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It's no secret that in the past few years mezcal has taken hold of our hearts. The diversity, complexity, and nuance on display is quite astounding, and variations on both production method and style can vary wildly, even from one town to the next. On the other hand, information is scarce, and in truly artisanal fashion the craft is passed down from one generation to another, and indeed word of mouth is the best source of reference. For those of us inclined to such geeky endeavors, the mystique surrounding mezcal leads to the desire to unravel it. A delicious journey.
Miahuatlán, a three-hour journey south of Oaxaca city, has become a particular fascination. While tasting, we can't always tell apart a mezcal made from agave Madrecuixe versus agave Barril, or an agave Tobala versus an agave Arroqueño. The common conception is that agave Tepeztate will show a green and herbaceous character, yet we've tried some Tepeztate that was incredibly fruity and tropical. The hand of the mezcalero shows, or perhaps a particular proliferation of wild yeast exactly at that moment of fermentation. Yet with mezcal from Miahuatlán, we can almost always distiguinsh it as being from that particular place. There is a certain aromatic lift, a wildness and expressiveness, something funky, acid-driven, intensely floral and effusive, all rolled into one; a thing we can almost put our finger on but not quite. It's that sort of thing that we feel we can distinguish in mezcal from Miahuatlán.
The past few months have brough ever more mezcal to the New York market; some completely new brands/mezcaleros, and some new releases from producers we've enoyed for a while. A significant portion of these are from Miahuatlán. We hope you find as much excitement and joy in these new releases as we have. Oskar Kostecki
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Neta works with a group of mezcaleros from around Miahuatlán, Oaxaca. The maestro behind this release is Candido García Cruz, who has been distilling for decades. Ninety Espadín (Agave angustifolia) plants were left ‘capón, or quiotudo’ (the plant’s flowering stalk is cut early and the plant remains unharvested, concentrating sugars in the piña) for a full year before harvesting. The piñas roasted for two weeks in an earthen oven, and rested for a week before being broken down by a mix of machete and mechanical mill. This was followed by a two-day rest for the fibers and then a sixteen-day fermentation in cypress vats and a double distillation in a copper pot still, proofed to 49.15% ABV, 900L produced, under 200L of which made it to us in NYC. Harvest was in 2015, and there is an inherent complexity and a subtle balance, with a mix of florals, cinnamon and lemon oil and creamy mouthfeel, this is a truly elegant Espadín. Cari Bernard
Candido García Cruz and his family harvested 300 wild ‘capón/quiotudo’ (see Neta Espadín note) Bicuixe (Agave karwinskii) from the red, rocky soils of the Sierra Sur region. The process remains similar to the Espadín, albeit on a faster timeline: conical earthen oven roast for eight days, three-day rest before machete/axe/mill crushing, one day of rest for the fibers, and fermentation in four cypress vats lasting over eight days. Twice-distilled in copper pot still. I feel like I need more time with this, because just a taste was not enough. Banana peel, green cardamom pod, loquat, preserved lemon and florals, the palate is a mix of sunflowers and savory herbs and I wish I had better notes. More forthcoming after I buy the bottle and take it home for more 'research'! Cari Bernard
The first release we've seen from Job Cortés, the son of Margarito Cortés, famed maestro mezcalero from Miahuatlan and the author of some of our favorite Mezcalosfera releases of that past few years. As with most bottlings from Mezcalosfera (the export label for the Oaxacan mezcal bar Mezcaloteca) this Madrecuixe release is a tiny batch of 120 liters, with only a handful of bottles making it to New York; we tried to get as much as we possibly could! This mezcal was very impressive, with a vibrancy to both the nose and the palate, showing notes of citrus, lime, lime peels, herbs, purple flowers, and a hint of earthiness. The palate is punchy, lively and intense, with more floral character and a hint of tanginess and acidity. A beautiful example of agave Karwinskii from Miahuatlan. Oskar Kostecki
The Espadín from Real Minero is consistently one of our favorite examples of this particular agave. Harvested in Santa Caterina Minas and distilled in the traditional clay pot stills of the area, the usual tropical fruit and hot rock mineral flavor profile of agave Espadin is accentuated with and earthy and savory edge. Real Minero is now expertly run by Graciela Angeles and her brother Edgar, after the passing of their father, the legendary mezcalero Don Lorenzo Angeles in 2016. We're incredibly excited to offer this particular batch of Real Minero Espadín from the 2016 harvest, one of the last distilled by Don Lorenzo! After a few years in glass, it is drinking beautifully, with a great palate-coating viscosity and weight added to the usual qualities of Real Minero Espadín. For all mezcal lovers out there, this is a bottle not to be missed. Oskar Kostecki
The ancestral batches from Real Minero are always indelible experiences. For a mezcal to qualify as an "ancestral" it must adhere to the strictest methods of traditional production: the agave must be crushed by hand (usually by mallets in a wooden canoe), fermentation must include the agave fibers, and distillation must be done on clay pot stills. Real Minero usually release their mezcals under the "mezcal artesanal" designation, meaning they adhere to all the ancestral methods, except they crush the agave using a tahona (large stone wheel) instead of by hand. The ancestral designation is reserved for the very special releases, and that is the case with this beautiful blend of agave Marteño and agave Barril. One of the most intense Real Minero's we've ever seen, clocking in at 53.38% abv. Viscous and incredibly mouth-coating on the palate, this is wildly complex, with a combination of earthy and funky characteristics blending with an intense tropical fruit quality; mango, pineapple, apricot, mirabelle plum, and a hint of cherry. An incredible batch! Oskar Kostecki
I'm not sure we've ever had a mezcal from Victor and Emanuel Ramos we haven't loved. The father-son duo is just a constant source of excellent spirits, based in Miahuatlán, Oaxaca. The term 'Coyote' is used quite loosely in regards to agave, and doesn't always mean the same thing depending on where the plant is coming from. In this case, it's a hybrid, a Madrecuixe (A. karwinskii) that has been pollinated by a Tobalá (A. potatorum). Piñas roast in earthen pit for six days, followed by a week-long rest, they are tahona-milled, and fermentation is in Cypress tina with well water. Distillation is twice in copper alembic still with refrescadera (no plates), and final proofing to 49.94% ABV is with puntas and colas (May 2019). Burnt squash, bay leaf, celery salt, and a light mustiness out of the glass. Bright minerality, cardamom pod, peanut brittle and warm cinnamon are loud and clear on the palate. Very complex and punchy and should be fantastic with more time open to mix with air in the bottle. Cari Bernard
Jabalí is notoriously difficult to ferment and distill. The higher level of saponins in the plant causes a large amount of foam to be produced at both stages, which usually means two things are possible: one is you lose some of your fermenting liquid to foamy overflow, and the other is the lyne arm of your still can break from the pressure from the foam. Sometimes three distillations are needed to come to a clear, more refined product, and sometimes people will retrofit their still to protect against the breakage possibility. Needless to say Jabalí a bit of a challenge, and we don't see much in the states in general. For this bottling, the piñas are roasted in earthen pit for three days followed by a five-day rest before being broken down by mechanical shredder and then smashed further by horse-drawn tahona. Fermentation is in pine tina with well water. Brothers Poncho and Chucho Sánchez have been able to pull off only double distilling the Jabalí by under-filling their copper alembic still for each pass. Final proofing to 47.46% ABV is with puntas and colas (April 2018). Green olive and a bit of vinyl, pollen, and bread yeast, greengage plum and a touch of volitility. The palate is high-toned with notes of pink peppercorn and brine, with roasted carrot, nutmeg and dark chocolate on the finish, such an enjoyable spirit we're excited to see where this bottle goes. Cari Bernard