My self-discovery and love affair for Mezcal began in 2017 during an excursion to the outskirt desert towns in Oaxaca. Halfway through the trip, the Mercedes-Benz minibus made an hour pit stop at El Rey De Matatlán Palenque. A small, but productive Mezcal Palenque (distillery) that rests by the roadside of the main highway towards the community of Teotitlan del Valle. It was at this distillery I kissed Mezcal for the first time, was taught how to identify genuine Mezcal and learned of the variations of Agave and Mezcales. As my knowledge of Mezcal grows with each new Mezcal my lips kiss, as does my pride as a native of Oaxaca almost as if Mezcal runs through my veins as it does with the Maestros y Maestras del Mezcal (Master Mezcal Distillers). As stated in my first Mezcal journal entry, it’s next impossible to know everything about Mezcal. New information of its origin is always brought to light, new stories of the Mezcal Masters in the field are told and new Mezcal labels are introduced into the market as the popularity of this spirit grows in the cocktail communities. For your consideration I’ve compiled a list of a handful of my favorite Mezcal labels in hopes you’ll try them and by doing so, help support our local Mezcal producers back in Oaxaca. This list is my no means exhaustive or definitive, as new labels will be added as I get around to them.
MEZCAL LOS AMANTES
My initial curiosity for Mezcal was sparked while watching an episode of Munchies, Guide To Oaxaca, where the host makes a stop at Mezcaleria Los Amantes in the heart of downtown Oaxaca. After watching, I made it my mission to not only visit this bar but learn as much as I could about Mezcal while visiting Oaxaca in October of 2017. Mezcaleria Los Amantes is small artisanal distillery in the town of Tlacolula, while its bar sits in downtown Oaxaca, a stone’s throw from Santo Domingo. The bar is small, sensually lit and walking in is like walking into a shrine for Mezcal with knowledgeable bartenders. The Mezcal to kiss here is the young Espadín Mezcal. This Mezcal in particular has been the most refreshing one I’ve tried, it has identifiable fruit tones and a mildly smoky after note with a sweet, citrus flavor end with a slight herbaceous mid note. The aroma of this Mezcal is refreshing and humid almost as if you’re right under a waterfall. A perfect introduction to Mezcal for those not familiar with this spirit.
- Website: www.losmantes.com | Instagram: @losamantesmx
During my half year stay in Oaxaca in late 2016 to early 2017 I searched all over the city to find the best possible Mezcal I could find. Some I found through word of mouth while others I found through Instagram searches, one being Mezcal Meteoro. Surprisingly I couldn’t find this Mezcal anywhere in Oaxaca, even though it’s distilled here. After a little digging I found it at La Europa, a high-end liquor shop on the ritzier side of Tijuana. Mezcal Meteoro can be described as a dry, slightly spicy Mezcal, with a strong earthy aroma, leaving no mid or after note to lust after, giving you a warm happy feeling after each kiss of this rather rare Mezcal. I recommend this Mezcal for a cold day and definitely worth the trouble of finding it, both for its uplifting characteristics and bottle aesthetics. As far as I know this label does not have a Mezcaleria anywhere within the Mexican Republic, which is probably why I had a hard time finding it. The tag line "it fell from the sky," perfectly describes the rarity of this Mezcal and as of this writing, both the Meteoro website and Instagram account have been removed.
- Website: www.cayodelcielo.com | Instagram: @mezcalmeteoro
MEZCAL MARCA NEGRA
The quintessential beauty of Mezcal is how no two are ever alike, even those of the same label. As the aromas and flavors of each Mezcal is unique because of the region in which it’s produced, the water used to ferment, and the techniques used by each Maestro or Maestra when producing Mezcal. These and other factors contribute to the unique characteristics of every batch of Mezcal. Though aromas and flavors will be for the most part, consistent within each label, each bottle will have its own life and characteristics due to its artisanal process. The Espadín Mezcal Marca Negra distilled in San Juan Del Rio, by maestro Mezcalero Isaías Martínez Juan, has a strong identifiable fruit tone and a very humid aroma, think cave under a waterfall, similar to Los Amantes but with a much stronger aroma. Marca Negra’s Espadín Mezcal has a sweet, citrus flavor ending with a herbaceous note. As with any Mezcal, Marca Negra is not a common spirit found in the States.
