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Tequila in name only?

The latest experiment in making a tequila outside of the appellation comes to us courtesy of Clayton Szczech who, when he’s not guiding agave spirits tours, operating his bar La Cata in the town of Tequila, or consulting on various agave spirits projects, has been busy collaborating with vino de tequila distiller Alfredo Ríos Landeros on a special batch of agave spirits.

You can, and should, read his full account of the project on his blog. The short story is that he tasted one of the best tequilas ever a few years ago and hunted down the maker. They established a relationship, Clayton sourced some agave which was just across the border in Zacatecas, and they used that for their first batch. As he notes “the rest of the agave in that field was headed to a well known tequila distillery in the Jalisco Highlands. Such is the state of tequila today.” These sorts of experiments are the tip of the sword. Caballito Cerrero has their project, others may be lurking.

The story of the process is fascinating, especially for that note about the traditional batida: “in which the maestro tavernero disrobes and gets into the fermentation vat.” Distilling in Mexico really is part of a single continuum but the most important component is all the knowledge packed into the distillers like Landeros. The terminology in this area is fraught by the appellations but it can be known by its historic name, vino de tequila, or the more communally accepted mezcal.

Clayton commissioned a batch of tequila as a community development  project, to bring that historical tequila into the contemporary world. You can taste it at the upcoming Mexico in a Bottle San Diego and later this year at Mexico in a Bottle, Dallas. Just make sure to support him on this project because he fronted all the money to make this happen and would really like to commission additional batches. The other day he told me that “Alfredo just asked me if I’m ready to do another batch and I am, I just need the funding.”

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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