lot of people in the world of mezcal, this is an issue I think about a lot - how to find the delicate balance of promoting an amazing spirit with supply and production limitations. The New York Times piece that hit over the weekend, Here, Try Some Mezcal, but Not Too Much, came just as I was mulling over how to write about the current demand for heirloom corn from Mexico and potential problems that could arise.

Just in time for the holidays we have a great way to burn through another five minutes of your boss’ time - watch this, then jump down below. YO SOY MEZCAL | Documentary Trailer from Eric Wolfinger on Vimeo. We’re proud to have shown this previous to our sustainability panel on Saturday, November 12th, the night before Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle San Francisco this year. The filmmaker behind this effort, Eric Wolfinger, introduced it and chatted with the audience a bit about the project. We’ll be talking to him in more detail soon because this is quite a stunner.

[caption id="attachment_4233" align="aligncenter" width="890"]Screen shot from Afar's digital edition Screen shot from Afar's digital edition[/caption]

Is it finally time for our "mezcal is having its moment" piece? That's a conversation Susan and I have had many times in the past year or two. I even started writing it a few times and our latest t-shirt is an allusion to that question. If we were waiting for a sign from above, the last week certainly gave us lots of ammunition because three, count 'em, three big publications ran their mezcal pieces last week. And not just some run of the mill publications but The New Yorker, Afar, and The Los Angeles Times.

If ever there were a book for our time, this is it. Sarah Bowen has really captured a moment and set of issues with Divided Spirits: Tequila, mezcal, and the politics of production. With the new NOM proposal dropping over Thanksgiving along with its béte noir 199 the recent history and investigation into what makes the tequila and mezcal industries tick in Divided Spirits will bring you right up to speed. We’re at this moment in time when big tequila remains incredibly popular, mezcal is a newcomer, and indie tequilas are proving just what artisans can do with blue agave. But the margins and growth are all on mezcal and indie tequila’s side, consumers want distinctive drinks that at least have a story, ideally one that’s true. You see the same trend everywhere, it’s what drove major brewers to purchase major beer indies like Lagunitas and Ballast Point late last year and what drove Patrón to create Roca. How did we get here? It’s pretty simple: While tequila grew by leaps and bounds as an incredible export through the post war era it really took Patrón and its followers in the 80’s to establish tequila as something with its own unique coolness factor. That led to enormous demand for tequila; to sip it, shoot it, mix it in cocktails. Hell, Robert Towne, who wrote Chinatown among many other classic movies, even titled his 1988 film Tequila Sunrise in the midst of this boom. Soon enough tequila was stocked in every bar worth its salt while tequila bars proliferated and the margarita became the most popular cocktail in the United States, if not the world. That much demand meant enormous production which, in the inexorable capitalist logic to these things, led to the complete industrialization of tequila. The bottles, dollars, land, agaves, and everything involved in this story are staggering. But it all meant one thing, what was once a dynamic and original spirit had become sadly commodified.

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