Regretfully, all too generally it’s simple to become bamboozled into dupe in the accuracy of what we apprehend and apprehend about brands of mezcal in Oaxaca. Be it in online or book publications, what we’re told in confined and mezcalerias, and even what’s on the labels of some accustomed agave booze brands, sometimes there’s a problem.
Contemporary brands of mezcal which accept taken the booze apple by storm over the accomplished brace of decades, dating to no beforehand than 1995, are usually up foreground about what they accompaniment is in the bottle; but that’s not consistently the case. Absolutely there’s some obligation on buyers to do their due activity afore bifurcation over $100 USD on a artefact new to the market. But appropriate now it’s still a claiming for consumers to be able to gauge, adjudge and deconstruct all this bombardment. In 20 or 50 years imbibers will absolutely be added accomplished about mezcal than is currently the case. However currently, to the admeasurement that the admonition out there is deceptive, ambiguous, apocryphal and even absolute untrue, mezcal aficionados, and added chiefly would be aficionados, are at a disadvantage.
The accessible band-aid is to acquirement what you for abiding know, and like. The best mezcal is the one you like the most. But what about an agave booze you’re heard about and are because buying? If you’re alfresco of Mexico, it’s absurd you’ll be able to aftertaste afore purchasing. The best advantage of advance is to appointment a scattering of palenques in the hinterland of Oaxaca for example, area a lot of of the nation’s certified mezcal is distilled. In the advance of so doing, and even visiting accompaniment basic mezcalerias, you can sample afore buying. Making that crusade is just not achievable for many.
There are in actuality brands which are not captivated to accept consumers to their facilities. Why? For archetype a mezcal aficionado ability be absorbed in acquirements what absolutely is meant by online advance such as “produced by avant-garde and acceptable ways.” He ability be aghast to apprentice that “modern” agency awful industrialized; and analogously that “traditional” agency no added than harvesting, cooking, crushing, crumbling and distilling which employs agency of assembly and accoutrement of the barter as top tech as can be.
What does “100% acreage developed agave espadín” or “100% natural” absolutely beggarly these days, at atomic in Oaxaca? Are madrecuixe, barril, mexicano and tobalá absolutely all agrarian agaves acclimated today to accomplish mezcal? Does tepeztate absolutely yield 35 years to complete afore it is afresh harvested and adapted into mezcal? Is there annihilation artisanal about agave accepting been aflame in a hermetically closed brick room, afresh ashamed by machinery, and assuredly distilled in a stainless animate cavalcade still fueled by diesel?
Yes of advance we all wish to accomplish activity easier for accomplished palenqueros and their families. However, there is a abstruse aberration amid addition for the account of churning out added abstract to bigger band the pockets of entrepreneurs, and in some atom advancing the could cause of altruism for the account of those who application in the fields and distilleries. In added words, application a gasoline powered apparatus to drove the candied broiled agave rather than for archetype a abundant board mallet to brew by hand, serves the closing and is difficult to appearance as objectionable. On the added hand, mezcal fabricated through avant-garde methods anxiously to access profits, is a absolutely altered animal. In my estimation, action should amount into the equation.
A palenquero who produces for an consign cast which labels its mezcal as fabricated with “estate grown” agave asked me to advertise him some maguey from my field. I had no abstraction that the espadín, madrecuixe, tobalá and weber on my acreage are acreage grown! Conceivably I should activate apropos to my acreage as my Estate, and put Don Alvin on my business cards.
Sarcasm aside, about “estate grown” agency that the agave is developed on the acreage endemic by the distiller. In wine chat allegedly it can aswell beggarly the acreage is managed by the vintner but endemic by anyone else. With mezcal assembly it can betoken a bigger superior spirit, but not necessarily, and conceivably not at all. One ability assumption that the advance is bigger controlled by the palenquero who is anxiously watching the acreage for a decade, if he is. But he ability be chemically agriculture and fumigating his estate. And there are about innumerable factors which appulse ultimate quality. If it’s acreage developed and certified organic, I ability be convinced, but annihilation abbreviate of that sends up red flags for me. So the affairs accessible can in my admiration calmly be misled. And added afresh about all artisanal and affiliated mezcal producers are gluttonous to buy agave from anyone affairs it. Their own absolute “estates” are either barren, or lined with rows of adolescent succulents years away from harvest.
On to agrarian as against to cultivated. A city-limits storefront in the city-limits of Puebla, about four hours up the assessment alley from Oaxaca, is endemic by a adequately acclaimed cast of (purportedly) commonly fabricated Oaxacan mezcal. It sells mezcal beneath that lable only. In its business it addendum espadín as cultivated, but all the others are declared as getting fabricated with agrarian agave; madrecuixe, tobalá, arroqueño, and the rest. About all breed of agave acclimated to accomplish mezcal in Oaxaca are now cultivated. However one can still acquisition mezcal which is in fact fabricated with agrarian tobalá, for example, and acceptable a lot of tepeztate is still getting produced with agrarian maguey. But a lot of varietals, even jabalí, are now getting cultivated, and a lot of mezcal in the exchange is produced with able agave, an environmentally and sustainably amenable access for the industry. The added day a acquaintance was cogent me about all the breed and sub-species he has beneath cultivation, developed from berry in his greenhouses, 16 all told, about 200,000 plants he’s been alms to growers and palenqueros. While of advance not impossible, it is acutely absurd that the Puebla banker is distilling all of its mezcal sourced from agrarian agave. It just does not accomplish sense.
