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Mezcalistas

Tastings of a blindman

A few months ago, Susan Coss mentioned she wanted to send me a bunch of samples of new mezcal she’d been receiving. I asked her to send them to me in unmarked bottles so I could taste them blind. 

Since the product inside the bottle is what is being tasted, I prefer not to be swayed – good or bad – by the brand name, packaging, or politics, and rely on my palate to make the final decision. I find that blind tastings are the best way for me to truly evaluate a product. I am also using this platform to help deepen my recollection of the agave and production methods used as well as place of production. Unfortunately, my palate is definitely out of shape for what I expect of myself and this format will definitely help get me up and running again; I can only ask the same of myself as I ask of all y’all who join out “What’s in Your Mouth” blind tasting events around Mexico in a Bottle. After my tasting notes, I have my guess (*)  as to classification, agave, production methods. As you’ll see, I failed miserably and need a lot of practice to get my palate up to my own expectations.

Because I did this blind, I refer to all of these distillates by the cultural term “Mezcal” and notated the details of what I tasted afterwards. Unless otherwise noted, production is “Artesanal” with Earth Pit – Tahona – Wood Fermentation vats – Copper Pot Stills. I also realize that some of my notes may create some controversy and I definitely welcome the discussion…

Bottle One 

Soft and delicate on the nose with notes of creme de mint. With a thin texture, your plate gets hit with a burst of some black pepper, mint, and a touch of a very light cheese. I want to say creamy, but it’s more cheese than cream. After the initial impact, everything fades into a long and subtle finish. While not overly unique, this distillate has a nice punch and character that will play great in cocktails or as a session sipper paired with a Modelo for those warm summer days and enjoyed by all of your friends.

* Bacanora, pit cooked/shredder/fermented and distilled in stainless steel

The big reveal – Lobos 1707 

  • Classification: Mezcal 
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer: Ausencio Leon Ruiz 
  • Agave: Angustifolia
  • Maguey: Espadín 
  • Location: Morelos, San Dionisio Ocotepec, Oaxaca 
  • Other: Rested in Pedro Ximénez wine barrels   
  • ABV: 42% 
  • Lote: N/A

Bottle Two 

This distillate is very warm and inviting, like an old friend. Notes of pine tree and tropical fruits fill the air. First sip and I love the intensity of the way it hits my tongue! Bursting with flavors cream, vanilla, baking spices, & ripe mango. Slowly fades into a tight, tannin-y finish that is slightly bitter like the pith of grapefruit, and finally reveals it’s dry, earthy core.

*Ejutla, Oaxaca, Espadin/pit cooked/tahona crushed/fermented in wood/distilled in copper pot still

The big reveal – Espada Pequeña (Trader Joe’s)  

  • Classification: Mezcal 
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer: Mezcal Beneva 
  • Agave: Angustifolia
  • Maguey: Espadín 
  • Location: Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca 
  • ABV: 40% 
  • Lote: N/A

Bottle Three 

Bright, briny, and a bit funky on the first whiff. Black olives and crisp bell peppers – very vegetal on the nose. Feisty and spicy (jalapeño) on the palate with some cantaloupe, and really nice caramelized agave notes that linger and turn to a dusty, dirt finish. This distillate has a lot of character and the place of production is definitely of interest for me. Great as a sipper or in a cocktail. Honestly thinking Bloody Marias.

*Durango, Cenizo/pit/shredder/wood fermentation/wood & stainless steel still

The big reveal – Peloton de La Muerte 

  • Category: Mezcal 
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer: Hector Obregón 
  • Agave: Angustifolia
  • Maguey: Criollo 
  • Location: Mazatlán, Guerrero 
  • ABV: 50.2%
  • Lote: 01heco510 

Bottle Four 

Wow! This nose is super bright, floral and has a tone of overly ripe fruit. Also has some nice lactic and earth tones as well. I’m definitely digging this already and definitely would love to visit!! This is soooo delicious! Notes of crisp celery and overly ripe melon hit my palate followed by some black pepper and very dry earth. While this is big, deep, and complex – I could sip on this for days. Hell, I could bathe in it! I would also not be afraid to make cocktails out of this; from ranch water to Negronis, to and I hate to say it; Bloody Marias. Digging the fuck out of this!

