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Fabrica La Alteña, located in the "Golden Triangle of Tequila," in the highland town of Arandas, has been crafting some of the most interesting tequilas for close to a hundred years. As one of their most cherished brands, Tapatio has been extremely popular in Mexico, but only recently available in the United States. Made using very tradition methods, the agave is crushed by tahona, with distillation in copper alembic stills, distilling not just the juice but also the fiber of the agave. Tapatio has a rich flavor and definite presence on the palate. The 110 proof intrigued us as being one of very few over-proof tequilas on the market. The nose leads with eucalyptus, mint, chalk, rainwater and honeysuckle. The palate is intense in flavor, but drinks much more smoothly than its proof would have you believe. The herbaceousness of the nose follows through on the palate, more eucalyptus, tea tree oil, aloe. Notes of melon rind and raw honey, a viscous, oily texture and very long finish. With a few drops of water more sweetness emerges, along with citrus zest. We don't hesitate drinking this neat, but it also makes one of the best Paloma cocktails we've ever had. Oskar Kostecki
Produced from the wild agave Selmiana in the high altitude Central Mexican Plateau in the state of San Luis Potosi, this is a beautiful foil to traditional Oaxacan mezcal. The agave is not roasted, but cooked (similar to Tequila) resulting in a spirit that is not smokey, but instead bursts on the palate with a crazy array of flavors. Herbal and mineral tones weave their way through a bright citrus and floral character. There's a slight sourness, a funk that I associate with cheese rind, and noticeable acidity, which is quite shocking for a distillate. The wilder side of mezcal. What I also notice with my bottle of Selmiana is that it changes quite remarkably once open. When I first popped the cork, it felt slightly muted and withdrawn, but within 20 minutes all the exuberance I remembered from previous bottles was there again. Its fascinating watching the bottle change and evolve over a period of weeks. Oskar Kostecki
One of the only mezcales that is certified biodynamic, Fidencio Clasico comes from the heartland of agave distillation in Oaxaca, Santiago Matatlan. Maestro Mezcalero Enrique Jimenez allows his espadin agave to mature for at least 10 years(most is cut down at 7) before harvesting and fermenting using only natural ambient yeast. An assertive smokiness on the attack that gives way to fruit, specifically melon, grapefruit, and under-ripe banana. The finish resolves with a minerality reminiscent of hot stones and salinity. A perfect cocktail option. Oskar Kostecki
Raicilla, a mezcal made in the state of Jalisco, has a 500 year history of agave distillation, using the myriad species that grow in this mountainous region. Puntas, or "heads" in Spanish, are the first part of the distillation process, typically discarded, occasionally used to adjust proof, and very rarely bottled on their own. These excruciatingly small batch bottlings of puntas carry all the intensity and depth of flavor that first made us fall in love with mezcal, and keep us swooning. This particular batch, made by Don Geraldo Peña from agave Maximiliana growing wild in the Sierra Occidental of Jalisco, is particularly exemplary. It automatically asserts itself on the palate, arriving with a burst of earthy and herbal flavors, mint and eucalyptus, tea tree oil, that then give way to floral perfume, violets, notes of cherry, vanilla, and other soft spices. There is huge intensity and presence on the palate, coupled with acidity which is unusual for a spirit, making it one of the most complex distillates I've ever tasted. This is the special occasion. Only 120 bottles produced, extremely limited. Oskar Kostecki
The perfect mezcal for whiskey drinkers, Vago Mexicano is full-bodied and rich, with notes of baking spices and cinnamon, tropical and citrus fruit, a slight hint of violets, and a mineral undercurrent. Distilled by Aquilino Garcia Lopez in the village of Candelaria Yegole, the agave mexicano is harvested wild from the surrounding arid highland areas. Oskar Kostecki
Mezcalero Mezcal was a brand started by Craft Distillers and Destileria Los Danzantes in an effort to seek out and bottle small batches of unique mezcal. Started in 2009, they are now on Batch 17, an ensamble of espadin and the extremely rare agave lumbre, distilled in the village of San Baltazar Guelavila by Cirilo Hernandez. Very balanced, this mezcal has a lovely interplay between the citrus and mineral notes of the espadin, and the more effusive and floral nature of lumbre. A slight caramel note creeps in on the long finish, making this a wonderful sipping mezcal for someone looking for complexity, but not necessarily overwhelming intensity. Oskar Kostecki
Siete Leguas makes some of the greatest Tequila you’ve never heard of. This distillery specializes in rustic, spicy spirits with lots of wild agave character. Agave hearts or “Piñas” are cooked and then crushed by a traditional stone wheel "Tahona," which seems to extract a more mineral-infused Tequila than more current sterile methods do. All of the Siete Leguas lineup is fantastic, but I love the tangy Agave purity of the Blanco. A truly complex sipping tequila, or perfect for a Margarita with a real kick. JR