Everybody likes lists. I like lists. I frequently write in lists. You see a headline with “the 10 Longest” or “the 5 Firmest” or “the 50 Best” or whatever it is, and you click on it. And you tend to skip through the preamble (you are likely skipping this now!) and go directly to the list – I mean that’s why you clicked the link – not so you could read some blah blah blah. Get me to the list!
But I figure I will ramble on for a paragraph or three and tell you why I put this one together. I compiled this because, while it has been done in Tequila many times, I cannot find a similar list that exists for mezcal. And the reason I think this is relevant is because, on a relative basis, high end mezcal is far less expensive than ultra premium tequila – so it’s interesting. You don’t have to look far to find tequila starting at $300+ and there are many offerings at $500+ and a handful north of $1,000! In fact, the 10 mezcals below combined cost about the same as a bottle of Clase Azul Extra Anejo Ultra at $1,700 a bottle. Mezcal, on the other hand, rarely tips $200 a bottle.
So what’s with the discrepancy? I mean tequila is a mezcal (you all know that). Why are these crazy pricey tequilas so prevalent? We all know that most of it is marketing. But some of it is rooted in the fact that most expensive tequilas are extra anejos, and there is an economic reality to barrel aged spirits: about 10% of what is in the barrel evaporates every year. Plus, the barrels cost money and many of these special tequilas are aged in unique (and even more expensive) barrels or casks. And of course, you are frequently paying for fancy crystal bottles or that kind of thing. Add in the marketing to all this, and BOOM, you have a $500 bottle.
Mezcal, by contrast, does not even have an extra anejo category and many in the mezcal world don’t even believe in barrel aging. Frequent readers of my blog and my book, Holy Smoke! It’s Mezcal! know that I disagree and think barrel aging can add complexity and depth to a mezcal while expanding the audience for the category. But nevertheless, there are not many mezcals aged for more than one year, so the economic loss factor of evaporation doesn’t really come into play. But also, given that mezcal is perceived as a “new” category, I doubt the market would support $500+ bottles of mezcal today. How a 500 year old spirit can be considered “new” is a rant for another day!
So let’s move to the list. As usual, when I talk about these things, I stick to things that you can readily buy. These are bottles that can be found at some high end liquor stores, like Astor Wines in NYC, or definitely online. Let’s start low and work our way up…
10. El Jolgorio Tobasiche, $150 at K&L. Jolgorio is one of the premier premium brands with many varietals in the $100-$150 range. They are all amazing and worth the loot.
9. Mezcalosfera de Mezcaloteca, $160 at K&L Wines. This ensamble of 5 varietals comes from the well-regarded tasting room Mezcaloteca in Oaxaca. I have not tried it because I struggle with the price given that this is from an unknown mezcalero. It may be great and worth the price but somehow I doubt it. Chime in if you know better! If I ever see it in a bar, I’m in.
8. Koch El Mezcal Coyote, $170 at Zee Tequila. Koch has a line of about 10 varietals offered in the US. I have tried many of them and I have several, though not this Coyote. Overall, I have been underwhelmed by the Koch line so shelling out $170 when the rest of the line is just OK does not seem like a wise use of my funds.
7. Real Minero Pechuga, $170 at K&L. I’ve never met a Real Minero that I don’t like and this is no exception. Many bottles in their line just missed this list clicking in at about $150. But they are all excellent and worth the price.
6. Del Maguey Pechuga, $180 at K&L. Much like Real Minero, El Jolgorio, and a few other really expensive brands, Del Maguey rarely misses. This pechuga set the standard as the first in the market a good 10+ years ago and it is still elite.
5. Pierde Almas Conejo and Pierde Almas Pechuga, both $200 at Zee. The conejo is made with the breast of a wild rabbit (so this is also a pechuga) and the “regular” pechuga is made with a wild turkey breast. The conejo has a strong licorice note, almost like a sambuca, and is really unique and excellent. The regular pechuga is a standout as well.
4. Del Maguey Ibercio, $200 at K&L. There are many in the mezcal world who rave about this mezcal. I suspect some feel they have to say they love it since it is from the excellent Del Maguey brand, who teamed-up with a celebrity chef, to create an Iberico ham pechuga. But I don’t get it – too salty for me which overpowers all else. One of the rare Del Maguey’s that I don’t love.
3. Clase Azul Durango (Cenizo), $200 at Zee. Mezcal brought to you from well known tequlia brand Clase Azul. It is a classic tequila move: big brand, cool bottle, good marketing = $200 bottle! Don’t fall for it in this case as it is just OK – certainly not worthy of the price for what’s in the bottle.
2. Wahaka Vino de Mezcal Series, $230+ at Zee. Wahaka is an excellent brand with a strong number of great bottles well under $100. But they also scour the far reaches of Mexico to bring unique, tiny batch, special bottlings that they market under their Vino de Mezcal Series. They are very limited release and Zee Tequila is the only place I know to buy them.
