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Mezcalistas

Del Maguey Las Milpas tasting notes

Details

Location: Las Milpas, Oaxaca
Agave: Espadin / A. angustifolia haw.
Maestro Mezcalero: Familia Cruz Antonio: Anastacio, and sons Rigoberto, Abel y Pedro
ABV: 46%
Tasting keywords: Pippin apple, lemon zest.
NOM: O41X
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Nose

An elegant balance of roast agave, black pepper, dried fig, and lemon zest.

Don Anastacio, the paterfamilias behind Del Maguey’s Las Milpas.

Taste

An incredible balance of mineral, pippin apple, and agave sugars. This is a mouth filler with flavor to match but no where close to overwhelming. I could easily sip this for a delightful afternoon session with friends.

Three generations of Don Anastacio’s family at his palenque. He and his sons are the maestros mezcaleros who produce Las Milpas for Del Maguey.

Method / Background Notes

This is the fruit of a four day underground roast in an oven hewn out of granite. It was crushed by horse drawn molino, wild fermentated with local spring water, twice distilled in a 250 liter copper pot still.

The distinctive horno at the Las Milpas palenque. It is hewn directly out of the rock.

Del Maguey’s founder Ron Cooper meets many mezcaleros in his trips around Oaxaca but there is also a well worn path to his door in Teotitlan and that’s just what Las Milpas’ paterfamilias, Don Anastacio, did. He talked to Don Gaspar who was Ron’s long time friend about sampling his mezcal. They did it as a bit of a coincidental set up, Ron was coming by, when he arrived Don Gaspar wasn’t the only one sitting at the table, Don Anastacio had made the journey with a treasured five liter bottle of mezcal.

Del Maguey’s “Madrina” Misty Kalkofen told me that when Ron arrived one day “there’s a guy there with his arms crossed, wearing a sombrero, and holding a five liter bottle of mezcal. Ron thought “oh what am I in for.”” and was right because as he chatted with Don Anastacio he learned that he brought his mezcal from Las Milpas, a tiny community in the mountains above San Dionisio Ocotopec that can only be reached via truck – Misty told me that even Jeeps don’t make it up there during the rainy season. But Don Anastacio didn’t drive down, he walked down to the cross roads, picked up the bus and walked from the stop in Teotitlan – all with that five liter jug of mezcal in his hands.

The molino at Las Milpas with tinas off the left.

Ron likes to taste mezcal in the morning so he wanted to buy a liter for a tasting the next morning but Don Anasatacio rebuffed him and said “no you can buy five liters.” Misty told me that Ron “loves that chutzpah, like ‘I walked all the way down her and you’re going to buy my bottle not just a piece of it.’ Ron values the integrity of families who stand up for the value of what they produce. He has always said about the family in Santo Domingo that they live their lives with honesty and integrity and you can taste that in their mezcal. Ron’s appreciation for Anastacio knowing and standing up for the quality and value of his work, it’s something that particularly resonates with Ron as an artist.”

Las Milpas’ still with a view of the countryside.

And Ron did like it, enough to work closely with Don Anastacio and his family to make it the latest bottle in the Del Maguey family because, as with many of the Del Maguey producers and many relationships in the mezcal world, it’s about so much more than just purchasing what comes out of a still. Ron and Del Maguey worked closely with Don Anastacio and his family to build out their palenque and purchased their production for years before Las Milpas was introduced to the market in 2019. That approach is a different idea than the classic batch by batch market release and speaks as much to the Del Maguey philosophy of working closely with producers as much as it does to their position in the mezcal world. They have a lot of clients so if they’re going to bring a mezcal to market they have to ensure that they’re able to satisfy demand and the only way to do that with a small production palenque is by storing production over time.

As for the landscape around Las Milpas, Misty describes it as “absolutely stunning, it feels almost like alpine Austria. Las Milpas refers to the corn fields, in the summertime they’re really focused on agriculture and working the fields, you look across and it’s green and amazing.” Once this terrifying pandemic is over I’m looking forward to a visit.

Just one of the stunning vistas from Las Milpas.

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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