* I have no idea of where this traditionally made distillate came from – hell it could be sotol – but I’d guess Chihuahua, Durango, or San Luis Potosí 

The big reveal – Peloton de La Muerte 

  • Category: Mezcal 
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer: Rodolfo Obergón 
  • Agave: Angustifolia & Cupreata
  • Maguey: Espadín and Cupreata 
  • Location: Mazatlán, Guerrero  
  • Other: Vegan Pechuga
  • ABV: 45.1% 
  • Lote: dirodo520 

Bottle Five 

The nose of this Mezcal is very Perfumey; floral and spice bright and dusty with a tad bit of citrus and ripe tropics fruit. Big, yet light and dry, all of those notes translate along with a bit of char and smoke to the palate.

* Matatlán, OAX, Karwinskii (Madrecuixe?)/earth pit/tahona/copper pot still

The big reveal – Vago 

  • Category: Mezcal 
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer: Emigdio Jarquín 
  • Agave: Angustifolia
  • Maguey: Espadín 
  • Location: Miahuatlan, de Porfidio Díaz, Oaxaca 
  • ABV: 50.3%
  • Lot: 25-e-20 

Bottle Six 

Bright, citrus, mint and a touch of pulled pork on the nose. Super big and intense mouth feel (abv around 50%??) with citrus, dark earth, black pepper, jalapeño, and smoked agave notes with a really long and dry finish. While not complex, this Mezcal is intense and definitely not for beginners.

* Minas, OAX, Espadin/ancestral production

The big reveal – Vago 

  • Category: Mezcal 
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer: Aquilino Garcia 
  • Agave: Angustifolia
  • Maguey: Espadín
  • Location: Candelaria Yegolé, Oaxaca 
  • Other: Elote
  • ABV: 50.6
  • Lot: a-14-el-19 

Bottle Seven 

Fruit and spice on the nose make for a friendly invite. Definitely a familiarity to the mezcal, like a long lost friend and we are going to spend some time getting caught up. Bright and punchy on the palate, it’s citrusy, piney, a touch of cheese/cream yet crisp with spicy peppers (but not jalapeño) but also has a nice warm, velvety mouthfeel. Reminds me of Christmas time. Super long finish and feel like the abv is closer to 50% rather than 45%. Definitely not Espadín, but OAX (feels like I’ve been here), wait…is this a pechuga?

* Definitely not Espadin, earth pit/tahona/open fermentation/copper pot still 

The big reveal – Vago 

  • Category: Mezcal
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer: Hijos de Aquilino Garcia
  • Agave: Angustifolia
  • Maguey: Espadín
  • Location: Candelaria Yegolé, Oaxaca 
  • Other: Elote
  • ABV: 50.1
  • Lot: a2-06-el-20 

Bottle Eight 

Deep and funky – this is making me happy. I am not in a good place mentally and was actually worried about this tasting, but so far, I am really digging this mezcal! Like I feel like I am sitting at the palenque/vinata; in a hammock, under palm trees, with the sound of the stream, birds singing, and the fire under the stills crackling. Sweet with overly ripe fruit on the nose, light yet funky cheese, black pepper, and heavy earth cover my palate. Complex enough to keep my palate entertained, but easy enough to be a great session mezcal as well. This definitely made me happy – thank you. About ten minutes after my last taste and nothing on my palate since, I did notice “burnt rubber” which I was not fond of, but that’s the only down side of this mezcal.  

*Durango, Cenizo/pit/shredder/earth fermentation/wood and copper pot still

The big reveal – Santo Pecado 

  • Category: Bacanora 
  • Production Method: Artesanal (Milled by axe and machete)
  • Producer: Rumaldo Flores Amarillas
  • Agave: Angustifolia
  • Maguey: Pacifica
  • Location: Rosario de Tesopaco, Sonora 
  • ABV: 45%  
  • Lot: 0120

Bottle Nine 

Tropical notes of the Oaxaca valley fill my glass. Super lively, fresh, big, and bold, with a lot of depth. With a nice, creamy texture, this is hella delicious! While this is not overly complex nor mundane, it exudes a “sense of place” and I really dig it. Definitely a session mezcal.

