20 Responses

  1. Teo at |

    Hi Everyone,
    I noticed that i’s been a while since anyones last post, so I hope i hear back from someone. I’m hoping someone can help answer a couple of questions.
    What is the minimum amount of land need to start an mezcal batch?.. 2 acres, 5 acres, 50 acres, 100 acres?

    I inherited 2 acres of Mezcal plants which should be ready to harvest within the next year or two. If I was to try to harvest and distill the 2acres of agave, how much mescal would that actually yield? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  2. David at |

    I think any discussion of this subject also needs to include some of the very detailed information found in Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata and Gary P. Nabhan’s book Tequila: A Natural and Cultural History. The authors discuss at length the effects of growing huge fields of Agave Weberi in a monoculture with added fertilizers, water and herbicides, just like any other cash crop and they wrote it over 10 years ago! Wild harvesting on steep mountainsides is very expensive, inefficient and ultimately a completely unsustainable practice but the alternative, assuming continued growth in demand also creates problems. For the consumer one problem is changes in Mezcal quality when the agave in question becomes a row cultivated cash crop grown on flat land with water and fertilizer added to greatly speed up time to maturity. Expect a big change in flavor when compared to the all wild harvested product grown under harsh low water conditions on steep hillsides. There is a reason that herbalists will pay extra for wild crafted herbs and spices and this applies to agave cultivation as well. Unfortunately for the agave, huge quantities are need to make the spirit we hold so dear.

    Reply
  3. Sten Maldonado at |

    Great job John. Thanks for bringing a wide picture of this.

    It is great to have information from other projects towards this. Here at Los Danzantes, social impact and sustainability is part of our mission. All of our Alipus producers own fields and/or buy from family fields in order to support the local economy. And that’s why Alipus have been focused only on espadin mezcal as a regular product, and to use wild agaves only for limited editions (sorry, only available in Mexico right now). On the other hand we have been helping them also to start with nurseries for tobala plants, that this year will go to the mountains for reforestation.

    Last year we promote a first attempt for an annual gathering towards agave sustainability. Encuentro Agave is a collaborative summit and had a good response on the first gathering last October, and set a wide view of what the scenario is. Encuentro Agave is planned to be repeated this year in October, and we’ll try to set the next stepping stone, to what eventually may become a Sustainable Agave certification, validated by the production chain. More information and preliminary results at http://www.huboaxaca.org/encuentroagave/ . It is open to anyone who wants to contribute or learn, and we’ll be sure that the guys mentioned here can join us.

    This year we are also working with a University as an early experiment to micro-propagate 100 thousand plants from the most difficult to reproduce wild agaves, mainly from Agave Americana varieties.

    We are very interested to get more involved and collaborate in any effort.

    Sten

    Reply
  4. Douglas at |

    Hi,
    I, Douglas French, have been growing agave for 20 years. I started with espadin , but now I have 5 varietals growing on 50 acres. I stopped planting espadin about 10 years ago , I figure all the magueyeros plant espadin , so I don’t have to. Luckily I am still harvesting espadin , now that there is a shortage. Last year I planted 5,000 Barril ( also known as maderecuiche) . It takes 12 to 15 years to mature. This year I will plant 15,000 tobala , I usually plant 2,000 to 5,000 tobala a year.
    Every year I plant and I harvest . In terms of mezcal production my crops are barely a drop in the bucket. It takes a lot of acres with lots of plant to amount to a hill of beans.
    Check out our aficionado tasting box with 4 different varietals in 200 ml. bottles .
    It has a bottle of espadin, barril, tequilana and tobala. Very cool.

    Reply
  5. B Bauer at |

    For Mezcal lovers in Oregon, some of the Vino de Mezcal expressions can be found at
    Hyland Hills Liquor.

    Reply
  6. Sonia Gomez at |

    So interesting your post and also interesting the responses of people in the business.

    Reply
  7. raza at |

    Thanks for the mention of Fundación Agaves Silvestres’ reforestation projects, John. Another project we have going is our Vino de Mezcal series. This project tries to kill two birds with one stone — bring awareness to ultra small-batch mezcaleros using sustainable production methods and raise funds for the non-profit. We purchase these mezcales from around Mexico at fair price, import them to the US and sell them at select bars/restaurants throughout the US. They are currently available at these fine establishments:

    Loló in SF
    Tres in SF
    Vintage Coctail Lounge in Portland
    Xico in Portland
    Mi Mero Mole in Portland
    Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library in Portland
    Hilltop Kitchen in Tacoma, WA
    Barrio – Seattle, WA
    Frontera Grill – Chicago, IL
    Oyamel – Washington, DC
    La Guelaguetza – Los Angeles, CA

    Reply
  8. Mathew Berger at |

    Having just gotten back from a visit to mezcal vago in Oaxaca I can confirm that espadin is being transported to Jalisco for tequila production. On the way out of town we witnessed a 40 ton semi being filled with harvested immature agave (2-5 years old) and although the landowner could not confirm the final destination of the plants (as they were sold to a coyote at a ridiculously low price) he did now that they were headed north. As we near another shortage of agave in Jalisco the theft of plants and profits from the espadin fields of Oaxaca will be of utmost concern to the sustainability of artisanal mezcal.

    Reply
  9. Mezcal_Neat at |

    Hi John,
    Actually I’m involved in Vinos de Mezcal (VdM) project. We are selling very rare Agave Spirits all around US. The fonds are going to Fundación Agaves Silvestres. So, drink good Mezcal it’s also a great way to reforest 😉
    Cheers!

    Reply
  10. Sergio Morales at |

    Hello John:

    If you cultivate the agave, it could reach maturity in 5 – 5 1/2 years.

    Reply
  11. Mariana Moreno at |

    Really interesting post! Thank-you. I’ve often pondered it while sipping on my Mezcal and it stresses me out. Jonathan, please post this information because I am very interested in volunteering.

    Muchas gracias,

    Mariana Moreno

    Reply
  12. Jonathan Barbieri at |

    Hola John,
    Thank you for the acknowledgement. We have actually been quietly reforesting Tobalá for the past four years, but it didn’t occur to us to ask for volunteers until last May. Our annual, pre-rainy season plantings shall continue indefinitely – especially now that we can count on such generous support from the Mezcal-loving public (this is REALLY hard work in fairly rugged conditions). I’ll let you know when we begin taking names for the Tobalá-corpse 2014 roster!
    Salud!
    Jonathan Barbieri

    Reply

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