24 Responses

  1. Tyler at |

    “Valentin and his brother-in-law, Oscar Hernandez” – Oscar Hernandez of Gracias a Dios??

    Reply
    1. Mezcal PhD at |

      I believe so – yes. But do not know for sure.

      Reply
  2. Michael Goldfine at |

    I enjoyed your story and found it educational. Sure wish I could have a taste of the Porfidio as it was then. This past summer I did travel to outside Oaxaca and visit a few palangues to learn and see as much of the process as possible. As of now, the mezcal I am most enjoying is Del Maguey’s Chichicapa.

    I enjoyed your book as well. Thanks for sharing your passion and knowledge and historical experience.

    Reply
    1. Mezcal PhD at |

      Thank you for the kind words! It is so great that you’ve been to Oaxaca because that really brings it all home. If you have a minute to give me a review on Amazon for the book, that would be most appreciated!!

      Reply
    2. Isaac at |

      Wow! I was reminiscing and telling the story of this tequilla that ended their distribution here in the states and couldn’t remember the name but the cactus bottle search led me here. Thanks for the info and better the story. Simply the best tequilla and even better it’s a mezcal. Apparently there are still some bottles it there. Cheers and thanks.

      Reply
  3. Bruce Turbeville at |

    John, great story; and the Cortes family mezcals are among my favorites… Agave de Cortes anejo is actually starting to nudge my beloved Illegal aside for favoritism… and as unscrupulous as parts of the tequila industry have become, I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of thing wasn’t more common, even with the DO control… keep on sipping!

    Reply
  4. Bruce E at |

    Your post is really meaningful and a very pleasant surprise for me, and probably many others, John. Thanks so much for providing it!
    So many of us have transitioned from tequila to mezcal. And, like you and others, I enjoyed Porfidio back in the day and am a huge fan of mezcal now and specifically El Jolgorio.
    Asis Cortes is a superstar and was so hospitable when we visited his place–Mezcalogia in Oaxaca.
    Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. Mezcal PhD at |

      Agree with all! Asis is a huge asset to the mezcal category! Thanks for the comments.

      Reply
  5. Sonia Gomez at |

    Fascinating story! Very interesting responses! Worth another book, mezcalphd?

    Reply
  6. Mario Yrun at |

    Great story John and it certainly brings back warm and buzzy feelings of the early-mid nineties in Cozumel, thanks!

    Reply
    1. Mezcal PhD at |

      Those were good times, but thankfully so are these!!

      Reply
  7. David at |

    BTW, Porfidio Añejo Single-Barrel was always a blend of many and never a single varietal tequila. The blend changed frequently and that gave it away as a pastiche tequila. Towards the end it really went downhill and never recovered it’s sales volume. Martin Grassl claims he marketed it as a super premium agave spirit and never as a tequila. That solved the what is it made of problem right there.

    Porfidio was telegraphing the Mezcal provenance of their flagship product by using a glass cactus not found anywhere in Jalisco or Mexico for that matter. The cactus they used is an accurate glass model of a Saguaro and the Saguaro cactus is found only in the Sonoran desert regions around Tucson, Arizona. While I believe this “story” is true, I also believe Porfidio was blended from all sorts of unlabeled white tequilas possibly redistilled as you mention and colored up by resting briefly in used Spanish sherry casks primarily for color. I can say with certainty that it was NEVER puro Espadin. The taste would be unacceptable at 100 percent Espadin to all regular tequila drinkers of that era. Remember that in those days most tequila was MIXED in drinks and made from something far short of 100% blue agave sourced pinas. My boss went through CASES of that Porfidio stuff and shared it liberally to promote “cohesiveness in the staff ranks”. He wouldn’t touch my mezcals as they tasted like shit to his educated palate and I was sourcing high quality mezcals back then although not to the standards of today as none of it was single varietal and it was always blended from whatever pinas were harvested for that batch. I bet the Porfidio was blended to a max 15% Espadin. Any more and tequila drinkers of the day would have rejected it completely. How much could these tiny palenques have produced by hand back in the early 1980’s and early 1990’s anyway? Porfidio simply sold way too much for a single palenque to keep up with demand. It was the single most popular brand of super premium tequila in those days. Not just in NYC but also Japan and across the EU too. Porfidio WAS the topshelf tequila of it’s day. Porfidio went downhill in quality as production increased. I still have a half dozen of these green cactus bottles, mine were redirected from Japanese imports as the Japanese always paid top dollar for their import liquor and Tequila has similar notes to the harsher Japanese Shochu made from Imo and Buckwheat. Ever tried a real Shochu? That stuff packs a punch for being 50 proof.

    I have quite the collection of hand blown Mexican bubble glass tequila bottles from the early 1990’s. Even Patron sold their tequila in hand blown bubble glass bottles for several years during their early days as a premium import tequila. Not one producer continued to use hand blown bubble glass as sales exploded, the artisan glass blowers just couldn’t keep up with demand for bottles. If you think you have one, turn it upside down and look for the broken off glass punt where the bottle was removed from the glassblowers iron blowpipe. If you see the broken off punt, is was hand blown. Otherwise it is a molded glass replica.

    Reply
    1. Mezcal PhD at |

      Thanks for your contribution! Great color!! You clearly know more about the Porfidio story than I do. I don’t know exactly what was in those bottles I was drinking back in the day, but it was good shit. Given the aging, I am not sure I could rule it out that it was espadin – the barrel masks a lot as you know. And espadin is the genetic mother of the blue agave so their flavor profiles are not drastically different anyway.