- Website: www.marcanegra.com | Instagram: @mezcalmarcanegra
The contribution by women to the history of Mezcal has virtually gone unnoticed, through their contributions, women marked a decisive factor of the industry's survival during Mexico’s prohibition era, circa 1920’s, when Mezcal was fabricated and distributed clandestinely. Women working in the industry were known as Mezcalilleras or Mezcaleras. During prohibition, women turned to its distribution as a perfect complement to their husband’s work, acting as business administrators and pillars of the family during the long periods of time when the men would go into the mountains to produce mezcal illegally. Up until the 1970’s, women primarily sold Mezcal in bulk, door-to-door in neighboring communities within Oaxaca and at the time, Maestra Mezcaleras were unheard of. During my studies, I learned that like cooking, the feelings and emotions of the Maestro or Maestra, are unconsciously infused into the Mezcal during its production. If the they were happy or of sweet nature, the Mezcal will be sweet, however, should they have strong tempers, the Mezcal will have a more, dry, punchier aroma. Don’t remember exactly how I found this Mezcal on my last trip to Oaxaca, but I’m glad I did, as it soon became my absolute favorite Mezcal. An earthy, herbaceous, exceptionally smoky and slightly humid wild Tobalá Agave Mezcal, made for Mezcal Cuish by Maestra Mezcalera Berta Vásquez from the small, mountainous region town of San Baltazar Chichicapam. An absolute rarity even for Oaxaca, as this 50% Mezcal, to my knowledge, is only produced for and sold by Mezcal Cuish. Cuish, doesn’t produce its own Mezcal, but rather sources Mezcal of only the highest caliber from within the Mezcal regions of Oaxaca. Their commitment to support our Maestros and Maestras, has sparked an heavy interest in me to move back to Oaxaca, promote and work for this brand exclusively. Unfortunately this label is not available anywhere in the states, but I do have a small batch on hand should you wish to try it. This Mezcal is not intended for those unfamiliar with the spirit, due to its high alcohol content and strong smoke aroma; prior experience with the Espadínes is highly recommended.
- Instagram: @mezcalescuish
During my Oaxaca visit in January of 2017, I took a stroll to Mezcaloteca, across the street from Oaxaca’s most picturesque location, Santo Domingo, for a Mezcal tasting/history lesson. So exclusive is Mezcaloteca, you’re only allowed with prior reservations a few days ahead of time. An hour and a half into the tasting with co-owner Silvia, she taught me how to identify genuine Mezcal, falling head over heels for this label, its culture and Mezcaleria, with its gorgeous, old world feel. Silvia is a living, breathing Mezcal encyclopedia, extremely patient and insanely knowledgeable with all things Mezcal, in fact, 80% of what I know now of Mezcal, I learned from her. It was and is, the best Mezcal I’ve tried in my life! Next to Mezcal Cuish of course, both being my favorite labels. Mezcaloteca is unique in that they have Mezcales from various regions of the Republic with an emphasis on the Maestros that produce each one. Naturally, the ones from Oaxaca were favorites during the tasting. Mezcaloteca’s Mezcales are sweet and delectably smoky, with strong earthy endnotes, ranging from 45% to 60% proof, whilst managing to go down smoothly, due to their strict artisanal cultivation, distillation and fermentation processes. In fact, the 60% Punta Verde, shown here, is as thick as agave nectar. I remember trying at least four Mezcales, but the one that stood out the most to my palate, were those of the Karwinskii Agaves, better known as Cuixe. Like Mezcal Cuish, Mezcaloteca’s Mezcales are an absolute rarity in the States and is highly recommended you have a prior familiarity with the Espadín Mezcales . I don’t currently have a batch of this in my collection, giving me the perfect excuse to waltz on in there and pick up a few bottles on my next visit to Oaxaca.
