Wahaka dropped their vegan pechugas just in time for the holidays. These are limited production so call your local liquor store and see if they can get you a bottle. Both bottles match up perfectly with big holiday meals. I’m just sad that I couldn’t get them in time for Thanksgiving because they are the perfect complements to that sort of meal. The labels go a different direction from the classic Wahaka design though still integrate their main symbol.
The category of vegan pechuga is pure brilliance. Pechuga literally means “breast” which refers to the traditional practice of suspending a turkey or chicken breast (or rabbit, or goose, etc) along with a selection of local fruits over the still so that it’s cooked during the distilling run and all the fat and some of the rest of the matter from the meat and fruit dissolve into the simmering alcohol mixture. As the steam rises and is rendered into mezcal it generally retains some of the round, occasionally fatty, occasionally fruity, flavor and texture from the breast and fruit.
Wahaka’s approach is really cool and a brilliant marketing stroke because that riff on the trend away from eating meat just resonates. But it also builds on a long tradition of adding local fruit and herbs to distillates. The Balkans feature travarica, the Poles Żubrówka, Italians occasionally add herbs to grappa etc. The big difference is that most of these are infusions. Occasionally you’ll run into a true French eau de vie where a fruit or herb is added during the distilling process but it’s not a particularly wide spread practice. That’s why the whole pechuga tradition in mezcal is so unique and fantastic. That’s also why I’m so excited about these bottles because pechugas are ripe for this sort of experimentation. Wahaka mezcalero Alberto Morales is really onto something here.
Per the Wahaka release Morales “adds a bag of of botanicals to the Botaniko.” No word on which specifically but it has very distinctly herbal and grassy notes. It’s cuts right through any fatty foods so it pairs well with a holiday goose, turkey, or ham. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t work well alone or with other foods, it’s just that on my first sip I thought, “herbal!” then thought “This is the perfect accompaniment to a big dinner.” I’m looking forward to spending some serious time with it.
The Manzanita as the name implies is made with apples which are also distilled with the base mezcal during the second distillation. Per the Wahaka release these are local heirlooms which raises another thought, which heirlooms are in Oaxaca? No doubt that’s yet another contribution to the fantastic biodiversity there. While also a great food pairing this mezcal has a great round flavor to it that rewards drinking it alone. It would be perfect after a big dinner or a nice session with friends.
Either way don’t miss out on these both because they’re excellent and I love to reward experiments like this.