One day this July I heard about a mezcal tasting at Nopalito and scrambled to see if I could make it because it’s not every day that a new mezcal just drops from the sky. Unfortunately I couldn’t but I did manage to set up a meeting with Rachel Glueck who was presenting El Amor del Diablo mezcal. We met at the back of Blue Bottle on 18th St. surreptitiously slipping mezcals from Rachel’s bag for a full tasting.
Rachel has a fascinating story, she worked here in San Francisco for a while as a server at Nopa but had long been a global traveler and sometime travel writer. Our conversation made it clear that she is quite the footloose type: Her swing through SF was a stopover on her way home to Todos Santos, Mexico after having crewed on a yacht in the Caribbean.
As we talked it was clear that we had much in common besides an obsession with mezcal, especially good food and a keen appreciation for Mexican culture. Rachel told me that she really likes living outside the tourist zones in Baja because there’s such a nice combination of native Mexican culture and emerging epicurean cultures in the form of local goat herders who make their own goat cheese and organic farms. More than anything we spent time discussing the idea of culture as disruptor, the simple and long held idea that culture is the glue of our social lives while also the veritable sand in the vaseline of homogenous globalization. This idea is close to the mezcalista manifesto and why we named our upcoming monster of a mezcal tasting in San Francisco Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle.
But I digress, back to Rachel’s mezcal project. It started with a 2012 trip to Mexico for a work exchange when she met a man named Noel in her first two weeks in the country. They fell in love and were quickly engaged. As she has recounted in this blog post, Noel is a Mexican who uses mezcal as a ritualistic component of his native dancing. All the strands wound around mezcal which led to the idea of starting their own mezcal label and one day exporting it to the United States.
On a trip in 2013 through Oaxaca, the couple met up with an old friend of Rachel’s who had been working and studying with a family of mezcaleros for years in Chichicapam. The family was looking for a market to sell their mezcal and Noel really hit it off with the family. Since then Noel and Rachel have been collaborating with that family and neighboring mezcaleros to test the market.
In July, Rachel was swinging through San Francisco to get an answer to that question. I’m happy to report that she and Noel have quite a nice line up of seven mezcals. Here’s what they’re presenting:
- Espadin 48%
- Cuixe 48%
- Pata de Cuixe 48%
- Madre de Cuixe 50%
- Tepezate 48%
- Tobala 48%
- Papalotl 50%
As you’d expect they have wildly divergent flavors and scents. Here are my initial tasting notes which I look forward to repeating soon.
- Espadin: Grassy with a round mid-palate feel and a citrus tail.
- Cuixe: Minty nose, very rich mid-palate which slips into herbal notes notes at the tail.
- Pata de Cuixe: Very distinct flavor notes of citrus and grass made this one stand out of the tasting.
- Madre de Cuixe: A very thin and racy bottle, very distinct from any of the Madrecuxe’s that I’ve tasted on the American market.
- Tepezate: A very fruity nose is echoed by a round mouth feel and warm fruity flavor.
- Tobala: A very big and nuanced with very little viscosity. This is the one I had the most difficult time describing so I’m really looking forward to tasting it again.
This line up is a continuation of two trends we’ve been seeing lately, a full line of mezcals based on diverse agaves all sourced from a single palenque like Vago or El Jolgorio. Perhaps you could label this moment mezcal 3.0 following Ron Cooper’s introduction of single village mezcal to the United States with Del Maguey, the next wave of brands like Wahaka, Fidencio, and Illegal who pursued wildly divergent approaches, and now this trend.
It’s really interesting that neither Rachel nor Noel are creating these mezcals themselves. Noel just knew and liked this family’s mezcal from Chichicapam and they’ve tried to launch their brand so that the family can see the fruits of their labor and the world of mezcal aficionados can appreciate these fine creations. We continue to hear quite a few stories like these which is testament to the vibrancy of mezcal production in Mexico and the importance of sustaining that culture.
The one big difference in Rachel and Noel’s approach is that they’re trying to crowd fund the brand through Rocket Hub. They are on the keep-what-you-raise plan because they’re working away on the project no matter what happens. Their first step is all the research and due diligence they’ll need to launch the brand so they are jumping into a swing through central Mexico starting September 5th and will finish by spending most of October and early November in Oaxaca. Their campaign is definitely worth a look, but act fast because their deadline is September 4th at 1AM Eastern. And, should you be in Oaxaca this October/November reach out to Rachel and Noel via email or Twitter to see if you can set up a tasting!