Amidst all the holiday and family activities I also had the opportunity to attend a palenque christening in Sola de Vega, Oaxaca - a new venture from Don Luis Mendez in addition to his cultivation of silvestres project previously discussed here. He and four other men from Sola de Vega have restored an old palenque - with careful attention to all the details and traditional roots.
[caption id="attachment_3879" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Bobby Heugel divorces himself from Flor de Cana rum.[/caption] A potentially cataclysmic thing happened last week in the world of rum. An explosive piece by Clarissa Wei for Vice Munchies about Nicaraguan rum producer Flor de Caña and the clear linkage of worker deaths in the production of the rum has sparked a very heated and soul searching online debate in the bar industry about its responsibility and potential culpability in supporting companies like these. Bobby Heugel, the young Houston wunderkind bar man/owner, pretty much got the whole debate going when he posted a picture of Flor de Caña rum bottles he had dumped down the drain accompanied by a very impassioned note about the story and why he did it. To many of us in the industry it feels like a veritable shot heard round the world and the start of a spirits movement not unlike what we have seen in the sustainable food movement.
[caption id="attachment_3842" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Omar Hernanez in his taller[/caption] If you're really into mezcal you have probably already been acquainted with Omar Hernandez's creations. He's a Oaxaca based ceramicist whose copitas are starting to pop up in bars and restaurants in the United States but cover the walls, shelves, and anything else they'll sit on at his taller at Alcalá 303 in Oaxaca. It's on the main drag just down from Santo Domingo and next door to Oro de Oaxaca which makes it difficult to miss.
[caption id="attachment_3807" align="aligncenter" width="266"] The cover of "How the Gringos Stole Tequila"[/caption] It’s the crime of the century and Chantal Martineau’s How the Gringos Stole Tequila: The Modern Age of Mexico's Most Traditional Spiritexplains exactly how they got away with it. The real questions you’re left debating are whether that theft was the fruit of circumstance and whether the damage can be repaired. But, really, this is no true crime book, it’s a walk through the history and present of the agave spirits industry told through a series of encounters with some of the brighter and more interesting personalities that rule it. To start, it’s incredibly encouraging to see this book do away with any pretense of a dualism between tequila and mezcal. At least in these pages, all agave spirits are part of one big happy family and history. Hell, a bottle of Mezcales de Leyenda even appears on the cover telegraphing just how prominent a role our favored spirit occupies in this narrative.
So you've seen our photo gallery of the Grand Tasting but the week that preceded it was pretty incredible in its own right. Here's a quick list of events with photos and a few thoughts a refresher gallery that follows.
Sunday - November 8th
Mezcal Brunch at ABVRyan Fitzgerald helped us kick off Mezcal Week in style with a mezcal brunch at his restaurant ABV that also celebrated his birthday. The special cocktail and brunch menu made lots of people happy enough to carry the party on through the afternoon.
There's nothing quite like an unexpected news dump on Thanksgiving that took more than a couple of days to bubble up into the public view. David Suro first flagged the release of heretofore unheard of NOM 199 which seems to be some sort of bastard child of the failed NOM 186. Clayton Szczech, who has done great work covering the evolution of the NOM in Mexico, has a great synopsis and preliminary thoughts of the document and implications for mezcal:
Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle and Mezcal Week are behind us now but the memories, connections, and tastes linger. Here's a photo gallery of some of the highlights. It was quite a show, our advertised number of over 60 mezcals ended up being incredibly conservative with at least that many in the small producers room alone which featured mico-production mezcals from across Mexico.