A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit in on a blind tasting of Potatorums with the Texas Mezcal and Tequila Society. Led by Paul Dutton, it was a great deep dive into four different expressions. The Tobalá, the prevalent variety within the Potatorum species which also includes the Papalome and Papalometl varieties, has long been revered and is the second best selling agave variety (Espadin is the first) in mezcal. So here is my secret and perhaps sacrilegious confession, I’ve never been a fan. The reason why I wanted to join the tasting was to give it another try. I came around to Tepextate, eventually embracing the “what the fuck is this” range of flavors that threw me off balance. I’ll cut to the chase, this tasting didn’t change my mind. Of the four we tasted, only one fell within my flavor wheel – an El Jolgorio Tobalá from 2014. I like big, round flavors and this one certainly had those, so much so I was convinced it was not a Tobalá until the big reveal. We also tasted a Del Maguey Tobalá from 2014, the Mezcales de Leyenda Puebla made with semi cultivated Tobalá and a Cinco Sentidos Papalometl.
But for me, the truly interesting part of the tasting was that I took the opportunity to do a side by side comparison of vaso veladora vs clay copita when I was tasting the samples, and wow, the differences in flavors was huge. Something that tasted more sweet and fruity in glass, took on dry and sour flavors when sampled in clay. I have always known there was a difference but this side by side drove home just how stark the differences are. Going forward, anytime I taste a mezcal I will do it with both vessels at hand.
One other thing that was driven home for me with this blind tasting– so often the focus is on the flavor profiles and aromas, but there isn’t a great deal of discussion about what might be creating those specific characteristics. I don’t think it is possible to talk about that without also talking about how the production process and where the agaves are from influence the flavors beyond the agave variety itself. It was also a reminder that I am completely out of practice when it comes to tasting and should probably start practicing again. Big thanks to Paul Dutton for putting together such an interesting program!