- Reservations: www.mezcaloteca.com | Instagram: @mezcaloteca
MEZCAL DE DON RENE
The second I smelled the five liter tank filled with this sought after Mezcal, I knew I was about to taste a Mezcal like no other. The aroma of this Mezcal is similar to being under a waterfall or near a rushing river. On par to taste, it’s very refreshing, goes down very smoothly, with a slight, slight herbaceous aftertaste note. It has a slight green/yellow tint, due to its purity from single distillation and young age. My grandfather has been buying this Mezcal for decades now, from a man known as Don Ren. He told me how people spend days throughout the city looking for Don Rene, for a chance to try this elusive Mezcal, yes, even local politicians. Don Rene does it old school, he personally picks up the Mezcal from San Baltazar Chichicapam, a town located in the southern sierra region of Oaxaca, and sells it by the liter to those whom have purchased from him before. So even getting a kiss of this Mezcal is near impossible. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Don Rene and talk Mezcal when he delivered a five liter tank to my Grandparents house while I was there on vacation. By far this is the most prized Mezcal in my collection, but I think it’s mostly due to the sentimental value it has with my Grandfather and how he drinks no other Mezcal, but this one. As you’ve probably guessed, there is no label for this Mezcal, hence no official bottle. I searched and searched for a bottle worthy of this Mezcal, and thanks to an Instagram follower, I found this gorgeous bottle in a local shop/art gallery that sells artisan wares and products from local artists of Oaxaca. However, it took a few months for me to finally pick it up as they only produce a few of these bottles at a time. The design of this bottle is so cute, I picked up two, a glass and clay version.
My Grandfather calls it Holy Water. People in the rural, practically hidden town of Eloxochitlán, in the region of Papaloapan, in the northern most point in Oaxaca, go as far as calling it a gift from the Gods themselves. This rare spirit is better known as Aguardiente, distilled locally in micro batches, almost illicitly by a selected few. Though both Mezcal and Aguardiente parallel each other with the distillation & fermentation processes, that’s as about the only thing these two spirits share. Aguardiente is not a Mezcal, its more compared to a rum, as Aguardiente is distilled from sugar cane, not commercially produce and acquiring a few liters requires a two day journey outside the capital. Describing the smoky, sweet aromas of this spirit is complicated, the smell almost burns your nostril cold. Surprisingly, it’s refreshing. However, it gives you one hell of a punch on the face, burns your throat for a few seconds, then leaves a very sweet after taste note. How did I acquired three liters? I picked them up from a tailor’s shop that sat outside the marketplace where we had lunch in. My Grandmother asked the owner of said eatery if she could guided us to where they sold this rare spirit. The tailor shop was lit by only outside light, it was dusty, unorganized but felt fresh compared to the outside hot, humid weather. Then I saw it, the gorgeous, teal tinted antique glass jug filled with Aguardiente. The tailor was a very knowledgeable old timer and after a customary shot, sold me three liters worth in a Coke bottle. My Aguardiente is now it’s kept in a tall one liter glass bottle I picked up back in the capital and I use this cute clay jug from Tienda Q to present it when I have guests over.
As a Sagittarius, I never put much stock into horoscopes, as they tend to be rather vague and generic. Like this one, ‘someone is going to enter your life by the end of the week.’ What does that even mean!? In my early twenties, during the whole, ‘finding yourself phase,’ I came across the Chinese Zodiac and found I was born a Fire Rabbit. The further I studied, the further I agreed with the views of this philosophy. Not because this philosophy predicts the future, but because it accurately described who I was as a person and have since had a deep respect for the rabbit thereafter. It was then no surprise I immediately gravitated towards Mezcal Bosscal during my Mezcal research last year, you guessed it, due to its rabbit logo. Mezcal Bosscal is a micro Vinata (palenque/distillery) from Durango, Mexico, with a beautiful philosophy towards its elaboration and use of a rabbit as their logo, paying patronage to the land, ancestry and the moon. This alone and the gorgeous bottle design drew me towards this Mezcal. Distilled from the wild Cenizo Durangensis Agave, this Mezcal has a strong smoky aroma, a slight earthy flavor and a balanced after note. I don’t know what it is about this Mezcal and its sister Damiana, but they definitely arouse your sexual desires after a few kisses. From what I understand, the locals consider both of these Mezcales as aphrodisiacs. Open a bottle of Bosscal Mezcal next time you’re alone with your lover and love as rabbits do. Like most Mezcales on this post, this one is a rarity, so be sure to ask your local liquor shop owner if they could acquire a bottle of Bosscal for you. Ramirez Beverage Center has a few every now and again, its usually behind the counter.
- Website: www.bosscal.com | Instagram: @mezcalbosscal