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Comunidad is a new label of tiny, one time, mezcal batches curated by Ansley Coale and Hector Vasquez de Abarca who have a long track record of bottling amazing mezcals and working closely with their producers. De Abarca used to be in charge of production at Los Danzantes, a mezcal brand that Coale’s company, Craft Distillers, imports into the United States under the name Los Nahuales. Together they are “collaborating on a project to find, bottle, and represent superb agave spirits with the intent of helping to preserve the society and culture from which they come.”
Coale and de Abarca’s vision is to bring mezcal back to where it started, small batch production that respects the creator and community where it was produced. Those intimate connections between finding the agave, making it into mezcal, and keeping that knowledge and the ensuing resources in the community so that it can continue to thrive are what make the culture of mezcal alive. That extends to the skill of distilling which Coale says simply “you either you have this capacity inside of you or you don’t.” He asked Don Beto how he knew what was going on inside his clay still as it was distilling. Beto went over and touched it. As Coale and de Abarca write: “Comunidad is about keeping this alive, about deflecting the pressure to commoditize the product (which would mean commoditizing the culture from which it comes). Modernization means doing to agave spirits what happened to whiskey, cognac, rum. Let’s not do that. Let’s keep a great thing going.”
De Abarca and Coale are also working within the existing culture of mezcal production where maestros mezcaleros produce small batches seasonally as they have access to agaves. These distillers use agaves that are ripe, when they are ripe. They make mezcal as part of a larger cultural economy. It’s not an industry independent of the community producing for international markets but an extension of the local culture. These are the batches that they can sell on the market. Some is held back for local consumption but these makers frequently have other jobs in agriculture that keep them busy the rest of the year. And that work isn’t an arcadian idyl, it’s hard, physical, but it’s their culture.