Category Archives: mezcal

A Truckload of Agave – Agave Spirits, That Is

Agave Spirits Everywhere!

Agave piñas.

Agave piñas, agave spirits

 

 

If you’ve been following Tequila Aficionado Media closely, you may have noticed a lull in the weekly Sipping Off The Cuff ™  episodes that traditionally have aired every Friday.

As you may know, every tequila, mezcal or sotol label that submits samples for Sipping Off The Cuff ™ is automatically entered into our ground-breaking end-of-year Brands of Promise ™ awards program.

 

We’ve Got Our Work Cut Out for Us 

test pattern, agave spirits, tequilaAfter an unprecedented amount of entries to our Brands of Promise ™  awards, and the flabbergasting influx of new tequila and mezcal brands with fabulous juice in 2014 (and some unforeseen technical difficulties in our post production department that were beyond our control), Sipping Off The Cuff ™ returns with a vengeance.

 

Coming In Hot

agave spirits, tequilaStarting this week, our post production department is backing up the truck and dumping a huge load of agave onto your screens.

Until virtually the end of 2014, brand-spanking new episodes of Sipping Off The Cuff ™ will premier–

Daily!

tequila reviews, agave spiritsLook for your favorite–or start up or little known–tequila or mezcal brands to be deconstructed, dissected and discussed by our Founder, Alex Perez, and CEO Mike Morales.

Plus…

We’re planning some surprise guest hosts to star with Mike on special episodes of Sipping Off The Cuff ™ that will be taped from some of the more popular and trendy tequila bars around the country.

Sipping Off The Cuff ™–On Demand!

 

Fast and Furious, agave spiritsDon’t worry if you miss a chapter or two of these upcoming reviews with Alex and Mike.

They’ll be coming in fast and furious till the end of the year, but you can always catch up by subscribing to our YouTube channel, as well as following TequilaAficionado.com’s Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages.

And if you haven’t done so, take a moment to subscribe to our newsletter and be assured of never missing the latest tequila scuttlebutt, event, or feature story.

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

 

 

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Mezcalaria, The Cult of Mezcal: Book Review by Alvin Starkman

Mezcalaria,The Cult of MezcalMezcalaria,The Cult of Mezcal:  Book Review

By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.

Mezcalaria, Cultura del Mezcal, The Cult of Mezcal (Farolito ediciones, 2012) is the third edition, first bilingual (English-Spanish), of the seminal 2000 publication by author Ulises Torrentera.  The book is highly opinionated on the one hand, yet on the other contains a wealth of both historical and contemporary facts about agave, mezcal and pulque.  Torrentera places his subject matter within appropriate social, cultural, ethnobotanical and etymological context, at times referencing other Mexican as well as Old World spirits and fermented drinks.  And where fact is uncertain, or when Torrentera feels the need to supplement in order to hold the reader’s interest, he infuses with myth and legend.

Torrentera takes the reader far beyond the decades old introductory book, de Barrios’ A Guide to Tequila, Mezcal and Pulque and much deeper into the field of inquiry than the more recent series of bilingual essays in Mezcal, Arte Traditional, although the latter does include excellent color plates(the Spanish first edition of Mezcalaria contains a few color plates). It stands at the other end of the spectrum from the monolingual coffee table book Mezcal, Nuestra Esencia and is far more comprehensive than the English portion of Oaxaca, Tierra de Maguey y Mezcal.

Torrentera’s passion for mezcal rings loud and clear.  In discussions with him and in the course of hearing him hold guidecourt, he has repeatedly indicated that it’s crucial that more aficionados of alcoholic beverages taste and appreciate all that mezcal has to offer.   That’s his motivation for writing, speaking, and exposing the public to mezcal in his Oaxaca mezcaleria, In Situ. The spirit, paraphrasing his viewpoint, leaves its main rival tequila behind in its wake, primarily because of the numerous varieties of agave which can be transformed into mezcal, the broad range of growing regions and corresponding micro-climates, and the diversity of production methods currently employed,  the totality yielding a plethora of flavor nuances which tequila cannot match.

His treatise, on the other hand, to some extent does his raison d´être a disservice. He is overly critical of mezcal that is not to his liking.  For example, in the Prologue to this first English edition (don’t let the poor and at time incomprehensible translation of the Prologue dissuade an otherwise prospective purchaser; the balance of the book is well translated) Torrentera writes of mezcal with more than or less than 45 – 50% alcohol by volume:  “above that graduation [sic] the flavors of mezcal are lost and there is more intoxication; if it is below this one cannot appreciate the organoleptic qualities of the beverage.”  He also writes that unaged or blanco is the best way to appreciate mezcal.  He continues that in his estimation “cocktails are the fanciest manner to degrade mezcal.”