1A. Scorpion Mezcal Anejo (7 Year Aged) $230 and Scorpion Tobala Anejo $220 at Zee. Scorpion is a fine mezcal, though the taste profile is closer to a tequila. I have never gotten over the scorpion in the bottle gimmick so I have rarely tried it. But I have tried these deep anejo offerings and I feel the barrel has overwhelmed the mezcal, so they are not a favorite.
1B. Del Maguey Chichicapa Cask Finish 12 Year, $320 at Park Avenue Liquor. This is a late addition to the post (Chad F. – thanks for the tip). I bought this at least 5yrs ago at Park Ave and they still have it (as do I)! It is aged 12yrs in glass and then finished for 100 days in a Stags Leap Cabernet Barrel. Expensive but truly remarkable.
This is an interesting list, but the good news is you don’t have to pay near this much for a great mezcal. So many excellent mezcals can be found in the $50-$100 range. Check out a few of my previous posts if you want to see more.
As for pricey mezcals, you can expect to see more of them. As the category becomes more mainstream, brands will go after the ultra premium sector just as they have done in tequila. You will start to see fancy crystal bottles and that sort of thing. Some people don’t even care about what’s inside – they just want the cool bottle. For me, I want both. If the juice is good, I can definitely be persuaded to buy an expensive bottle even though I am likely overpaying.
One area where you can expect to see the emergence of expensive bottles is in the new mezcal category of “Aged in Glass”. This is part of the new mezcal NOM, and you will see producers rolling out mezcals that they have been aging in large glass bottles for 10+ years. It actually makes a notable difference and you will find the mezcal has more depth and has mellowed. So look for those as they will not be cheap but they are likely worth a premium price.
That’s it my friends. Drink mezcal!
I was in El Paso / Juarez in 1975. I Bought a bottle of Mezcal. Never opened it.
I wonder how much it would be worth today???
Depends on what it is? Do you have a picture? Most likely it is not a very good mezcal ad no good mezcals were being imported back then.
I picked up a bottle of Del Maguey Chichicapa at the Europea in Cabo San Lucas. Excellent. I don’t remember exactly what I paid for it, but I’m pretty sure it was less than $100.
In the US you can get that for $70-$80 so hopefully you paid less than that down there. Enjoy!
Looking to get my brother a bottle of mezcal for his 40th birthday. What would you recommend for $200
Depends on where you live. If you live in NY or CA, you can find Dixeebe, which is amazing. But there are many excellent brands. Try Real Minero and Lalocura as well. Enjoy!
I rather drink bacanora than mezcal.
We all make our choices and I always say drink what you like!
When everything is said and done I love ILEGAL!!
i got a botle of mazcal fenix 750 ml old of more then 30 years did someone know how much it worth
There is really no secondary market for mezcal – old or new. I have not heard of this brand, but I suspect it is worth very little. I would drink it!
Since this was originally posted, Mezcales de Leyenda has released some crazy expensive bottles starting at $250 that go up to $500!
Yikes.. makes you wonder how high prices will go.
Yes. I bought two of them! These are all one, small batch, and geared toward collectors I think, given the price point.
Mezcalosfera Mezcales are all unique. If you buy a bottle it is more than probable that you won’t be able to buy the same bottle (lot) again, as there a limited quantities. Most don’t exceed 200 litres. They are all produced in small villages and are in the esprit of making traditional Mezcal (you know, above 45% etc. 😉 ).
I had the chance to visit la Mezcaloteca twice and the honor of a private tasting with Silvia, where I tasted Mezcales so far away from anything I knew but all mindblowing. The prices are high because they are unique. Be glad, that the American importer do respect the soul of la Mezcalotecas otherwise they would be far more expensive due to their uniqueness.
I never paied so much for a spirituous but I would buy any bottle of Mezcalosfera as it is worth it.
Thanks for your thoughts. I agree they are all quite unique. But I have been to Mezcaloteca several times and gone through tastings each time. And as I have said, they are hit and miss – some I love and and some not so much. Rare does not equal good. And I would be pretty bummed if I spent $175 on a bottle, and then tasted it for the first time and find it to be not so good. Thus my comments about Mezcalosfera. Try to taste it at a bar before you drop the big number on the bottle. I have tasted two Mezcalosferas so far and have found them to be exceptional – so the track record of what they are bringing to the US is looking good!
Totally agree. The ones being imported into the US are great but the huge selection in Oaxaca City is hit-or-miss. The tasting room is definitely a fun experience that everyone should check out.. we’re just spoiled with the US releases. The first 3 releases are awesome, especially from Felipe Cortes. There are 2 new arrivals to the US, a chocolate “pechuga” and a mango/habanero “pechuga”.. both sound really interesting.