      But let’s not debate it! All I know is I loved it then and wish I had saved a few of those. Which brings me to your reference of “I still have a half dozen of these green cactus bottles”. Are they empty or full? And are you selling or interested in some trading??

      Best,
      John

      Reply
      1. David at |

        John,

        No one knows what exactly was in those bottles of Porfidio but Martin Grassl and he isn’t sharen and probably never will. I bet he made a killing by blending some really neutral agave spirits with a much smaller percentage of the artisanal stuff to appeal to a palate that would never be caught sipping the limited production mezcals of that era. Maybe there was some marc or Calvados in there as well. I never tasted a smokey Porfidio but he sold many different versions around the world, even when just starting out in 1991. His deal now is using various agave species from around the world to make a new lineup of agave spirits, some from India and also Venezuela (Viva La Revolucion!). The thing is, Martin Grassl was only 24 when he first shipped Porfidio to the world. If you look into his bonafides and background, he comes from the Austrian fruit liquor and Germanic distilled unaged white liquor traditions (grappa and Eau d’ vie only Austrian versions). He bought and blended to his own specifications and really nailed a product that appealed to EU, US and Japanese cognoscenti. I stopped drinking it by 1995 as my boss had moved up the food chain and no longer needed to appease the peons with high end spirits. But I kept the dead soldiers for my collection. A funny thing is that the ultra high end Clase Azul with the super distinctive ceramic tower bottle is a dime a dozen on eBay as none of those bottles were thrown out as empties. Back then my tequila of choice was the Herradura silver from Mexico as a 100 proof white lightning and it was a Mexico traditional that was never very popular for US tequila drinkers. The US Herraduras were expressly distilled for people who had no previous experience with 100 percent blue agave tequila or 100 proof unaged tequila as a shot or sippers. Imagine how they would react to a modern artisanal single varietal mezcal. No way back in the day.

        All my hand blown bubble glass is long empty and it wouldn’t be a good idea to try long term liquor storage in any of these bottles as the hand tooled (often out of round) necks and real cork stoppers leaked, even while on the liquor store shelves. The Patron bubble glass stoppers were particularly out of round and crooked. The glass stopper was glued onto a cork at crazy angles. Bartenders must have hated these bottles on their speed racks as the hand blown glass was super thin in places and prone to cracking with the slightest ding. I mean it’s called bubble glass because it’s filled with air bubbles from recycled fused broken glass and that weakens the glass pretty bad. The pics of Porfidio Anejo with green Saguaro cactus blown inside the bottles I have seen recently look to be machine made as the cactus is really uniform and much bigger than the little 1.5″ tall christmas tree sized ornaments in my bottles. My cactus bottles were redirected from the Japanese market with Kanji characters on the labels and they were all purchased before 1994, starting in 1991. Patron bubble glass was only used in the very earliest years of Patron tequila production and appears to be even rarer. I showed some examples to the Patron distillery employees doing a Patron road show in Denver in the mid aughts and they didn’t recognize them at all. They stated that was the first they ever heard about it but this was back when Patron was a contract product made to spec at another tequila distillery and modern Patron has it’s very own high end small batch distillery complete with many tahona mills, just like the artisan paleques use to crush their fire roasted agave pinas. As far as I know, Patron is the only tequila distillery using the ancient tahona mill process to crush some fraction of their pinas. Patron has long used a molded glass bottle for their product lineup that mimics the hand blown glass but has the much better sealing poly foam stopper that has taken over the industry. Even the super high end Patron super Anejos for a half grand use a molded glass decanter although the surface is hand cut to make it sparkle and shine when back lit on the bar shelf. The last hand blown bubble glass I bought was sometime around 2005 and it was a single bottle of the very smoky early Sombra Mezcal. Later bottles were machine made and filled with a much less smoky mezcal. Seems like both change at the same time in the evolution of a new high end agave spirit.

        In wine making, those who buy and blend wines and attempt to charge high prices are called negociants (among other mostly unprintatble things) and the business strategy is typically to introduce a new product using very high quality bulk purchases blended and aged to your specs. Then after the early adopters and wine press have had their say and created market buzz (hopefully all positive as the product is much higher quality than the price indicates), the brand will slowly switch over to less expensive bulk supplies to make back your initial investment and more. Ask George Clooney if a billion buyout for a new but frankly average tasting Casamigos is an okay return? I mean most tequilas are not distilled by a distillery run by the brands owners. It’s contract operations for all but the biggest brands. Mezcal isn’t like that –yet.

        Reply
        1. Sandy Sublett at |

          But, are you going to help the guy get a bottle with the cactus it it, Dude?

          Reply
          1. Mezcal PhD at |

            Maybe it’s too early for me, but I don’t understand this comment!!!

  8. Ian Keldoulis at |

    That’s a wonderful tale. A love story—with heartbreak and resolution— and a mystery solved, all in one. Perfect for mezcal!

    Reply
    1. Mezcal PhD at |

      Well said!! Thanks!!

      Reply
  9. Ryan H. at |

    Very cool John!

    Reply
    1. Mezcal PhD at |

      Thanks! A special moment for sure….

      Reply
  10. Rimas at |

    Wow! That’s crazy!

    Reply
  11. Mike at |

    Fantastic, and nearly unbelievable story! But then, of course, it all makes perfect sense in the end. There is simply no denying the excellence of the products crafted by this family. There is only the realization that you loved their work, even before you knew it was their work.

    Reply
    1. Mezcal PhD at |

      Well said! I don’t know if the post conveyed the disbelief and realization of the moment, but I tried. Thanks for contributing!

      Reply

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