Mezcal is magic #trythis
Tequila, for better or worse depending on your college years, has made its mark. Its closely related cousin Mezcal is now emerging as Mexico’s most exciting spirit to try. Both are made from the Agave plant, thought good quality Tequila is made from 100% Blue Agave, while Mezcal is made with mostly the Espadín variety, along with a range of both wild and domestic Agave. Only the heart of the plant, the Pĩna, is used, and each plant yields only one in its lifetime. Espadín takes between six and eight years to mature, but some Agave can take up to thirty. Talk about resource management! Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Mezcal remains an artisanal spirit, brought to life by the hands of famers and families rather than mass produced. Another signature of Mezcal is a smoky character, as the Pĩna are roasted in open air fire pits to cook them in preparation for distillation. Look for the term ‘Artesanal’ or ‘Traditional’ on the label, the former ensures small batch production and the latter forgoes the use of modern techniques like copper pots for traditional clay. These three below are all in the Artesenal category.
El Jolgorio 100% Espadín Joven, Palenque (distillery) Río Gorea, Oaxaca 47.8% ($200)
The name gives a nod to village rituals and celebrations (Jolgorios), which Mezcal is a major part of. Rested in glass for several months before release to mellow. This one is more grassy than smoky, with notes of lime, green underipe banana, cut grass, burnt herbs. Astonishingly smooth on the palate, just a lift of the alcohol on the finish, and more of those fruity, herbal flavours. A whiff of smoke, like grilled rosemary, reminds you what you are drinking. Dangerously delicious.
Peloton de la Muerte 100% Espadín Joven, Oaxaca 41% ($100)
Here is that smoky character! Smoke intermingled with tropical fruits, green mango, grassy agave, black pepper. Robust. Smooth at first, but a rustic build to the finish, owing not to alcohol but to big bold flavour. The name means ‘Brigade of Death’, which might be how one feels after too much mass marketed Tequila. Drink this instead! Well worth the price tag.
Marca Negra, 100% Espadin Joven, San Luis del Río, Oaxaca 50.2% ($98.75)
Balanced aromas, smoky with notes of the telltale agave plant, which is somewhere between a fresh mown lawn and the smell of being in a summertime forest after rain, green and lightly earthy. On the palate, the flavours are first, with white grapefruit, smoke, and grass but then, light a match! The alcohol takes over the finish, but it seems to belong there. Spirity.