Just anticipate of the mezcal boom, and how abundant of the spirit fabricated in the accompaniment of Oaxaca is now on the shelves of liquor stores, bars, restaurants and mezcalerías, in Mexico, throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere, including China. Can the labels be authentic if so abounding call the abstract as fabricated with silvestre? Of advance not. But some cast owners accept that the affairs accessible will pay added if the mezcal is declared as accepting been fabricated with agrarian agave. If you appointment Santiago Matatlán, the abandon of the artery are abounding with fields with about alone espadín beneath cultivation. But adventure added away to added limited regions, and bisect the adobe anchorage on the added ancillary of the mountain, and you’ll acquisition arroqueño, tobalá, mexicano, madrecuixe and barril, all in authentic rows, apprehension agriculture and processing; afresh to be labeled as agrarian in some cases.
Let’s accept for a moment that every characterization anecdotic a mezcal as accepting been distilled application agrarian agave is accurate. That does not beggarly that the mezcal is of bigger superior than the next canteen which lacks the chat silvestre as a descriptor. Just anticipate about it. One should accede microclimate (including aerial yeasts and baptize source), agency of production, accoutrement of the trade, blazon of copse acclimated to bake, accomplishment of the palenquero, and so on. Anniversary is just as acceptable if not added so to appulse quality, as is agrarian v. cultivated.
Some communities are dictating to their palenqueros that for anniversary agrarian agave harvested, two accept to be planted. And some cast owners seek volunteers during the backing division to bulb baby agave developed from berry up in the mountains. In both cases let’s accept that those magueyitos will be larboard to abound in the agrarian for a decade or so, afterwards irrigation, fertilizers, weeding, or contrarily accepting been tended. How should the resultant mezcal be labeled? I suggest, as some accept termed it, semi-wild. But already again, that does not aid us in chargeless the superior of what’s in the bottle. We accept to apperceive more, abundant more, including the acceptability of the producer. And of advance the blazon of agave acclimated will acceptable aswell appulse our affairs decisions.
One cast promotes its mezcal as gluten free, agriculture off of the abdominals frenzy. Are there any mezcals which are not gluten free?
Just because one liter costs 500 pesos, and addition costs 1,000 pesos, both from the aforementioned palenquero yet altered species, does not beggarly that the closing is of bigger superior than the former.
Does age absolutely matter? Perhaps. But added acceptable than not, those brands which on their labels avowal the age of the agave acclimated to aftermath the accurate mezcal, are artlessly aggravating to addition the price. One agent of a city-limits Oaxaca mezcalería acclimated to acquaint assemblage that tepeztate takes 35 years to mature. As a palenquero acquaintance already told me, if the campesino agriculture that tepeztate from the agrarian doesn’t apperceive his own age, how does he apperceive the age of the maguey?
Be alert of those who are ever arbitrary in their advance of their own or added brands of mezcal, and of those who tend to allege in absolutes. What is their motivation? I would advance that they are aggravating to either body up their reputations as mezcal experts, or aerate the amount of the agave spirit they are flogging.
One ability analytic apprehend to pay added for a mezcal fabricated with able agave which has been in a nursery and afresh in a acreage for 15 – 40 years, accustomed the absorption paid to it for such an continued aeon of time, and the amount of accepting it absorb its own aboveboard beat on admired land. If it’s cultivated, afresh on antithesis it would assume to accept a added bashful value, accountable of advance to how abounding kilos of raw agave it has taken to aftermath a liter, adobe v. chestnut distillation, age, and the rest. But it’s absurd that it’s been in the acreage for abundant best than a dozen or so years. If it’s wild, afresh why should it amount added if it has artlessly been growing abandoned in the hills for a brace of decades? True, agrarian agave in the acreage for 25 years ability accept a richer acidity because of the time it has had to yield in affluent minerals and an affluence of carbohydrates. But the aforementioned can be declared for able agave developed on the abrupt abruptness of a abysmal river valley, or larboard for a year afterwards the quiote has been cut down. If you are assertive that it’s wild, and that the being who has harvested it has toiled to get into the mountains and aback out again, afresh sure. But agrarian can aswell beggarly developed on collapsed acreage adjoining to the palenquero’s distillery.
The all-around mezcal bang has been acceptable to growers and distillers. The arrangement of exponential advance will hopefully abide for decades, admitting the alternate attributes of and admiration in the booze business. Consumers accept aswell been benumbed the wave. If cast owners and their reps, and retailers including stores, confined and restaurants, wish to abide to acquire the benefits, they should all admit that the gravy alternation may be brief if the accepted arrangement continues. Conceivably the industry needs bigger policing and regulation. For those against to that scenario, the band-aid is to heed this advice.