Oaxacan “Vintage” Chango Mezcaleros Makes a Comeback

Contemporary ChangoBy Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.

For a half century if not longer, the state of Oaxaca has been known for its mezcal, in the US, and to a lesser extent further abroad.  The region’s pre-Hispanic ruins, colonial architecture, cuisine and craft villages have been noted in travelogues and guide books for some time; but recently the iconic Mexican spirit has taken center stage, and hence the arrival of mezcal tourism.  It has gripped Oaxaca, and along with it, a revival of the chango mezcalero.

Chango mezcalero is a clay receptacle in the shape of a monkey, generally a liter in size or smaller.  Traditionally, and arguably dating back to the mid-1800s, it was used as a bottle to market and sell mezcal. It was a natural, since the primate has been associated with drunkenness for eons. Vintage ChangoIn the second of three articles authored by the writer, its history was dated to the 1930s based on uncovering a chango mold dated July 12, 1938, owned by the late Juventino Nieto of the Oaxacan town of San Bartolo Coyotepec.  In a cardboard box alongside it was a somewhat larger undated chango mold of the same vintage. Don Juventino was the husband of the late Doña Rosa Real of black pottery fame.  However, an alternate theory of the inventor of the chango, from the same village, has been put forward by members of his family.

Many of the old chango mezcaleros found today have written on the back, Recuerdo de Oaxaca (souvenir of Oaxaca), some have a couple’s first names on one side or the other (celebrating their marriage), and most but not all are multi-color, painted with the gloss in various stages of decline.

New "Vintage" ChangoFor the past couple of decades, and likely longer, vintage chango mezcaleros have become highly collectible, mainly by Americans interested in one or more of Mexican folk art, non-human primate imagery, and mezcal and its associated appurtenances.  “Old” clay monkey bottles are available on ebay, and on other websites specializing in the purchase and sale of vintage Mexicana and what are otherwise known as “smalls” from Mexico and the southwest US. Prices can be as low and $50 and as high as $500 USD.

It’s very difficult to discern whether or not a chango mezcalero was indeed made in the 1930s or earlier as some are represented. Antique dealers and aficionados know best how to date collectibles.  Most in the general public, however, do not have a clue, and if it looks old to them, it is.

There are currently at least three pottery workshops in the town of Santiago Matatlán which have been producing chango mezcaleros for decades, and continuing to date.  Matatlán is known as the world capital of mezcal, boasting the globe’s highest number of artisanal (and at least somewhat industrialized if not more so) small family owned and operated distilleries, or palenques as the traditional ones are locally known.  Some of these contemporary changos are upright, others are sitting on a log, and all are formed with the monkey in different poses.  Until recently, if the changos were painted, and most of the time they were, they were glossy.  The older ones, both tucked away gathering dust in the back of a palenque, and in local purchasers’ homes having been used, often show nice wear.

1938 Chango MoldAs of early 2016, or thereabouts, vintage looking changos have begun to appear in the marketplace in Oaxaca.  They have been spotted in at least one antique shop and one mezcalería. The coloring and patina is matte, and exquisite.  There are at least two sizes.  Most likely they are coming from the same workshop, using the same or similar molds as the shiny bottles, as is easily borne out by anyone who places the old and the new vintage side by side.

It is not suggested that the retailers noted above are motivated by misleading or defrauding the buying public, despite the fact that some are for sale in an antique store.  On the contrary, of those found in the latter outlet, some but not all are marked with the date 2015.

Visitors to Oaxaca and elsewhere in Mexico, collectors surfing the net, and retail shoppers in the US and further abroad , should all be vigilant, and not be misled by the outward look of years of use.  Oaxaca’s chango mezcalero has now come of age as a much more popular collectible than previously.  alvin starkman, mezcalCongratulations are indeed in order to the workshop which has identified the market.

About the Author:

Alvin Starkman operates Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca (http://www.mezcaleducationaltours.com). Alvin has been collecting chango mezcaleros for the past decade.  He has been a permanent resident of Oaxaca since 2004.

