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.

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.

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:

  1. The only producers who can use the words agave and maguey are those who are certified within the Denominaciónes del Origin. Those include the Denominaciónes del Origin for mezcal, tequila, sotol, bacanora, and pulque.
  2. If you are a producer within any of the Denominaciónes del Origin but are not a certified, you will not be able to use the words agave and maguey. The only word you can use to describe the fruit that goes into your product is  “Komil.” No more vino del mezcal, no more destilado del maguey or agave, no more other labels. Should you ever get certified, you would then be able to say that agave or maguey was in your product.
  3. If you are a producer outside of any of the Denominaciónes del Origin, you are totally fucked. First, you have to refer to your product as Komil and cannot use the words agave or maguey. Second, you stand no chance of changing that state of affairs until your region is granted a DO – a timely and costly endeavor.

Just in case you had any doubt, getting certified is an incredibly expensive and labor intensive process that really is only viable for well funded and organized companies. And, the further away from Oaxaca you are, the lower your chances of getting certified because there are very few people working for the CRM outside of Oaxaca. The current programs in place to financially assist small producers within the DO with the certification process are virtually non-existent so this change would almost certainly eliminate an entire swatch of the mezcal world. All that heritage down the drain with a simple signature.

And think you can just bypass this by trying to identify your product as an agave/maguey spirit by using the varietal name instead? Check this out per our friends at Hinman and Carmicheal LLC:

“No reference can be made to what agave varietals are used; in fact, the word “agave” itself cannot be used in any labeling. As a result, small producers would be unable to distinguish their products based on agave varietal, location, or production method and consumers would have no clue what they were imbibing under the komil name.”

That means no “Komil de Espadin” label that would give some hint of familiarity of what is inside the bottle.

It’s not too late to sign one of the petitions going around and to register your comments. Additionally, there is lots of movement to tackle this proposal from a legal perspective which could stop it all in its tracks or keep it tied up for years until it could take effect. One thing that is for sure – it’s a mess.