Indeed, I regularly drink one particular mezcal at 63%, which is exquisite, and numerous other mezcales in the 52% – 55% range which my drinking partners and I enjoy; we appreciate flavor nuances without becoming overly intoxicated.  At the other end of the spectrum, a recent entry into the commercial mezcal market, produced in Matatlán, Oaxaca, is 37%.  The owners of the brand held well over 50 blind taste testings in Mexico City, including mezcales of less percentage alcohol, of greater potency, and of popular high end designer labels; 37% won out by a wide margin.  In the first year of production it shipped 16,000 bottles of 37% alcohol by volume to the domestic market only; not bad for a mezcal lacking organoleptic qualities.

Regarding the blanco/reposado/añejo issue, why not encourage novices to try it all and decide for themselves?  Why dissuade drinkers of Lagavulin, or better yet Glenmorange sherry or burgundy cask scotch from experimenting with mezcal aged in barrels from French wine or Kentucky bourbon?  While I appreciate Torrentera’s zeal and his belief, his dogmatism may very well serve to restrict sales of mezcal and inhibit valiant efforts to find convertees.  Many spirits aficionados might prefer a mezcal which he does not recommend.  Furthermore, if mixologists and creative bartenders can increase sales and market mezcal through mixing mezcal cocktails, isn’t that what the Maestro wants?

Torrentera’s reflections are otherwise sound and should find broad agreement with readers, be they mezcal or tequila aficionados or novices, or those who are otherwise followers of the industry.  I’ve often expressed his point that far too many exporters and large scale producers are padding their bank accounts at the expense of campesino growers and owners of small distilleries, the mom and pop “palenques” as they’re termed in the state of Oaxaca.  He laments the regulatory direction mezcal appears to be heading, and pleads for change in the NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) and for a better and more discerning and detailed system of classification.  He warns of mezcal heading in the direction of tequila in terms of homogenization.

Torrentera’s work is the most comprehensive and detailed endeavor available in English, which combines and synthesizes literature about agave (historical uses and cultural importance), pulque (within global context of fermented beverages) and mezcal (as one of a number of early distilled drinks). He appropriately criticizes, mainly in the Prologue, academic studies which have provisionally concluded, using a bastardized form of scientific method, the existence of distillation in pre-Hispanic times.

alvin starkman

Available from the author for $12pp via PayPal. Click on image to email for availability.

The author shines in his compiling, extensively drawing from, and quoting diverse bodies of work; scholarly, historical anecdotal, as well as both secular and religious Conquest era laws and decrees.  His bibliography is impressive.  He correctly cites inconsistencies in and difficulties interpreting some of the centuries old references, allowing the reader to reach his own conclusions.  If a criticism must be proffered, occasionally it is difficult to discern when he is quoting versus using his own words.  But this is likely an issue with editing and printing than fault of Torrentera. At times he does neglect to indicate dates and sources, making it hard to determine precisely how much is independent research.  Footnotes would have helped in this regard, and also would have made it easier for the reader to go to the original source material.

Torrentera vacillates between seemingly attempting to write in an academic manner, and inserting intra-chapter headings and content which would appear to be attempts at humor.  To his credit, however, the difference is easily discernible, and accordingly the reader should have no difficulty distinguishing fact from lightheartedness.

Mezcalaria, Cultura del Mezcal, The Cult of Mezcal, is an important and extremely comprehensive body of work.  It should be read by everyone with an interest in agave, mezcal (or tequila) and / or pulque.  Torrentera is to be congratulated for compiling an excellent multidisciplinary reference text which no other writer to date has been able to do.

Alvin Starkman

alvin starkman, mezcal, Mezcalaria,The Cult of MezcalAlvin Starkman has been an aficionado of mezcal and pulque for more than 20 years.  A resident of Oaxaca, Alvin frequently takes visitors to the state into the outlying regions of the central valleys to teach them about mezcal, including different production methods, flavor nuances and the use of diverse agave species. He owns and operates Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca.  Alvin has written extensively about mezcal and pulque.  He is the author of Mezcal in the Global Spirits Market:  Unrivaled Complexity, Innumerable Nuances.

 

Read more articles by Alvin Starkman at MexConnect.

Oaxaca Culinary Tours 

Casa Machaya, Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast

 

 

 

 

Mestizo Mezcal–A Perfect Convergence of Cultures

 

Mestizo logo

 

When we first met Arturo Palencia, co-founder of the award winning Mestizo Mezcal, we were struck by his boyish charm and seemingly tender age.  We were surprised to discover that this thirty-something was no newcomer to the competitive and often brutal spirits industry.

In this clip, Arturo tells how he became involved with mezcal and the surprising birth of Mestizo.

 

What’s In A Name?