 

 

 

 

Sipping off the Cuff with Montejima Anejo

montejima anejoFrom Tequila Montejima:

We present to you cordially for offer our Tequila high quality Premium and international presentation.
We developed the Premium Tequila with the highest standards of quality managing to obtain a unique flavor and different to other tequilas. Tequila Montejima has been recognized in the international market by guaranteeing a 100% pure agave.
Therefore, I would appreciate having a business contact with you to present all the details of this majestic Tequila which undoubtedly will please its distinguished clientele.
We will be happy if i may send relevant data to establish a business proposal.

Find Montejima Tequila Online:

Website | Facbook | Twitter | YouTube

Sipping off the Cuff with Alicantes Blanco

 

 

From the Alicantes website:

ENGLISH VERSION
Tequila is one of the oldest beverages in Mexico and the world, contrary to what people think, there are clues that our ancestors knew about distillation and were used a pair of pots for distill ; different cultures gave different names to this plant: metl, mecetl (Nahuatl), uadá (Otomi), Doba (Zapotec) and Akamba (Purepecha). The agaves were used by our ancestors to create spearheads, rope and other beverages such as “aguamiel” and “pulque”.

With the arrival of the Spaniards, the production process was enriched by merging the knowledge of both cultures without affecting the flavors, tradition and respect of our land, that should be retained during processing.

Tequila Alicantes preserves the tradition to make a distillate with this perfect fusion of cultures.

Snake, Coatl means wealth, wisdom and fear and was an important symbol for our ancestors in almost all our cultures. The Alicantes snakes are popular in the corn plots of Mexico, our ancestors considered that the Alicantes were sacred; they called them “Cincoatl” or “Cincuate” which translates as “The Corn Snake”. Because of their skin color people often say that they are “pintos”.

Our distillate is as before, like the first Tequilas, those who still have the full flavor and aroma of our land, unaffected by additives to give unnecessary colors and flavors. What is really important of a Tequila, is its agave taste, this fruit of the Mexican land grows by over 9 years for reach to your hands.

Harvested in free fields of herbicides chemicals and toxics, is made by Mexican hands under traditional methods such as cooking in stone ovens with a gentle extraction of agave honey in ancient mills with presses type “Trapiches”, and a natural slow fermentation with agave fibers without Chemical yeast and additives to accelerate. Our Master Tequilero implements high knowledge in his stills to separate volatile and heavy alcohols harmful to the body as so-called “heads and tails”, to obtain a true Tequila, which do not add anything more than the entire inheritance the great history of Mexico has given us.

The customs and flavors of our history must be respected.

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL
El Tequila es de las bebidas más antiguas de México y el mundo, contrario a lo que se pueda pensar, existen pistas de que nuestros antepasados ya realizaban destilación de aguardientes de agave; diferentes culturas dieron distintos nombres a esta planta: metl, mecetl (náhuatl), uadá (otomí), doba (zapoteco) y akamba (purépecha). De los agaves aprovechaban para realizar puntas de lanza, hilo y otras bebidas como aguamiel y pulque.

Con la llegada de los Españoles, el proceso de elaboración se enriqueció fusionando los conocimientos de ambas culturas sin afectar los sabores que por tradición y respeto a nuestra tierra deben conservarse durante la elaboración.

En Tequila Alicantes preservamos esa tradición de hacer un destilado cuidando esa elaboración con la fusión perfecta de culturas.

La Serpiente, el Coatl, significa riqueza, sabiduría y temor y era un símbolo preponderante para nuestros antepasados en casi todas nuestras culturas. Los Alicantes son serpientes populares de las parcelas de maíz de los pueblos de México, nuestros antepasados creían que los Alicantes custodiaban el fruto del hombre y se les consideraba animales sagrados y respetados; les llamaban “Cincoatl” o “Cincuate” que se traduce como “La serpiente del Maíz” y por su color la gente dice usualmente que están “pintos”.

Nuestro destilado es como los de antes, como los primeros, de esos que aún conservan el completo sabor y aroma de los Agaves de nuestra tierra sin ser afectados por aditivos para dar colores y sabores innecesarios. Lo verdaderamente necesario de un Tequila, es su sabor a Agave, su sabor al fruto de la tierra Mexicana que crece por más de 9 años para poder llegar a tus manos.

