MIKE: Hi you´re watching Sipping Off the Cuff on Tequila Aficionado.com. I´m Mike Morales, here in San Antonio that gentleman over there…
RICK: Rick Levy in San Diego.
MIKE: Rick and I have been just beside ourselves enjoying – we´ve been going through the Scorpion Mezcal Variety Pack. This is like Oaxaca in a box. (laughing)
MIKE: We´re actually tasting one of Lisa´s favorite versions of mezcal that she´s really developed a taste for. Tonight, we´re going to try what they call Barril Karwinski. And is it true on the back of this it says that it´s sometimes called Madre Cuixe? Is that right?
RICK: That´s correct, that´s correct.
MIKE: Okay. So I´m familiar with it being called Madre Cuixe. I´ve not had – It´s rare that I´ve seen it called Barril, but that´s what we´re calling it here; Barril Karwinski, which I guess is the name of the doctor that, the guy who it´s named after.
RICK: Well, the plant grows to about 8 feet high.
RICK: And then when they carve it down to the piña, it is – it´s you know very large and elongated.
MIKE: You have a picture, right? You have a picture from, you just showed it to me a little bit ago.
RICK: Well, yeah, we have to give Lucinda Hutson credit, it´s from her book Viva Tequila. So she does discuss mezcal, and let´s see if you can see it there. It´s kind of dim but the gentleman is holding a piña of a Madre Cuixe. And you can see they´re all there lying in front of him. They´re almost like logs.
MIKE: So it takes a lot to produce a liter, right? That´s what it says, I think it says how many plants it takes to…
RICK: Yeah, 14 kilos to make a liter.
RICK: It´s extremely hard fiber, almost like wood. So it´s very difficult for them to mash.
RICK: And it has a very unique flavor, so if you can find it, give it a try.
MIKE: Yeah, well, I´m going to use a Riedel tonight for the Madre Cuixe. And like I say, I have a real affinity for the Cuixe or the Barril as they´re calling it, and the Tobala, and we just have gotten through the Tobala and we loved it. It was probably one of the more delightful ones that I´ve tasted. But now we´re going to go through this Madre Cuixe and Lisa´s watching me pour this in my glass and she´s just… Oh bubbles! I see bubbles! Oh my gosh. And again, this is a 200ml – you really don´t need a whole lot, honestly. Look at that.
MIKE: Yeah! This is the like I mentioned before this is probably the smallest limit that we´ll accept at Sipping Off the Cuff. But when it comes to a mezcal, really you don´t need a whole lot. And wow…
MIKE: Ah, man. Now this has a little bit more subtle nose on it though. It´s reminiscent to me of the Tobala, but toned down.
RICK: Really? You know I´m finding it very different. You know I´m not getting that Anis.
MIKE: No, no I´m not getting any of that either.
RICK: The first thing that hit me on this that sprung to mind, is wow. Alright. My ADHD is getting the better of me here I just saw the legs on this thing.
MIKE: Yep, they´re thick legs, have you noticed that? Very thick.
RICK: So the first thing that hit me was almost like a mushroom kind of smell.
MIKE: King of shroomy, huh?
MIKE: A little fungi. (laughing) Well, okay. Let´s just say mushroomy, maybe cheesy. Maybe a little fromage of some sort? I´m not finding it as –
RICK: I don´t know, I definitely think more vegetable than animal.
MIKE: Okay. Because I´m not – I´m being handed the copita. This is a ceramic copita that we picked up at the Grand Canyon last year during our tour, our mezcal and tequila tour the Día de los muertos. Who knew we´d pick something up like this for mezcal, right? at the Grand Canyon.
RICK: So I put some in one of my stemless wine glass to see.
MIKE: Okay. What are you getting? I guess it needs a bigger nose surface, doesn´t it? Than what we´re getting. It´s not doing justice in the Riedel?
RICK: That´s what I´m thinking. I´m just trying to, you know, unfortunately I don´t have as good of a vocabulary as someone who might come from a wine background. But you know it has a very…maybe even a little bit of celery on the nose?
MIKE: Well, you know, I was getting maybe a little bit more brininess, a little bit more – it´s almost because there´s – if you look at the picture that you showed, it´s like a barrel. It´s almost like it´s very fibrous, so it´s very wood-like. So it´s almost like a wet bamboo; like bamboo shoots. You know, instead of wet cement, it´s more like wet wood. You know what I mean? Not warping wood but like a wet wood, like a wet pine, or something like that. Because if you have yucca plants at home you know how fibrous they are, and when they kind of dry out. Or for those of you in New Mexico, when you see a cholla cactus, when it dries out it dries out and it looks like wood. You know and I think that that´s kind of what these barrils look like, or once they´ve been baked or cooked, they have that wooden fibrous – I get like a wood…
RICK: Yeah I think you´re right.