*Zoquitlan/Yegole, OAX/Mexicano (or maybe an ensamble with Espadin) /pit/tahona/fermentation in wood vats/copper pot stills

The big reveal – Agua Del Sol 

  • Category: Destilado de Agave 
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer: Berta Vásquez
  • Agave: Karwinskii
  • Maguey: Tobasiche 
  • Location: San Baltazar Chichicapam, Oaxaca 
  • ABV: 46%
  • Lot: iv/19  

Bottle Ten 

Definitely diggin’ the nose! Again, this smells like Christmas; pine trees and spice but also has some nice overly ripe tropical fruit. No snow in sight. Soft at first on the entry of my palate but it gets big in both flavors and heat from the abv. Lush, tropical tones dance upon my taste buds. Lots of character, soul, and definitely a sense of place. I love the long yet dry finish. And again; great as a sipper, a session mezcal, or even in a cocktail.

*Durango, Cenizo/pit/tahona/below ground fermentation/copper pot and wood stills

The big reveal – Agua Del Sol 

  • Category: Destilado de Agave 
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer: Francisco García León 
  • Agave: Rhodacantha 
  • Maguey: Mexicano 
  • Location: San Guillermo, Miahuatlán, Oaxaca 
  • ABV: 49% 
  • Lot: v/2020 

Bottle Eleven 

This Mezcal is lush, sweet, spicy, and has a fair amount of earth on the nose. Actually, it hits pretty hard on the nose with heat and alcohol – and not in a bad way at all. It’s just BIG! And everything I notice on the nose is delivered in spades on my palate! Second sip delivers some really nice caramelized agave notes. I really love the finish – it’s super long and juicy and dry at the same time with a lot of character. Definitely dig the hell out of this Mezcal!

*Puebla, Papolametl/pit/tahona/wood fermentation tanks/copper pot stills

The big reveal – El Rey Zapoteco 

  • Category: Mezcal 
  • Production Method: Artesanal
  • Producer:  Familia de Hernandez Escobar 
  • Agave: Marmorata
  • Maguey Tepextate 
  • Location: Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca 
  • ABV: 48%
  • Lote: 0124

Bottle Twelve 

Super funky, overly ripe orange, mango, and pineapple with some nice earth tones on the nose. I have absolutely no clue as to where this Mezcal comes from, but I definitely want to visit! “Sense of place” just oozes from the glass! Going back for another whiff, and I get smoked meat. Beautiful creamy texture on the palate and the most prominent flavor is jerked meat followed by a light cheese and jelly. It’s almost like a charcuterie board in a glass! Lots of depth and complexity but super easy to drink! 

* No clue as to where, or variety, but definitely a legit mezcal!!

The big reveal – La Reina de Atenguillo 

  • Category: Raicilla 
  • Production Method: Artesanal Hand milled / Distilled in stainless steel 
  • Producer: Julio Topete Becerra 
  • Agave: Maximiliana 
  • Maguey: Lechuguilla
  • Location: Atenguillo, Jalisco  
  • ABV: 42%

Khrys Maxwell is an agave nerd, impassioned educator, Director of Agave at Museum of Distilled Spirits, lover of all things Mexico, former brand advocate for Tequila Fortaleza, and last but definitely not least; Musician.

Comments

  • Craig Stancliff
    June 26, 2021

    This tasting/evaluation was done in one go?

    reply
    • Susan Coss
      June 28, 2021

      No – I think Khrys tasted them like three at a time over the course of a couple of weeks. When we do the live, in person blind tastings we usually do 9 spirits over a course of three rounds with water and nibbles between rounds.

      reply
      • Khrys Maxwell
        July 22, 2021

        Actually, I tasted these one per day; always with a very fresh palate with nothing to consume but water for at least two hours before and and around the same time each evening.

        reply

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