As a regular reader, you know I have a fascination with the diversity of agaves from which mezcal can be made. From my-likely-to-be-highly-inaccurate accounting, I am somewhere in the mid-40’s of species, sub-species, or varieties of agave from which mezcal is currently produced.
I recently came across an academic research piece from the noted agave expert, Ana Valenzuela-Zapata, that said there were 42 species in Mexico from which mezcal is made. This is directionally where I came out on my last piece on this topic. (I got to 47 but I know there is some overlap). So while the exact number is hard to pin down, and is likely a moving target, my pursuit continues.
As a regular reader, you may recall I held a mezcal tasting at our apartment in NYC this past spring (and did I mention it rocked, of course?!). As we are now spending several weeks in Vail this summer, I thought it was wise to continue planting mezcal seeds wherever I travel. Once planted, mezcal seeds tend to flourish because mezcal is a discovery process, and usually, once discovered, the converted keep coming back!
So with this in mind, we held a tasting for friends and family this past weekend showcasing some of the finest mezcals that can be found in the U.S. As with my previous tasting, I had scorecards, groupings, and tasting notes from the brands (unless they could not be found).
There was a night a few years ago when I decided to have my own very private mezcal tasting. I had collected a few very nice bottles at that point and wanted to try them side by side to compare, contrast, and enjoy. But by myself? Sure. Why not? Just me and my booze. But my wife was worried about me, my parents called, neighbors knocked, the dog barked (imagine my shock since I don’t have one). They thought I was going over the edge (the edge of glory perhaps!). But it was alright. I had a great time and learned a few things along the way.
So there I was, there I was, in the Congo. Oops, wrong story. There I was at the bar at Empellon in the West Village in NYC. Matt Resler, bartender extraordinaire, passionate agave expert, and all around good guy, was kindly pouring me what he believed to be was the release of a VERY SMALL BATCH production of Siete Misterios Mezcal. This brand is not yet available in the U.S., but is coming soon. Matt gets this stuff because, well, he is Matt. I wish I was Matt.
Why did Matt think this bottle of Siete Misterios was a very small batch? Because the bottle was hand numbered as bottle number 20 out of 21! Yes, bottle 20 of 21. Ahhh, I’m not sure what the definition would be of “small batch”, but I am guessing that this qualifies! (more…)
My wife and I went to the Spirits of Mexico Tasting recently at Agave in the West Village. Overall, it was a fine event which featured many tequilas and a handful of mezcals. However, I was a bit disappointed that there were not other Mexican, agave-based spirits that were represented. It would have been easy it seems to get a sotol there, as I can buy them at my corner liquor store (in fairness though, my corner liquor store is pretty adept at agave-based spirits since I am in the neighborhood!). Or how about some bacanora? Maybe the vendors have to buy their way in and the other Mexican spirits did not want to play? At any rate, it would be nice to see them expand beyond tequila and mezcal. (more…)
I recently came across a post from another mezcal blogger, La Nina del Mezcal (click to see her post), that I found to be interesting. It was about the “MEZCALFEST DF 2012”, which was apparently recently held in Mexico City, though I confess that I cannot find anything online in English about this mezcal festival (yes, my lack of Spanish language acumen is a chink in my mezcal armor!).
But nevertheless, her post intrigued me because there was a list of the top 10 mezcals from this festival. Was this La Nina’s list? An official list? I am not sure and she does not say. Please, La Nina, enlighten us!
But I am always on the look out for premium mezcals so this list got my attention. However, the only mezcal on this list that can be had in the U.S. is Wahaka, which I have tried and is quite good. The others, while I had heard of a few, cannot be found in the U.S. (please tell me differently if you know better), so keep this list handy next time you are mezcal binge-ing through Oaxaca and bring some back!
Here is the list from La Nina with a few judge-a-mezcal-by-its-label-and-packaging comments from me :
1. Mezcal El Cortijo. Label is a Freaky Friday Valentine. Man with pig nose ripping heart out of dowdy puritan lady. (more…)
I know you are well aware of Cuervo Gold, and I am also guessing that you have heard about Wild Shot Mezcal. I will come back to Cuervo, but first let’s discuss Wild Shot. It was launched in early 2011 by country singer Toby Keith, who apparently is very
popular, though I don’t think I run with his crowd. Keith is going for the mass market in terms of branding, marketing, packaging, but strangely, not really pricing at $40 a bottle or so. Maybe his slogan should be, “Don’t buy that 12 pack of wife beaters at Walmart. Buy mezcal!” He also sells this, uh, ahh, mezcal, at his 11 or so Bar and Grill’s that he owns around the country.
To me, the surprising result is that the top rated mezcal is Del Maguey Vida. Now this is no doubt a fine mezcal but I am guessing that even Ron Cooper at Del Maguey would not see this as Del Maguey’s top rated mezcal. Though I can happily sip it, there are many more that I think are better sipping mezcals, and I view this as great product with which to make mezcal cocktails. Even though I don’t get it, congrats to Vida.
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Calling myself Mezcal PhD is really more of an aspirational title than one based in fact. On the other hand, who is to really say? Can you really get a PhD in spirits, and more specifically Mezcal? And who would award such a degree? Would you really want to have THAT alma mater on your resume? (more…)