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Are we living in the golden age of mezcal? At this point, I think it's safe to say it's an exploding category. We're seeing more exposure: more articles, more selections available on the shelf, and more consumers interested in learning about mezcal. It seems like almost every week there is something new, either special releases from our favorite producers, or entirely new mezcals debuting in the US market. And with all the excitement there are big changes afoot. Multi-billion dollar companies such as Cuervo and Casamigos are attempting to edge in on the excitement, much to the dismay of hardcore aficionados who feel the precious resource of wild agave (many of which take decades to reach full maturity) should be reserved for more artisanal production. The Consejo Regulador recently updated the laws governing mezcal in an effort to regulate quality, but in the process has incensed many small producers, especially outside of the legal zones as they are banned from using the term mezcal and cut out of the recent rise in popularity and the economic benifits related to that. And while various entities are trending on the newfound cache of mezcal to turn it into a lifestyle or brand choice, famers and distillers all across Mexico are attempting to find the balance between preserving a cultural history and tradition, and producing a luxury product that resonates on the global marketplace.
It's hard to say if the mezcal of the future will be better or worse, but I can guarantee that it will be different. Will a cultivated Tepeztate taste as fierce and beautiful as the wild-harvested examples we get to drink today? Will large brands begin to dominate production and push out the small farmer-producers as has happened in Tequila? Will the great biodiversity of agave species that is present today in Mexico survive as more and more players get into the game? I feel incredibly lucky to be a mezcal drinker now, to have the chance to explore, and be a part of the conversation of the changing landcape of agave spirits.
We're very excited to finally have the second series of Rezpiral bottlings in store. Rezpiral is a project started by Alex Mazzarella which brings incredibly small batch, declassified mezcal to the New York market. Alex is working with four different producers (all four of which are represented below) around Oaxaca who are each working outside the legal mezcal Denomination de Origen. These batches, often yielding only 100-200 liters of spirit, are simply labeled destilado de agave, and these are some of our favorite mezcals we've tried recently. Alex is also working directly with these producers to promote both the sustainabilty and biodiversity of agave species in Oaxaca, helping with land conservation and plantings, as well as working to complete a plant nursery by the end of 2018. And hopefully bringing us more delicious spirits in the future! Oskar Kostecki
We're also pleased to announce the first spirits dinner Chambers Street has hosted in a long time. We'll be opening some special bottles at Gran Eléctrica in Dumbo on Monday, April 30th. See below for more details.
As always, our spirits offers are available for in-store pick-up, delivery within New York City, and shipping within New York State.
Tobaziche is part of the Karwinskii family of agave, and is characterized by a long piña (heart of the agave) and long leaves that shoot out high off the ground. For me, Karwinskii agave almost always exhibit a higher toned, more floral character, and tend to have more pronounced acidity as well. Berta's 2017 batch of Tobaziche is an interplay of red and green chiles, dried violets, orange and grapefruit flesh, orange rind, mango, and hot stones. Balanced and complex, with a long clean finish - this is a mezcal to savor. Oskar Kostecki
Agave Mexicano, sometimes known as Dobadaan, is a close relative of Espadin. It typically grows to be larger than its cousin, and there are various strains found all across Oaxaca, many that are indigenous to a particular village. Mexicano is characterized by its full-bodied, spicy nature, and this example by Berta truly delivers. Notes of jalapeño, baking spice, cinnamon and roasted fruit abound on the rich and textured palate of this mezcal. With a long, sweet and smoky finish, this is a perfect gateway for whiskey drinkers dipping their toes in the world of agave spirits. Oskar Kostecki
This mezcal is one of the most intriguing bottlings I have tasted. Aureliano Hernandez crafts this in the village of San Balthazar Guelevila using Espadin grown at altitudes of over 1500 meters. He allows the plants to reach full maturity and shoot up a quijote, a flowering stalk which grows from the piña and signals that the agave is ready to reproduce. At this point Aureliano cuts off the quijote and allows the Espadin to further mature, trapping all the sugars that were meant to go into its reproductive cycle in the piña. When he harvests at around twelve years of age, the agave is incredibly ripe, producing notes of raw honey, burnt sugar, and brown butter, with a rich and viscous mouthfeel. Absolutely stunning. Oskar Kostecki
A pechuga is a special batch of mezcal, traditionally made by hanging a chicken or turkey breast directly in the still, and letting the vapors pass through it on either the second of third disillation. Historically, a pechuga would be distilled in small batches and kept for celebratory purposes: graduations, weddings, etc. As mezcal increases in popularity, there is a greater demand for pechuga styles and many producers are now bottling their pechugas for commercial purposes. This particular expression comes from Aureliano Hernandez's cousin, Leonardo, in the village of San Balthazar Guelevila, and he uses a rabbit breast instead of the typical poultry. This lends the mezcal a rich, gamey, savory quality that blends with the smoky, roasted tropical fruit and mineral notes of the Espadin. A very unique bottling. Oskar Kostecki
This is a single-distilled mezcal, and the intensity on it is quite breathtaking. Tepeztate is a rare wild agave, usually found growing on steep cliffs, and often taking up to 25 years to mature.Simeone y Apolonio Ramirez are a father and son team located in the village of San Agustin Amatengo, and make vibrant single-distilled mezcals from agave wild-harvested from the surrounding countryside. This batch of Tepeztate is deep and intense, showing signs of evergreen, herbs, pepper, resin, dried flowers, and green papaya. Very complex with a long finish. A little over 100 liters made! Oskar Kostecki
Barril is a subspecies of Karwinskii agave which grows wild at high elevations, and often takes up to fifteen years to mature. This batch from Simeone y Apolonio Ramirez is very effusive and perfumed, characterized by violets, jasmine, fig, a mineral slate character, a hint of umami and an undercurrent of salinity. Only 133 bottles made! Oskar Kostecki
We're super excited to team up with our friends at Gran Eléctrica in Dumbo, BK to bring you a special evening of agave exploration. Looking past Oaxaca, we're casting our eyes across all of Mexico and the wonderful bounty of spirits distilled countrywide. We'll have a four-course dinner served family style, paired with agave spirits from Chihuahua, Sonora, San Luis Potosi, and Jalisco. Leonardo Comercio, sales manager for PM Spirits, will be on hand to walk you through the various bottlings and answer all of your questions. Sign up for stimulating conversation and singular spirits. There will be a cocktail welcome at 6:30, and dinner starts promptly at 7PM.
The mezcals of Berta Vasquez (one of the few women mezcaleras!) have a beautiful common thread running through them, a mark of clay and baked earth. Old-school and rustic, they are lean and taut, like a runner keeping low to the ground, speeding over hot stones. Her Espadin (the most commonly planted agave varietal) holds true to that vein, and a rocky minerality interweaves through the notes of tropical fruit and roasted pineapple that are tell-tale signs of the species. There is also an herbaceous character of green chiles and green papaya, and a faint note of cacao. Very well-rounded and complex, this a standout Espadin. Oskar Kostecki
An ensamble, or blend of several different agave species all co-roasted, co-fermented, and co-distilled, is a historic style with a long tradition. With different species taking various length of time to mature, making an ensamble was a mezcaleros way of pulling from the available bounty of the land and creating a special, oftentimes unique batch. These are some of our favorite styles of mezcal, carrying great complexity. This is a blend of Espadin, Tepeztate, Tobala, and various Karwinskiis, and explodes on the palate with notes of tropical fruit, melon, roasted pineapple, evergreen, resin, violets, hot stones and remarkable salinity. Oskar Kostecki