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Mezcalistas

How to find the perfect mezcal tour

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, the tourist infrastructure isn’t fully built out so tours and routes aren’t that obvious. There just isn’t a Silverado Trail even if there are tons of distillers and plenty of roadside stands of somewhat dubious quality, leaving many people wondering, how do I tour mezcal country?

To first understand Mezcal, you have to understand how firmly rooted it is in myth and culture. It begins with an origin story complete with star crossed lovers, demons, battles and finally death and grief so profound it produced a plant given special properties that enabled it to produce a comforting elixir. That plant of course was the agave, and the elixir, pulque which eventually became mezcal. 

We’ve created this resource page to help you tour mezcal country and to connect with local guides who can create incredible experiences that help visitors understand not only where mezcal comes from and how it is made, but how that intersects with the local culture in art and food and the communities that produce it. If you need a refresher, or if you are new to mezcal, please check out our Mezcal 101 page to get the basics of production down.

  • You will be traveling in back-country, on bumpy roads and in communities that may not have a lot of resources or infrastructure (cell phone/internet coverage, restaurants, capacity to take credit cards, atms, etc.)
  • It is important to be mindful of local customs, which your guide can explain, and to be respectful of people – they are craftsmen and highly skilled at what they do. The growth of the mezcal category has placed huge demands on natural resources in Mexico and is fundamentally changing the economics of communities where it is produced.
  • As consumers, we need to think about the impact our drinking habits have – touring mezcal producing regions gives you greater understanding of that impact.
  • Destinations

    Tour Oaxaca

    Of all the mezcal producing regions, Oaxaca is by far the most known and popular place to travel. Infrastructure is relatively well developed and it is very easy to get there as it is served by major airlines (United, Aeromexico, Volaris, Interjet). Currently, there are only two US cities that have direct flights to Oaxaca, Los Angeles and Houston, and with most other flights connecting through Mexico City.

    Tour Michoacán

    Have you always wanted to go on an insider’s trip to mezcal country, where you get to hang out with mezcaleros and their families while seeing the process from agave field to bottle? Join us on a one of a kind adventure to the heart of Michoacan’s mezcal country. The 6 day trip offers exclusive opportunities to visit 5 mezcal producers across the different regions surrounding Morelia in an intimate group.

    Tour Durango

    Durango, a northern state located about 600 miles due south of El Paso, Texas, is one of Mexico’s largest but least populated states. It’s terrain is diverse,  ranging from towering paddle cactus and jagged cliffs, which provided the desert backdrop for 1960s Hollywood westerns, to the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, lush with pine and oak forests. It’s known for its cattle ranches, abundant minerals, and wide swaths of untouched nature. That abundant landscape lends itself to delicious mezcal. Durango’s biodiversity of agaves is one of the largest in the country, and elements like volcanic rock and the local mesquite and Encino oak used to cook the piñas influence the flavors as well. Production here is unique, and differs in some ways from other states.

    Tour San Luis Potosi

    San Luis Potosi is located in the central-eastern part of Mexico. The capital city San Luis Potosi is located in the Centro region and is a gorgeous old colonial city with a population of just over a million people. Mezcal has been made in the region since the Spanish arrived, though pulque was produced prior to their arrival. While more mezcal from San Luis Potosi has made its way into the market, it is still a tiny percentage of the overall market. There are only 10 mezcal producers in the state of San Luis Potosi and all are located within an easy one and a half hour drive from the city of San Luis Potosi. Nine of the 10 producers operate in haciendas.

    Tour Jalisco and Guadalajara

    Guadalajara isn’t traditionally on the mezcal trail but as many of you are fond of pointing out, tequila is a type of mezcal. It is also the entry point for raicilla country which is one of the most under-appreciated and amazing mezcals out there. Almost more importantly, the complex history of mezcal runs right through this capital of Jalisco and there are many mezcal trips to make here. It’s also one of Mexico’s hottest cities with all sorts of culinary and cultural activities, plus it’s so easy to travel there. Others know Jalisco just because of its coastal resort, Puerto Vallarta. The smart ones know that tequila can be produced there. But the ones who have really traveled there know that it’s not a heart on its sleeve sort of place but that it’s full of a dizzying array of activities.

    Max co-founded Mezcalistas with Susan way back in 2012. Before that he was a journalist at Salon.com and The San Francisco Chronicle.

    Comments

    • Anthony Raab
      March 11, 2017

      Hi Guys,
      Nice reviews and access to various people.

      I am a second generation gringo living with my wife in Oaxaca. I went to Oaxaca the first time in 1965. We have a 40 acre “Eco-Preserve” just 20 minutes north of Oaxaca in the foothills…in the village of San Pablo Etla.

      We run a B&B, an animal rescue program and do our share of farming too.

      I have been studying mezcal most of my life and began making it 15 years ago. We grow our own agaves (magueys), and have as many as 6 different kinds growing at once.
      My still has gone through 4 different design changes over the years and I always rebuild in favor of flavor…rather than volume or commercial sales. In fact I do not sell commercially, just a few bottles here and there to whoever appreciates a fine mezcal.

      We run Casa Raab B&B, sponsor tours, and host great musical venues; “The Bodega Boys” out at the still every so often. Theses evening are basically open mike nights for all the local musicians and produce some wonderful musical moments. Free mezcal, good people, music and food under the moonlight…..

      So I just thought I would let you know that we exist. Anyone wanting to stay in the countryside, loves animals and music, and seeks a more organic visit to Oaxaca might want to check us out.

      Keep up the good work!