I have never tasted any Scorpion Mezcal, however, I did have the opportunity to taste Doug French’s Grand Reserve 17 Year Anejo at a private tasting. 70% Añejo/30% Barril, triple distilled, 7 years in American Oak whiskey barrel and 10 years French Oak Bordeaux barrel. I’m not usually a fan of Añejos and the woody flavor imparted by the barrel, but was pleased to have the chance to taste it.
I just got a skull shaped green bottle of Sangre de Vida – Reposado Mezcal. Great taste and balance of salt and sweet. Good smokey aroma. Sold for $100NZ. Have you tried this one? Was wondering what you would think of it. I like on occasion to have Mezcal in a strong short black espresso coffee, very tasty. I have tried at least 14 Mezcals here. Dos Gusanos is practically the only one that most retailers only sell here. I have tried 27 different tequila. I prefer mezcal. I collected a jar full of Mezcal worms once, and put them into water. I found that they imparted a very strong woody flavor. All the Mezcals I have bought had a worm in them with exception of my latest treat: Sangre de Vida.
I have tried that Sangre de Vida repo and agree it is quite good. No worm in that and that’s the way it should be! I think the worm gives mezcal a bad rap and makes people think it is a gimmicky, low quality liquor. Give the non-worm mezcals more of a try and I think you may find them to be better. But if not, keep drinking’ those gusanos! Thanks for the note.
It’s a great list, thank you! I have tried many of them, but for me Mezalosfera is far superior. Also, Mezcalosfera is the US brand of Mezcaloteca in Oaxaca, worth every penny.
I am glad to hear it is great. As I have mentioned on another reply, the Mezcaloteca mezcals are a bit hit and miss. Looks like the community is talking me into buying a bottle!!
Vinos_de_mezcal can also be purchased at Hyland Hills Liquor in Beaverton, OR
My bottle of Mezcalosfera de Mezcaloteca looks like the one you pictured and it appears to be an ensamble of only two varietals, Tobala & Madrecuixe (50% each), not 5. The label includes more information than any other mezcal I have seen and lists the Maestro Mezcalero as Felepe Cortes. I presume your reference to “unknown mezcalero” means that you have no experience with his distillates, since he is clearly identified on the label. I have not yet opened and sampled but am planning on doing just that sometime during the holidays.
Some more information on Mezcalosfera and Felepe Cortes.
I don’t mean “unknown” in a pejorative way. I know that Mezcaloteca mainly works with young up and coming mezcaleros, and I have no doubt some of them are excellent. But when I am there for tastings, it is very hit and miss. Always a great experience, but the mezcals can be excellent or just OK….
Both of the two Mezcalosfera de Mezcaloteca US releases (tobala/madrecuishe + 5 agave ensamble) are from Felipe Cortes and both are great!
Here is a pic of the mezcalero: https://mezcaloteca.squarespace.com/mezcalosfera/
A lot of people have rallied around my comments on Mezcalosfera and agree with your assessment. I will be trying it soon. Thanks!
The 3rd Mezcalosfera release is out.. it’s from a different mezcalero than the previous two releases. https://twitter.com/blackswansaloon/status/837823772518395904
Dig it. Thanks for the tip!
John, just curious if you have tasted any of the VdM selections…..I am curious about them but can’t find tasting notes anywhere. Nary a bar in sight has them in my little mountain town and it’s tough to take the plunge ordering totally blind at that price point!
I have four of them. I am away on vacation so not sure which ones and they have released many more since I bought them 2 yrs ago or so. These are all very unique and one off. Not usually main stream in taste either. I think they are mezcal-drinker’s mezcals. You buy them because of the uniqueness of the production process and to explore the taste profiles of less commercial mezcals. I know one of them I have was made in a still built form a truck radiator! They are not all that weird.
I am sure they are in bars somewhere, but I have never seen them. But also, Wahaka is stronger in West Coast distribution than NYC, where I live. Not sure if this helps you any, but I hope so!
Hey John, we have Mezcalosfera at La Loba. Try it, worth every penny.
-La Loba Cantina
Really? As if I did not already have plenty of reasons to visit, this is the final straw! A January visit for sure. Thank you.
I’d add the La Venenosa Puntas Raicilla as an honorable mention as it’s crafted in the “spirit” of mezcal and costs $200/bottle. Never tried it but very curious considering it is 63% ABV.
I considered putting the Venenosa line on the list (since a raicilla is a mezcal of course) but I decided to keep it to mezcal. But I appreciate the contribution!
I recently tried it and only have one word for it: INTENSE!!!
Not to mention that high end tequila and mezcal prices don’t even compare to what people will pay for good whiskies or even wine. Personally, I don’t feel that $150 is all that expensive for the connoisseur or collector, and $75 is about the average of what I expect to pay for good sipping mezcal. I mean, this being the only hand crafted artisanal spirit in wide circulation in the western world. Who wouldn’t want to go the extra buck?
Nice! Great point on whiskey! I consider myself a collector but the problem is my collection seems to keep disappearing! Thanks for the great thoughts.