MIKE: …but not like an aged wood.
RICK: You know, because that – if you sort of think of… I was pulling out celery and mushroom, and I think if you go in the middle of that, I think describing it as wet bamboo or wet wood, I think that´s about right.
MIKE: Yeah, but you´re right, it´s more vegetal than it is fruitiness. So far, the ones that we´ve had have had more of a fruit forward and this one is just really kind of like…
RICK: It´s much more subtle than the others.
MIKE: Yes, yes it is.
RICK: You know, there´s still plenty to explore but it´s not you know, exploding like the others.
MIKE: Lisa´s sitting next to me so if you hear a female voice…
LISA: I´m off camera, I´m not here.
MIKE: She´s off camera.
LISA: This is – When I lived in Florida I remember going out after the afternoon rains in the summer and there was this huge field it was in the horsy area of Ocala, Florida. I remember going outside after the rain and –
MIKE: Can you hear her?
RICK: I can, yeah.
LISA: …this smells, it smells like the grass and the field after that rain. It´s warm and it´s rich and it´s green.
MIKE: So it smells like a field of green. You know, okay so for lack of another descriptor it´s very green like bamboo shoots, like wood, like a damp…
LISA: It´s rich green.
MIKE: Rich green, like a dampness. You know, we could go on and on with these descriptors but I like what Lisa said, that it reminds her of a field after a rain. You know, because some tequilas, some mezcals, we call it wet cement. That wet cement smell where it smells like rain; you can smell the rain before it hits the ground. You do that a lot in New Mexico and Arizona. For those of you who live there, you know what the smell of rain is like. But this is different because it´s not like it´s landing on concrete, it´s landing on vegetation. So you know, it´s green, it´s wet…
LISA: It´s earthy.
MIKE: it´s earthy, almost muddy; you know, earthy and muddy. Two different things – I wouldn´t even say peaty, you´ve had some really peaty scotches.
LISA: Where we got the mushroom.
MIKE: Yeah, it´s where you got the mushroom.
MIKE: That´s why it smelled shroomy to you.
MIKE: Yeah, it is really a product of the Earth, I think.
LISA: The wider the mouth, the sweeter the nose.
MIKE: Oh, really? Yeah, I don´t think the – You know, Rick, I think the Riedels just don´t cut it for the mezcals, which is why I think I mentioned earlier…
RICK: Go big!
MIKE: Yeah, go big! Because you know, I love this one from Glencairn, the Canadian whiskey blend glass I think is perfect. We´ve been using, gosh, we´ve been using these ceramic copitas. Or you know what, Ron Cooper said to me a great vessel for mezcal, are sake glasses; glasses that are traditionally for sake.
MIKE: Okay? Maybe something like this. Or like I said, we found these at the Grand Canyon which are perfect for any of the mezcals that we´re having. I think the Riedel just doesn´t do it justice, it needs it. Like you said, go big. I think you´re absolutely correct on that one, you just need a larger vessel.
RICK: Yeah, I think I´m getting a lot more of the kind of methanol notes. The kind of notes you get from a more fibrous source.
MIKE: Well, even in the bottom of the Riedel, I was getting more alcohol – which is the first time, of all the ones that we´ve tried, I got alcohol.
RICK: I – yeah.
MIKE: So I think you´re right; I think because of the nature of the plant and how it needs to be processed and distilled, we´re going to get more of this muddy, I don´t want to call it peaty, but for those of you who are scotch drinkers – maybe you can taste the peat in a scotch? Well you can taste the peat, I guess, in this mezcal. So it´s very like I say, green, bamboo shoots, wet wood, that kind of thing like after a rain in a meadow in a field. And really different from wet cement and rain in a desert. It´s not a desert – this is really funny because it probably is grown in a desert arid area, but it doesn’t smell like it. It´s really odd! (smelling) Wow. Do you have a favorite? Of all four? (laughing) Because that, I´m going to nominate this one, another Brand of Promise nominee.
RICK: It´s like trying to choose your favorite child. (laughing)
MIKE: You can´t do it! You can´t do it! What did you tell people on the previous episode? Show them the box.
RICK: Yeah, if you can find this box, it has the four pack that we´ve been discussing tonight. And it is just an excellent sensory adventure of aromas and flavors. You know, get some friends together and just explore these and you´ll have a great time. You know, there´s – they are not as strong as you know, with some of the smoky flavors as other mezcals. And they´re at the proof that we´re used to here in the US; 40% or 80 proof, 40% alcohol. And you know they are just really easy to slip into if you´re coming from a tequila background.