      Antonio

      reply
        • Dwain Harris
          June 24, 2019

          Is there a way to purchase a few bottles or a case of your Mezcal to sample here in the states (California)? My partner and I are looking to get into the business and looking with some small local producers who have good quality product.

          reply
          • Susan Coss
            June 24, 2019

            Hi Dwain –

            We do not have a mezcal brand – we work with several brands, hold tasting events and talks and cover the industry. Depending on where you live, I suggest hitting up a mezcaleria and tasting through mezcal to narrow down what flavors you like. If you are interested in getting into the business I also suggest doing a trip to Oaxaca and other mezcal producing regions to see what is possible. Regards, susan

            reply
      • G. Pe Benito
        October 9, 2019

        Hi Anthony,
        I am a bartender and instructor in New York City. I am planning a trip with some friends and colleagues and we would love to learn more about your place, and your mezcal! Do you have a website or a way we can communicate, possibly by email?

        Thank you!

        Pe Benito

        reply
      • Francisco Navarrete
        February 10, 2020

        Hi Antonio!

        I’ve just seen your comment on this post and I live the idea of it.. I understand that I’m replying to your text 3 years later haha. But if you are still there let me know. I’m going on a family trip to Mexico in July and we are planning to visit your area and of course drink mezcal!

        Looking forward to hearing from you

        Francisco

        reply
    • Cinthya
      February 14, 2018

      Hey guys! Is this a thing yet? I am having such a hard time finding affordable, GOOD, mezcal tours coming out of Oaxaca city. I would love to know if this is a possibility for us. We’ll be visiting next month.

      reply
    • Fran
      February 23, 2018

      Hej there,

      we found your website and felt truly in love with it! We are Fran & Jan, living in CDMX at the moment, and would like to take some pictures from the process to create a unique mezcal. Jan is a well-known photographer and I’m a graphic designer. We would offer you to use the pictures for your website, any types of marketing and everything that you’ve in mind. Please let us know what you think about this “exchange” – we would love to come over!

      Thanks in advance and all the best
      Fran & Jan

      reply
    • ALVIN STARKMAN
      April 10, 2018

      Here’s my answer to the question about how to select the appropriate mezcal tour to meet your needs:

      http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Choose-a-Mezcal-Tour-in-Oaxaca-Mexico&id=9905705

      I often read questions from prospective visitors to Oaxaca requesting information about tours, lodgings, restaurants, etc., with the words “affordable,” “reasonably priced,” and so on. What’s affordable to one visitor to the state might be overly expensive to another.

      reply
    • BUzz
      April 10, 2018

      I can vouch for Eric Giardina of Puro Burro. Just spent a few days with him touring a few palenques and he and Asis gave us the tour of a lifetime. As pointed out, Puro Burro mainly focuses on catering to the bar industry but anyone could join those tours and have a lot of fun while learning a ton about the magic of mezcal. The website is currently a bit out-of-date as for the dates of the next tour but he said that will be updated soon. http://www.puroburrosf.com

      reply
    • Brad
      July 6, 2018

      know anyone who does tasting catering in Puerto Vallarta? We’d love someone to come to our AirBnB with supplies and knowledge to walk us through!

      reply
    • Carla
      December 12, 2018

      Hello!

      I am also having a hard time finding affordable good mezcal tours in Oaxaca. I’m not interested in having a private tour or something too fancy, what tour would you recommend?

      Thank you in advance.

      reply
    • Rakhal
      February 27, 2019

      Great resource! The first time we went out to palenques we went with Asis Cortes and it was an amazing experience, I highly recommend it. The last time we went we rented a car and driver and visited palenques in Santa Catarina Minas with some friends and it was equally amazing. If you head there I highly recommend you search out the palenque el conejo. The Mezcalero Antonio Carlos Martínez (aka Conejo) was very friendly and his Mezcal was absolutely spectacular! Try his Tripón!!! We rented the car and driver from a place called Optimus near the zocalo for 800 pesos including gas. Going exploring independently was fun and exciting but you’re not guaranteed to find amazing Mezcal, so if this is your first time I’d highly recommend you go with one of the people on this list.

      reply
    • Melissa Gee
      June 7, 2019

      Hi – I’d like to book a mezcal tour for 2 people in Oaxaca sometime between June 24 and 28 – can you please send me some information regarding a tour?

      reply
      • Susan Coss
        June 7, 2019

        Hi Melissa – you can directly contact any of the people listed on the Oaxaca tour page to set that up. We do not do tours ourselves. These guides/tours have all been vetted by us and do a great job. Regards, susan

        reply
    • Raymund S. Manzanillo
      August 7, 2019

      Hi Susan,

      Much thanks for the info. I’m a partner in a Pjilippine based corporation (www.laperegrinafilipina.com) and we are in seach of more distillers to collaborate with on importing their products here in the Philippines to penetrate the Aisan market for mezcal. After I attend the agave fest in CDMX Augist 28-31, I plan on making a trip to Oaxaca. I would apreciate any refererences you can direct my way.
      Best Regards,
      Ramon

      reply
      • Susan Coss
        August 7, 2019

        Ramon – Not sure how much time you have but there is an industry event in Oaxaca from Sept 12-14 called Vive Mezcal. It is all about connecting producers with investors, importers, etc. The guides listed on our tour page for Oaxaca have all been vetted by us and are all recommended. I know that Alvin Starkman has a specific business set up precisely for your needs. Also, Leon Langle would have insight on this as well. Be sure to explain your specific needs and goals to anyone you contact for a tour so they can tailor it that way.

        reply
    • RS
      September 12, 2019

      Anyone know of a farm tour/distillery visit that would be in an elevation greater than 6500 feet?

      we’re looking for a tequila tour for our family of 8 that is zika-free/zika-limited

      reply
      • Rs
        September 12, 2019

        mezcal/agave tour*

        reply

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