After my initiation with Koch [in part 2], Benji recommended I find El Pandillo, primarily to try their products made with distilled rainwater from the distillery’s water conservation system. What I didn’t expect to discover was a font of knowledge & experience in the form of [CRT qualified] John Ennis [right], who entertained my naive questions and enlightened me for well over an hour. I’d no previous idea who John was in relation to the tequila & mezcal world, but I got the impression I’d met the ‘Dave Broom of tequila’ perhaps.
Further reading about John can be found here:
On a side note, John recommends Patron tequila as a ‘go-to’ when in bars, much like whisky fans might with Lagavulin 16yo.
Today, John was presenting G4 & Terralta tequila, both of which come from the well-regarded El Pandillo distillery [video] – an eco-friendly modern/traditional operation in Arandas, Jalisco based in the Highlands and run by ‘tequilero’ Felipe Camarena:
- munchies: “Meet Felipenstein”. Camarena proudly points to a 19,000-pound tahona used to juice the cooked, shredded blue agave for his tequila. It was jimmied together from a reclaimed steamroller and somehow operates off a one-horsepower engine. He then gestures to an agave shredder constructed from a semi tractor-trailer and railroad car parts. “This is Igor.”
G4 Blanco Premium  Ob. 40%/80 proof [75cl] MR4.2/5
This is a popular, high quality tequila in its fourth generation guise.
- N: Despite the [desirable] fibrous=compost notes and a small chunk of coconut, this is a much cleaner nose in comparison to the previous Koch’s [blog].
- T: Same again with more coconut.
- F: A dirty<clean finish.
- C: Distilled using first-press agave, this is made using 50/50 spring & rain water – very much a conservation angle, not a novelty one.
Scores 80 points
Terralta Blanco  Ob. 100% agave 40%/80 proof [75cl]
Made from 100% spring water that picks up high mineral contents whilst trickling through 1800-2000 meters of rock.
- N: Dirtier and hazier than the G4, in a good way.
- T: Fruity green with more minerality than the G4.
- F: Savoury-sweet with more minerality.
- C: I had expected to like the rain water version more, but I prefer this to the G4 as it displays more colour tones. Given I was told that El Pandillo’s spring water contains lots of minerality, drunk blind [not blind drunk], it was an easy guess.
Scores 83 points
Terralta Blanco  Ob. 100% agave 55%/110 proof [75cl]
- N: Salty and firm nose yet relatively soft overall compared to whiskies of a similar high strength.
- T: Oh yes, lots of complex sugars here.
- F: Sweet and waxy.
- C: As expected, the extra abv brings a little more to the party.
Scores 85 points
Terralta Reposado  Ob. 100% agave 40%/80 proof [75cl]
As I mentioned previously in part 1, the influx of reposado & extra anejo mezcal [and tequila especially], into the market a few years back, was an attempt by some producers to create a recognisable range more in keeping with rum & whisky brands. One ambassador told me these aged versions didn’t sell too well across the board. Interestingly, this is stock from 2016 as seen by the bottling date stamped on the bottle, but that is certainly no reflection of the quality & sales of this particular reposado.
- N: Whisky-like, given the cask presence, but the agave-based spirit struggles to compete.
- T: Like a soft grain whisky, it also has a fruitiness akin to a fruity Speysider and a developing creaminess with a decent mouthfeel.
- F: ,…. [no other notes].
- C: The cask dominates without giving too much out.
Scores 81 points
Terralta Extra Anejo  Ob. 100% agave 40% [75cl]
- C: “This is the bad boy”, says John. There’s plenty of cask activity but this time it’s matched by great juice equal to the task. Imagine this at strength. Again, the best saved till last.
Scores 87 points
If I had met the ‘Dave Broom of tequila’, John was then to introduce me to Patrick sitting alongside, perhaps rum’s ‘Luca Gargano of mezcal’? Would it be more of the best till last? Yes it would!
MR: ‘Mezcalosfera de Mezcaloteca is the exported bottling from Mezcaloteca, the famous bar in Oaxaca City that is renowned for their educational tastings. They source all of their agave spirits directly from producers in seldom-traveled parts of Oaxaca that are often hard to get to. They put an exceptional amount of information on their labels, and all of their releases are very small batches that exhibit the most unique characteristics of mezcal. Though only a few batches have been brought into the US, there are dozens upon dozens of different varieties available for sale at their tasting room in Oaxaca City. Most of their spirits are labeled “Aguardiente de Agave”, however all of their limited exports are certified “Mezcal”’.
Mezcalosfera: ‘A project dedicated to the preservation and diffusion of traditional mezcals and their bio-cultural processes’ [quote source unknown]. Their mezcal rarely reaches the US let alone the UK. Though the majority of tequila & mezcal on show wasn’t available to buy [in the resident TWE shop], these beauties were.
Mezcalosfera Madrecuixe  Margorito Cortes bottled by Mezcaloteca 100% agave batch 01SZ-17 [200 ltr] 47.66%
- C: I’ve arrived! Hello impactful flavour molecules, and incredibly, where’s the ethanol? This sings right through, finishing as candidly as wood bonfire smoke on stiff woollen clothing. Superb!
Scores 90 points
- C: All I wrote down was ‘oyster sauce sugars’, so involved was I in the chat and the experience, but this was a cracker also.
Scores 89 points
Mezcalosfera Tobala [Julio 2017] Victor Ramos bottled by Mezcaloteca 100% agave batch 02SZ-17 [100 ltr] 51.31% [MR]
An exemplar of mezcal, best in show!
- N: Wowee, check out that funk! This is high-octane, cheesy butyric vegetal mezcal. Patrick nods with a knowing smile.
- T: This has a bit of everything. A perfectly balanced all-rounder.
- F: After plenty of action, we finish with varied wood smokes that linger a while.
- C: If see, go buy! Trust my expensive palate to go for the most expensive mezcal of the festival, but when you see what is involved to produce and present such rare spirit, you see why the prices are justly higher than one may expect. Unlike whisky or Cognac [for example], that’s aged after spirit production, ageing in mezcal-world occurs beforehand with the pinas.
Scores 91 points
The last word from Patrick:
- When mezcal is produced in small artisanal quantities, it produces a very complex product.
- As soon as you up the yield or rush production, you immediately start to lose these complexities.
- Ageing mezcal is a distraction away from these delicate qualities.
That’s it for mezcal and tequila for now, but there’s more to come and so much to discover. I even hear there is a mezcal produced from a still made from a hollowed out tree.
Further general reading:
Somewhere to visit & try mezcal [in London]:
Next time, I’ll be cracking through my 109 tasting notes from TWE Show!