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January 2016

Last night I had a chance to hit the launch party at Oakland's Tamarindo for the new mezcal "La Palabra." There is one type, an espadin from San Juan del Rio in Oaxaca. It comes in a beautiful square bottle which mimics the decanter found in the mezcalero's home. At 50%, it is no wallflower and has a full bodied flavor to match.

The good folks at the Tequila Interchange Project are circulating a petition in opposition to the newly proposed NOM 199 that came out of left field. This is the NOM put forward to streamling and regulate the entire spirits industry in Mexico, which in theory sounds great. Of course like so many good intentions, it has gone horribly awry and is terrible news for any producer of agave distillates that falls outside of the DO.

[video width="1080" height="1920" m4v="http://mezcalistas.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IMG_7132.m4v"][/video] How's this for a bit of a non-sequitur; the Fancy Food Show? It's a great place to see trends in the specialty food and beverage industry, and since it is in San Francisco, not too much of a stretch for Max and I to get there. Having walked this showroom floor several times in the past, I can say it is important to have a specific focus, otherwise you end up stuffed full of a deadly combination of jelly bellies, jerky, cheese and prosciutto. Just saying...

If ever there were a book for our time, this is it. Sarah Bowen has really captured a moment and set of issues with Divided Spirits: Tequila, mezcal, and the politics of production. With the new NOM proposal dropping over Thanksgiving along with its béte noir 199 the recent history and investigation into what makes the tequila and mezcal industries tick in Divided Spirits will bring you right up to speed. We’re at this moment in time when big tequila remains incredibly popular, mezcal is a newcomer, and indie tequilas are proving just what artisans can do with blue agave. But the margins and growth are all on mezcal and indie tequila’s side, consumers want distinctive drinks that at least have a story, ideally one that’s true. You see the same trend everywhere, it’s what drove major brewers to purchase major beer indies like Lagunitas and Ballast Point late last year and what drove Patrón to create Roca. How did we get here? It’s pretty simple: While tequila grew by leaps and bounds as an incredible export through the post war era it really took Patrón and its followers in the 80’s to establish tequila as something with its own unique coolness factor. That led to enormous demand for tequila; to sip it, shoot it, mix it in cocktails. Hell, Robert Towne, who wrote Chinatown among many other classic movies, even titled his 1988 film Tequila Sunrise in the midst of this boom. Soon enough tequila was stocked in every bar worth its salt while tequila bars proliferated and the margarita became the most popular cocktail in the United States, if not the world. That much demand meant enormous production which, in the inexorable capitalist logic to these things, led to the complete industrialization of tequila. The bottles, dollars, land, agaves, and everything involved in this story are staggering. But it all meant one thing, what was once a dynamic and original spirit had become sadly commodified.

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