The realities of climate change and the economic impact of Covid-19 have made the topic of sustainability even more important. But what exactly does sustainability even mean for the mezcal industry? Over the years we have written about the topic
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to talk to Richard Betts of Sombra Mezcal about the company's foray into making adobe bricks from mezcal by-product. The idea is pretty simple, use viñaza and bagasso from mezcal production to make adobe bricks. Of course simplicity is never easy, and after much trial and error, they created a solid blueprint that others could use.
It's something that most of us don't really think about when it comes to mezcal because we are so focused on the magic being made in the still, but with every liter of mezcal produced there are about ten liters of liquid waste produced. That's called the vinaza. In small production runs, it is seemingly manageable to dispose of. You can pour it in the river or the field and it will break down in weeks. If you add chemicals that process can be shortened to days. But as soon as you multiply production runs, suddenly it is a whole different proposition.
[caption id="attachment_6827" align="aligncenter" width="960"] New library in Santa Catarina Minas. Photo by Graciela Angeles[/caption]
This is not a rhetorical question and in fact it remained at the forefront of my mind as I spoke with brands, mezcaleros, development people, and academics while I was in Oaxaca, and prompted so many more questions. Why is there such an intense focus on sustainability within the mezcal industry? Just what is it about mezcal that inspires such a hard core call for sustainability?
[caption id="attachment_4733" align="aligncenter" width="768"] Pulling the bagasso after a distillation run.[/caption]
Bagasso is the cooked and pulped agave fibers that remain after making mezcal. The term has a round about origin, it probably started in Spanish as bagazo which migrated to the French bagasse and then came back into Spanish as bagasso relatively recently. At least that's