Literally translated as “Historic Taste” this refers to the traditional flavor of mezcal. It’s a important concept that is also elastic and frequently debated, elastic because a flavor can be difficult to pin down and debated for the same reasons – your gusto historico may not reflect someone else’s. The concept is very similar to a more expansive definition of terroir and embraces many of the definitions of Ancestral and Artesanal production described in NOM 70 and is focused on the idea of preserving the status of mezcal as it changes to suit different markets like the global demand for cocktail mezcals and more industrial productions.
There have been calls for a legal definition of this concept by coalitions in the Oaxacan mezcal world and some producers like Marco Ochoa discuss it frequently, here’s a presentation he made in 2014 that dives into the topic in Spanish.
A few of the main definitional points that come up when people talk about Gusto Historico are:
- Alcoholic percentage: Many claim that a mezcal needs to have at least 45% ABV and be in the range of 45-50% ABV to be a traditional mezcal.
- Traditional production: Agaves should be roasted underground, crushed by hand or tahona, wild fermented, and distilled in small batches.
- Mezcal producers should strive to produce mezcals that characterize what has historically been produced in their areas with the agaves traditionally grown there with methodological elements that characterize them. One example that is widely used is clay pot distillation in Santa Caterina Minas in Oaxaca where espadin and various karwinskiis are made into mezcal using those methods but use clay pot stills instead of the more common copper pot stills.