MIKE: I totally agree with you. I think that it´s been delightful to watch your reaction to these gateway mezcals that are so very well done. I think, like I say Ron Cooper and Del Maguey that bar was set way up here, and a lot of those were traditional strengths. And Scorpion is almost as old, this is their 20th anniversary. And by the way, all of these are award winners with something like the Espadin Silver has 94 points by the Beverage Tasting Institute. They – all of these are award winners; they all have medals, they all have hardware. So, pick one and just go with it because these are no slouches. But it´s been really delightful to watch your reintroduction to mezcal with what I would say, these people are probably the first, this is the first company that I would call them with gateway mezcals. Because if you´re going to do it, do it right, and this way. And like Rick says, find yourself that 4 pack. Beg, borrow, and steal, because…
MIKE: Because it is really… because look at him! Look at his face! Look at him – this is…
RICK: (laughing) You know, something, the suggestion I would make for Scorpion is to put more of those notes about the very species in the box for people to explore. You know, put the tasting notes in there. You know, it´s nice, they put these cards in here which does give information about the species. But for the, you know, for their tasting notes we´ve had to reference their website.
MIKE: Right. And you know, the website needs to be updated. They´re too busy trying to – Doug is too busy planting his Tobala and being Johnny Appleseed.
RICK: Searching the mountains for wild agave seeds.
MIKE: Yeah and Barbara, you know, Barbara´s is out there pounding the pavement every day doing tastings, so they really have been a two-man partnership for a long time. I´m sure that there are other people involved, I´m just not sure who they are. (laughing)
RICK: You know, really, this is a tasting party in a box right here.
MIKE: Yeah, what did I say? It´s Oaxaca in a box?
RICK: That´s right.
MIKE: This is Oaxaca in a box. If you want to – if you´ve never been outside of Peoria, Illinois or whatever, and you´re dying to travel… or whatever, you´re trying to get more immersed in a culture. And Oaxaca, mezcal, is a trendy thing right now. But when you go through a variety of these, you realize that you know where the trend comes from. And if you can immerse yourself in this, and if it´s a well-known distiller, like Scorpion, then your experience is tenfold.
RICK: Yeah. And I would say that just coming from a tequila background I would say that they´re probably using, they´re definitely using artisanal methods. You know these – Granted they have different flavor profiles because they´re using different agaves, but they´re, I would say they´re the same quality something like a Fortaleza where they´re using very traditional production methods. They´re not cutting any corners with this from what I can taste.
MIKE: No, not at all. And from what I know of Doug French and Barbara Sweetman, the partners, the founders, they wouldn´t dream of cutting any corners. I´ve had the good fortune of seeing Doug French speak one time in Las Vegas, and the love that he has for what he´s doing is amazing. And Barbara, just the loyalty that they´ve had to the integrity of the brand, has been 20 years. You know, it´s solid; this is a solid, solid mezcal. If you can find it for whatever price, it´s worth it. Those are the first four, we´re going to continue exploring them later on because…
RICK: In how many weeks, we have some aged versions…
MIKE: Well, yeah. I don´t have that one by the way, (laughing), I didn´t get it! But the one I have does have a scorpion in it. So yeah, there´s a real bug in there, folks! No worm, because worms are for wimps.
RICK: And a party hat.
MIKE: And a party hat. But, that´s our take on Scorpion and their variety pack. Again, Brand of Promise nominee, in the legacy category for mezcals in the gateway category. Love these guys! Can´t say enough about them. Go find it. Check ´em out online. They are supposedly on Facebook, supposedly on Twitter. Not sure about their Facebook.
MIKE: Not sure about their Twitter. They´re too busy trying to sell stuff. But you know…
RICK: All that matters is if they´re in your liquor store, right?
MIKE: Yeah, and if not, you can buy them online also. So all of your favorite online retailers, they´ve been there for a long time. I´m so glad they finally made it to Sipping Off the Cuff after 20 years. I´ve been after them!
MIKE: Hey, beautiful. Great stuff. Not a weak link in the chain, that´s all I can say. I´m Mike Morales here in San Antonio.
RICK: Rick Levy, in San Diego.
MIKE: You´ve been watching Sipping Off the Cuff part of TequilaAficionado dot… Well, Tequila Aficionado Media and dot com. We´ve been looking at Scorpion Mezcal, all the varieties. Subscribe to the Youtube Channel, by the way. If you´ve had more of these varietals, and you have your own flavor profiles, let us know what they are. I´d be more than – It would be really interesting to see what the response is when people see this, and what they´ve gotten out of it. But for whatever you do, do what we tell you to do and sip wisely, but in Spanish, tomar sabiamente.