Cosechado en campos libres de Herbicidas Químicos y Tóxicos, está elaborado por manos Mexicanas bajo métodos Artesanales como cocimiento de sus piñas en Hornos de Roca Volcánica con recubrimiento de Arcilla, con una extracción suave de mieles en molinos antiguos con prensas tipo “Trapiches” y con una fermentación lenta, natural con fibras de agave y sin levaduras Químicas. Nuestro Maestro Tequilero pone en práctica altos conocimientos en su destilación en alambiques para separar alcoholes volátiles y pesados dañinos para el cuerpo como los llamados “colas y cabezas” para así obtener un verdadero Tequila, al que no agregamos otra cosa más que toda la herencia que la gran historia de México nos ha brindado.

Porque las costumbres y los sabores de nuestra historia deben respetarse.

The definition of ol’ skool tequila. #noadditives #handcrafted #amatitan

A photo posted by Tequila Aficionado (@tequilaaficionado) on

Find Alicantes Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Google+

Tequila Aficionado’s Open Bar with Mestizo Mezcal

Join Mike Morales and Lisa Pietsch of Tequila Aficionado as they discuss Mestizo Mezcal with the creators of this award winning gateway mezcal.

Save Mezcal! Click Here to Sign the Petition Against Nom 199

nom 199

From the Mestizo Mezcal Website:

Our Brand

The name of our brand, MESTIZO, is a perfect one-word description of how mezcal was created. Mestizo originates from the Latinmixticĭus, meaning mixed, and was used by the Spanish to refer to the mixing of the European and indigenous Mexican people.   Mezcal is a fusion between the ancient beverage mexcalli, produced by the indigenous tribes of Mexico, and the alambique distillation process introduced to the Spanish by the Moors and subsequently brought by the Spanish to the indigenous civilization of the American colonies.  Mezcal is thus the first MESTIZO spirit of America.

What is Mestizo Mezcal?

Mestizo Mezcal is an ancient spirit that is unique because of its distinctive, complex and aromatic flavors.  Mezcal was produced centuries ago by the Zapotec tribe in Mexico, and was considered to be a gift from the goddess Mayahuel.  In the 16th century, the Spanish introduced a specialized European distillation process to the Zapotec tribe that was used to improve the ancient beverage.  Today, the founders of Mestizo Mezcal works with its producers from the Mexican state of Oaxaca to further define and enrich the taste of our product and create a perfect convergence of cultures within each bottle.

Find Mestizo Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Buy Mestizo Online

Hi-Time Wine Cellars | Wally’s Wine & Spirits

NOM 199 Will Bring the Tequila & Mezcal Apocalypse

[This editorial (with my comments) is inspired by the following video on the dastardly NOM 199 currently in review in Mexico.  Please, take a few moments to view this easy-to-follow video, then, feel free to share it among your friends, family, colleagues and cohorts.

Afterwards, go here to sign the petition and unifying statement against NOM 199.]

¿Qué es la NOM199? / What is NOM199 from pedro jimenez gurria on Vimeo.

First, a Little History

In 2012, a Mexican legislation called NOM 186 was launched that would regulate any agave spirit.  It would have deprived many rights to small traditional and artisanal mezcal producers outside the Denomination of Origin of Tequila and Mezcal.

All other agave spirits would have been erroneously called “AGUA ARDIENTE de AGAVECEA.”

It would have also trademarked the word “AGAVE” to the Tequila Industry.

This would be like trying to trademark the word “grape.”

Imagine small winemakers not being able to say that their wine was made from grapes because they didn’t own the trademark, “grape?”

Dumb, huh?

Both these measures were driven by the Tequila Industry and the Mexican Ministry of Economy, among other institutions.

Through the efforts of those in the academic fields, hospitality (bars and restaurants), interested WORLD citizens with large social media followings, and those concerned about the fair regulation of what we eat and drink, this NOM was soundly defeated.

NOM 199: The Zombie of NOM 186!

Now, there’s a new initiative that’s designed to revive those previously rejected proposals.

It has been signed and endorsed by the Tequila Industry, the Regulatory Board of Mezcal, and other transnational corporations—and you know who they are!

