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Mezcalistas

Agua del Sol: Bottling the magic

Agua del Sol is a new brand on the market that unites a variety of mezcal world trends. It’s a creation of Felix Hernández Monterrosa and Adriana Correa – the two are business as well as spouses as well as the forces behind well known Mezcales CUISH which is a mezcal brand and a set of tasting rooms. The traditional space in Oaxaca is renown for its design sense, something that Monterrosa has updated periodically over the years to persistent praise. But they also have a new appointment only tasting room in Mexico City’s historic downtown at Calle Tacuba 14, just around the corner from Bar Opera and Bellas Artes and a quick stroll from Bósforo.

As their project has expanded the mezcal landscape has changed. They’re adapting and helping with that change by adding Agua del Sol to present tiny batches of mezcal to the world. The first two come from maestra Berta Vasquez and the maestro that really inspired the CUISH project, Francisco Garcia Leon. Those two also produce for CUISH’s eponymously named house brand, the major differences between CUISH and Agua del Sol are certification, production, and local ownership. Agua del Sol will only be selling very small batches, these non certified first two are of 300 and 600 liters, and – while CUISH owns the project – it works with the mezcaleros to ensure a continuity of cultural ownership by keeping some of the production local and to distribute profits.

Certification has become a major issue in the mezcal world because traditionally mezcal hasn’t required any governing body to regulate what is, and isn’t mezcal. Now that the CRM exists the structures that it has put in place to certify mezcal require costly investments that just don’t make sense for tiny batches and the chemical limitations often exclude very traditional batches. There’s also a simple cultural friction with some people chafing at the idea that a governing body can tell them what to do with their mezcal. Fortunately many other brands have taken the lead on this front and have carved out an entire agave spirits (“destilados de agave” in Spanish) category that is now recognized in the U.S. by the TTB, the domestic agency tasked with regulating alcohol. Now that the door is open, quite a few destilados are making their way into the market.

Agua del Sol – the name

The brand’s name emerges from and highlights the cultural continuity in mezcal. Correa says that the “name evokes a story about a “Magician of the hills,” a poem/song, about an old master of mezcal that transforms in magic, with patience the sun that for a long time was contend in the agave. That magic beverage is the water of the sun.” That spirit extends to everything in how Agua del Sol operates. They don’t have production contracts and just buy what maestros want to sell. They hold some back for local consumption, a key consideration for them because, as mezcal has become so popular and profitable as an export product, it can be prohibitively expensive for Oaxacans to afford their own spirits.

Agua del Sol is imported by Bad Hombre Importing which is owned by Fred Sanchez and Nick Coss. Coss is a distant cousin of Mezcalistas’s own co-founder, Susan Coss. They discovered their shared heritage when joking about their last name without suspecting that they were related. They did some research and, voila, it turned out that they were actually related. Of course that doesn’t impact how we cover them and their products. Bad Hombre already imports Santa Sabia’s mezcals (Aprendiz, Tio Pesca, and Pescador de Sueños). Right this second Agua del Sol is available in California. It will expand to other states soon.

Be sure to check out our talk with Monterrosa, Correa and Doña Berta, part of our Conversations in a Agave programming..

Max co-founded Mezcalistas with Susan way back in 2012. Before that he was a journalist at Salon.com and The San Francisco Chronicle.

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