After all those tequilas [blog], it’s mezcal time!
Brainscape.com says ‘Mexico has about 330,000 hectares cultivating agave for mezcal, owned by 9,000 producers. Over six million liters are produced in Mexico annually, with more than 150 brand names’
- Single-estate mezcal, single-variety mezcal, variety ensembles and blended mezcal called mezcla, meaning ‘mixture’.
- There’s 100% agave mezcal and mixtos which are made from an 80% agave minimum [tequila’s mixto minimum is 51%], the remaining balance made up of sugar cane spirit, colouring, other flavourings and occasionally Gusano – the ‘worm’.
- Joven/blanco: unaged.
- Reposado: aged for 2-12 months.
- Anejo: aged for a year or more in casks no bigger than 200 litres.
MEZCAL vs. TEQUILA
- Mescal is produced in 9 specific regions/states of Mexico [5 regions for tequila with some overlaps].
- By law, tequila can only be made from one variety of agave, the Blue Agave. Mezcal can be made from a growing number of [now more than 40] agave varieties, though most are made with the Agave Espadin due to its relatively short growing period and relatively high yield.
- The stark contrast in production methods makes mezcal smell & taste distinctly different from tequila.
‘Con Gusano’ means this is the one with the worm. Known as ‘maguey worms’, gusano’s are actually caterpillars that feed off the maguey plant and turn into mariposa [butterflies]. Further reading: vinepair.com.
- N: Soft on smoke, this is mezcal-light.
- T: Lacking, with a basic [column still] grain-like element.
- F: Soft prickles. The whisky equivalent would be peppery>spicy.
- C: This feels cheap, yet with a sense of something more fair underlying.
Mexcal Burrito Fiestero  Mezcal joven 40%] WF82
- C: Like a clairin of mezcal, those peaty waxy capacitor & butyric notes are the weirdest thing. I recoiled, though it proved more popular amongst others.
Another no score
Nuestra Soledad Ejutla Edition 35  Mezcal joven 41% WF86
100% Espadin agave mezcal. Espadin is the Spanish name for a ceremonial sword, similar in shape to the blade-like agave leaves.
- N: Simple. earthy.
- T: Like powdery coal soot on the palate. Generally rounded and tempered and a little basic.
- F: Simple [herbal] endings.
- C: Gluggable certainly.
Scores 80 points
- N: Dirty sweaty nutty,…. lots here. Again, theses plastic cups only allow for an extremely restricted view.
- T: Displays a dirty-black petroleum-smokey base.
- F: Savoury biscuit into herbal and copper tones. The finish seems generally representative of mezcal in general.
- C: Another decent and accessible introductory offering.
Scores 82 points
San Cosme  Ob. Mezcal joven 40% WF82
- N: Sweaty, tutti-fruity aromatic candle fruits.
- T: Desirably edgy.
- F: Some bitterness follows sweeter notes, but that’s just fine.
- C: Another well-rounded, easy and decent intro to mezcal.
Scores 83 points
QuiQuiRiQui  Ob. Mezcal joven 45%
MoM: ‘Made in Matatlan, which is known as the “World Capital of Mezcal”, using espadin agave and double distillation’.
- N: All sorts, but drats to these plastic cups.
- T: The Laphroaig of mezcal perhaps.
- F: More medicinal qualities.
- C: Decent for sure and one that proved popular amongst the newbies.
Scores 84 points
Things are looking up and we should be in safe hands with Del Maguey.
tastecocktails.com: ‘The Los Angeles times dubbed Ron Cooper as “the architect of mezcal’s resurrection” for single-handedly revitalising this Mexican spirit‘.
“A good mezcal has a very different high than other spirits. After a sip, it seems my feet come off the ground a centimeter or two – a floating feeling— and an intense, comfortable connection with the earth and the sky. Next, the colors become a bit brighter, and if drinking with others, the connection between people gets stronger and the conversation more humorous and fluid” – Del Maguey Founder, Ron Cooper
Del Maguey Chichicapa  Single village Mezcal joven 46% MR4/5
100% organic, artisanal mezcal made in Oaxaca [pronounced wa-haka]. The Del Maguey website is amass with information regarding their Mezcal’s.
- N: A sweetish one.
- T: Quite simple on dry fruity smoke and sweaty cactus.
- F: Dry, oily burnt stuff from the garage.
- C: I like. Naturally batch-variable.
Scores 84 points
Bruxo No.1 Artisanal  Mezcal joven 46% WF76
- N: Already the abv speaks volumes, ha! Very decent juice with a rounded depth.
- T/F: Moderate funk with a decent smokey burnt complexity. Ardbeg-y says the Foz. Spot on!
- C: A peat-like malternative only slightly overshadowed by the Meteoro that followed.
Scores 85 points
Meteoro  Ob. Mezcal joven 45%
- N: A nicely composed, unaged mexcal with a light fruity vanilla complexity.
- T: Burnt cactal & petrol combined, this is the biz.
- F: Dry resinous, sweet vegetal complexity. Finishes with a witch hazel a stickiness.
- C: We’ve our winner. Cracking mezcal.
Scores 87 points
On exiting the festival, we discovered the only independent stand offering artisanal mezcal, currently only available through mexcal.co.uk.
In the heat of a scorching sun, we clumsily made our way through a randomly backwards flight that came good.
Mexicat Anejo mezcal  Ob. 40% [75cl] [mexcal]
Anejo means ‘aged in barrels for a minimum of 12 months’, though I was told this is nearer a 3yo.
- C: Appears to have had some sub-quality refill cask activity to help along an uneventful spirit. You can taste the cask and then some dryness with suggestions of E150a under a touch of sweetness. Not totally convincing.
Scores 78 points
Mexicat Special Edition Anejo Huichol mezcal  Ob. abv unknown
- C: According to the website, this consists of mezcal aged 60 & 28 months respectively in US whisky barrels. This is fairly innocuous fayre save for the funky finish which is refreshingly different from what I’ve had today. Artisanal for sure.
Scores 79 points
Mexicat Raicilla  Ob. 40%/80 proof [75cl] Mexcal
About raicilla: firstwefeat.com
- C: Given its prominence on the profile, all I could concentrate on was the desirable & funky-fresh cucumber note on the nose and more of the same on the palate. Memorable.
Scores 83 points
- C: Very light and slightly murky nose with a rather natural/artisan, thickish, non-filtered/untampered-with spirit. Rather more convincing than the aged presentations.
Scores 84 points
One could argue that The Tequila Festival may suit beginners & is good exposure for mescal & tequila, but with little emphasis on education, it’s hard to see this event as anything more than a fun party weekend for the uninitiated or those who want to get inebriated in westernised Mexican costume.
Those with more than a passing interest may want to look to the Tequila & Mezcal Fest, returning to London for its 5th year in October. The Mexicat guys will be there.