This time, they aim to misinform you the consumer, about what you are drinking by renaming agave spirits outside of the Denomination of Origins of Tequila and Mezcal as “KOMIL.”

Ever hear of the term komil?

Me, neither.

Nobody has.

There are no cultural records or documents anywhere in Mexico that refer to an agave distillate by the term komil—

None.

It is based on a Nahuatl word (KOMILI) meaning, “intoxicant [inebriating] drink.”

If one of NOM 199’s very own passages is correct:

“The information printed on the labels of the bottles must be truthful and not induce confusion in the consumer as to the nature and characteristics of the product,” then…

They’re doing it all wrong.

If these distillates are forced to be labeled KOMIL and forbidden to use the word AGAVE, it will be more ambiguous and confusing to the consumer and he/she won’t be as informed as to what the drink is made from.

Komil could literally be eggnog like rompope, a tequila or mixto tequila, or any drink that intoxicates.

Currently, any mezcal outside of the Denomination of Origin cannot be termed Mezcal.  Instead it is referred to as “destilado de agave” (agave distillate) or “aguardiente de agave” (agave firewater).

That is already a huge commercial disadvantage.

If this legislation passes and becomes law, these spirits would be forced to label themselves as KOMILES [plural of KOMIL].

This would not only increase unfair competition and confuse the consumer, but would also deprive the basic human rights of those who preserve the tradition of making these distillates by calling them by their actual true name.

This proposed legislation is a cultural and labor dispossession, and an arbitrarily imposed term.

It is designed to wipe out or erase the cultural, historical and familial stories inherent in each beautiful and distinctive agave spirit.

 Consider it a form of genocide.

fb 199Imagine not ever being able to tell the story behind your grandmother’s favorite recipe for cookies or apple pie even though it’s been in your family for generations?

We agree that all alcoholic beverages need some sort of regulation because there are those unscrupulous producers whose beverages deceive and defraud consumers and threaten their health.

This is precisely why we demand consistent, detailed, inclusive, normas (laws) with not only an economic basis in mind, but with academic and bio-cultural, as well.

The spirit that each of these small producers make are derived by distilling AGAVE.

There’s no reason to lie and call it KOMIL.

Let’s call it what it is.

Stay informed and protect what’s yours—The National Heritage. #sellamamezcal  #NoKomil

Open Bar #9 | One with Life Tequila

Open Bar with One with Life (OWL) Tequila, Monday April 18

 

 

*Please Note*

This is not a telephone call-in show. We will not answer our phones during the show.
If you would like to participate in this show, please click here.

One with Life Tequila on Tequila Aficionado www.tequilaaficionado.comOne With Life

One with Life Tequila (OWL) is part of a philosophy aligned with living a mindful and balanced life.  Grown and produced in an organic farm and distillery system in Jalisco, Mexico, it has a smooth, crisp and earthy taste that emulates the pure agave plant.

Enjoying One with Life Tequila, in moderation, reminds us to celebrate life with family and friends and appreciate the here and now.

So relax.  Be happy.  Be present.  Listen deeply.  Speak lovingly.  Smile, breathe, go slowly. 

Find One with Life Tequila Online | Facebook | Instagram

 

From the Website

OWL embraces the philosophy of consuming products that are grown and produced by organic farming, which excludes synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, genetically modified organisms and other artificial enhancements.

OWL has a smooth, crisp and earthy taste that emulates the pure agave plant from which it was created and it’s sweet scent alludes to a touch of citrus. It is this purity that makes OWL easy to sip or blend with your favorite beverages. Whether you are new to the tequila world, an aficionado, or a connoisseur, you will thoroughly enjoy our unique tasting spirit.

 

Women In The Tequila Industry: Marie Sarita Gaytán

Sarita_book Ever wonder how Tequila got to be “The Spirit of Mexico?”

Dr. Marie Sarita Gaytán explains how in her landmark book, Tequila!  Distilling the Spirit of Mexico. 

While we’ve interviewed other Tequila Boss Ladies who have a hand in producing their own brands, this tequila and mezcal researcher, who is also an Associate Professor at the University of Utah, can explain how it came to be known as Mexico’s National Drink.

