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January 2018

[caption id="attachment_7994" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] [media-credit id=3 align="aligncenter" width="1024"][/media-credit] What's the chemistry in these agaves?[/caption]

The mellifluously titled “Volatile Compound Profiles in Mezcal Spirits as Influenced by Agave Species and Production Processes” by Araceli M. Vera-Guzmán, Rosa I. Guzmán-Gerónimo, Mercedes G. López, and José L. Chávez-Servia has some tantalizing research into the chemistry of mezcal's flavor. They were looking at the question of whether chemical variations between different agaves harvested in different areas could account for flavors which, as any of your mezcal aficionados know, is pretty critical to our enjoyment even if most of us, most of the time, don't dig into the details of chemical analysis. 

[caption id="attachment_7985" align="alignnone" width="1024"] [media-credit id=3 align="alignnone" width="1024"][/media-credit] These guys are coming to an espadin field near you.[/caption] In this interview with Gotham Magazine, Rande Berber, George Clooney's business partner in Casamigos Tequila, mentions that they're launching a mezcal label. He doesn't offer many specifics, just this exchange:

[caption id="attachment_7932" align="alignnone" width="1024"] [media-credit id=3 align="alignnone" width="1024"][/media-credit] There was plenty of mole at the Mexican pavilion including this stand from Seasons of My Heart, chef Susana Trilling's line of salsa's, chocolates, salts, poleo tea in addition to her mole.[/caption] Another year, another Fancy Food. Endless square feet of all the food that you can imagine, so much of it of the highly processed and packaged variety vying to be the snack or high energy food of the future. But this year was notable more for what wasn't on the convention floor more than for what was.

A dry county

The strangest thing about this year was how dry the place was. The Mexican area didn’t have a single spirit and only a single Mexican wine stand. Elsewhere you’d be hard pressed to find spirits, wines or beers. The notable exception was the jumping Japanese microbrew booth which was never without a line.

[caption id="attachment_7808" align="alignnone" width="1024"] [media-credit id=3 align="alignnone" width="1024"][/media-credit] Fields of blue agave in the valles region outside of Tequila.[/caption] It’s the heart of your mezcal and the culture around it but how much is the actual agave worth and who’s getting paid? And why is it so god damned expensive? There are no easy answers but lots of trends. For much of this year we’ve been hearing that the price of agave in tequila country has been as high as recent memory. In 2016 it was already expensive at 10 pesos per kilo, then it spiked to 18, 19, and 21 pesos per kilo in the summer of 2017. On my recent trip to Guadalajara I heard some people say the price had softened a bit to the 17-18 peso per kilo range. Meanwhile in Oaxaca the price of agave has been rising as well, but closer to the 10 peso per kilo range.

[caption id="attachment_7815" align="alignnone" width="1024"] [media-credit id=3 align="alignnone" width="1024"][/media-credit] The line up of cocktails for the Tacolicious Crab Bender dinner.[/caption] Tacolicious' annual crab dinners are right around the corner which is always a great opportunity to open up the wallet for a San Francisco tradition but this year they're doing things a bit differently at the Marina location because the companion cocktails for the meal are all made with mezcal and now that marijuana is legal in California, CBD as well. They're using El Silencio for all the cocktails and sourcing their CBD from Sonoma Hills Farm.The cooking and mixing with marijuana trend has been bubbling away for some time but, given the legal necessity, always underground. Now that things are out in the open people are starting to experiment and we're glad to see that mezcal is in the mix.

[caption id="attachment_7736" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] [media-credit id=3 align="aligncenter" width="1024"][/media-credit] This was the past - what's in the future for mezcal and the wider world of Mexican alcoholic beverages?[/caption]
It's that time of year where we try to synthesize some meaning from the past year's events and make a few predictions about the year ahead. There were certainly cataclysmic events in the world of mezcal in 2017: Huge deals were made, all sorts of new products launched, earthquakes ravaged rural Oaxaca and urban Mexico City. All the while the linear growth of mezcal continued driven by cocktails but there are new trends in higher end boutique bottles as well. Look closely and you'll see a relatively cohesive set of trends with only a few outliers.

Validation

If there is one word that sums up 2017 for mezcal it is "validation." When big guys like Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and Bacardi get into the category through straight out acquisition or distribution deals you know it is not a passing trend. The repercussions of all these moves have barely hit the market yet so 2018 will be the first time we really get to see how this plays out in terms of the mezcal in bottles, the pricing for bars and on retail shelves. We get the sense that this is as much a dating game for both sides of the equation so we expect lots of smaller changes before anything big happens. The first major trend we expect to see is more of the labels priced for cocktails to expand.

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