According to Wikipedia, the term mestizo refers to a person of combined heritage, usually European (Spanish) and indigenous peoples of the Americas.  The term was later used as a racial category during the Spanish Empire’s control of its colonies.

During that colonial period, mestizos became the dominant race in many Spanish speaking countries in Latin America, including Mexico.

Today, Hispanic or Latino is the more appropriate term, but for Arturo the meaning of mestizo for his mezcal is much more poetic and thoughtful.

 

 

Jessica Rosman (right), co-founder of Mestizo.

Jessica Rosman (right), co-founder of Mestizo.

A Formal Introduction

Arturo and co-founder, Jessica Rosman, spent countless hours journeying throughout the mezcal producing regions of Mexico in search of the perfect single village, settling on Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca.

In this taped portion, Arturo introduces us to his 4th generation maestro mezcalero and his nearly 300 years of tradition.

With more brands popping up at an alarming rate in the current booming mezcal market, Arturo discusses Mestizo’s process in gauging its target audience that is looking for a more palatable mezcal.

Fat Ass donkey logoDoes This Donkey Make My Ass Look Fat?

 

As a college student in the mid-2000s, Arturo was actively involved in the initial launching of the infamous Fat Ass Tequila.

Produced as an old style tequila in a hand blown bottle, and marketed to the Spring Breakers that invade Cancún and Cabo San Lucas,  it became wildly popular with both connoisseurs and young people, winning numerous awards along the way.

Then, it virtually disappeared from store shelves.

Here, Arturo describes what it was like to be on the ground floor of this provocative brand.

 

Truly Handcrafted

Mestizo Mezcal añejoWords like artisanal or handcrafted are loosely bandied about in the spirits industry these days.  But, whether as a young college student helping friends launch their tequila brand, or today, plotting Mestizo’s success, Arturo Palencia’s focus hasn’t changed–

To bring to market a high quality spirit while preserving its tradition.  In Mestizo’s case, maintaining consistency and promoting sustainability also go hand-in-hand.

In this snippet, Arturo reveals how Mestizo does both by their unique barrel aging process.

 

 

One Thing…

Like the name illustrates, Mestizo Mezcal has centuries of pedigree, and from Arturo Palencia’s point of view, the future promises to hold true to its roots.

Dii’zh bèeyuu!

(cheers and good health in Zapotec)

 Connect with Mestizo on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sipping Off The Cuff: El Silencio Mezcal

el silencio

el silencio mezcalEl Silencio Mezcal

In this episode of Sipping Off The Cuff, Tequila Aficionado’s Alexander Perez and Mike Morales introduce our first official Mezcal tasting (look for Sotols coming soon too) of 2014 with El Silencio Mezcal.  This promises to be a year filled with delicious mezcals and we are pleased to kick it off with Brand of Promise Nominee El Silencio.

 

From El Silencio Online:

Mezcal El Silencio is a premium “joven” 100% Agave blend or “ensemble”. Using only the finest and carefully selected 10-12 year old Agave, it is handmade in small batches to be smooth, elegant, and delightfully complex.

Our joven “silver” Mezcal combines the aroma of sundried vegetables, leather, dried fruit, and sweet smoke, becoming the first choice of both connoisseurs and social drinkers alike. El Silencio is a sipping Mezcal, yet mixes flawlessly into hand crafted cocktails. Each bottle is individually labeled, numbered, and signed by our Master Mezcalier.

Find El Silencio online: TwitterYouTube –  InstagramFacebook

 

 

Look for many more Mezcals coming in the 2nd half of 2014 at Tequila Aficionado Media!

Mezcal
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mezcal, or mescal, is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant (a form of agave, Agave americana) native to Mexico. The word mezcal comes from Nahuatl mexcalli and ixcalli which means “oven-cooked agave”.

The maguey grows in many parts of Mexico, though most mezcal is made in Oaxaca. There is a saying attributed to Oaxaca regarding the drink: “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también” (“for everything bad, mezcal; for everything good, the same”).

It is unclear whether distilled drinks were produced in Mexico before the Spanish Conquest. The Spaniards were introduced to native fermented drinks such as pulque, also made from the maguey plant. Soon the conquistadors began experimenting with the maguey plant to find a way to make a distillable fermented mash. The result was mezcal.

Today, mezcal is still made from the heart of the maguey plant, called the “piña”, much the same way it was 200 years ago, in most places. In Mexico, mezcal is generally consumed straight and has a strong smoky flavor. Though mezcal is not as popular as tequila (a mezcal made specifically from the blue agave in select regions of the country), Mexico does export the product, mostly to Japan and the United States, and exports are growing.

Despite the similar name, mezcal does not contain mescaline or other psychedelic substances.


 

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