Besides, when it comes to Women In the Tequila Industry, she’s the one best suited to explain how Tequila actually became an industry.

Here, she gives us her responses to our customary handful of questions.  Afterwards, do yourself a favor and add her book to your tequila library.

***

TA:  How would you describe your experiences as a woman in a primarily male dominated industry?  What are the challenges you face when dealing with the male dominated Tequila/Mezcal Industries?

MSG:  I think that it’s important to note that, although a woman, I am not actually involved in these industries.  Instead, I’m a tequila and mezcal researcher, so my experiences are much different than those women who are navigating the business side of these trades.

What I can say, however, is that during the process of conducting fieldwork in Sarita_crop (2)Mexico for my book, industrialists, regulators, and tourism employees, both men and women, were generous with their time.

I approached the topic with sincere curiosity—I did not have a hypothesis to prove, I wanted to learn as much as I could, and folks were very open to sharing their experiences.

TA:  How have you been able to change things within the Tequila/Mezcal Industries?

MSG:  What I have done is try to resituate the focus on tequila by paying attention to the people behind the product.

I am less interested in which tequila tastes best, or experimenting with the latest agave-based cocktail.

My work underscores how and why tequila emerged as Mexico’s drink—that is, my aim was to dig into the politics that created the conditions for tequila’s rise to fame within the nation.

TA:  What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila/Mezcal Industries?

SaritaMSG:  Women have always been working in the tequila industry.

What’s changed somewhat, is that now they are creating their own brands, starting their own companies.

As tequila and mezcal become more global, there is more room for the entrance of new actors, new competition.

Women are definitely making their mark as the market continues to widen.

TA:  What facets of the Tequila/Mezcal Industries would you like to see change?

MSG:  I am not especially impressed with the Tequila Regulatory Council’s close connection to the government, their support of the interests of transnational liquor conglomerates, and their myopic focus on profit.

Together with Sarah Bowen (from North Carolina State University), we’ve published several articles critiquing their politics—extralocal actors, in particular, multi-national companies—have more influence over the direction of the industry at the peril of small-scale agave farmers, local craftsmen/women, and the residents of Tequila.

This remains a critical problem, one that is not poised to change anytime soon.

TA:  Do you approve of how Tequila/Mezcal brands are currently marketing themselves?

I’ve never thought about this question as a matter of approval or disapproval, but what I will say, is that I’m very interested in seeing how tequila and mezcal branding unfolds in China.

What do producers think about Chinese consumers?  What will Chinese consumers be looking for when they purchase certain brands?  This is fascinating stuff.

TA:  Is there anything you’d like to say to women who may be contemplating entering and working in the Tequila/Mezcal Industries in one form or another?

MSG:  Continue to network and find a mentor, woman or man, to help you understand the nuances of the industry.

Tequila Aficionado Podcast

Take Your Tequila (Podcast) With You

podcast, tequila aficionadoJust as you realize we aren’t sitting around all day drinking tequila (no, really, we aren’t), we realize you’re on the go too and that means you want to take your Tequila Aficionado Media with you.  That’s why we’re bringing back the podcast!

We’ve been knocking ourselves out over the past few years to take things up a notch and make Tequila Aficionado content more valuable to you and available on all platforms.

We strive daily to make good on the first part.

On the second…

Tequila Aficionado began as a podcast back in 1999 and then we moved to the Vodpod video platform.  In the past three years, we’ve taken it to YouTube, YouTube Red, the Maker Studios Channel, and Blab.

Old School Podcast

Now we’re taking it back to old school tech and we’ll be bringing you the complete library of Tequila Aficionado audio and video via podcast.  Look for more podcasts coming daily.  We’re working on getting onto iTunes, but that will take a bit longer.  So click on the feed below or the RSS icon in the sidebar to add the Tequila Aficionado Podcasts to your feed and start listening today!

podcast, tequila aficionado, feedburner

Tequila Aficionado Heartland Tour

Heartland Tour

HeartlandTour sidebar, heartland, tequila aficionadoWe’re planning to hit the road again this fall and we’re taking this trip in a whole new direction.  Our last trip was all about the great Southwest and the photo ops available there for Tequilas and mezcals, but this tour will be different – we’re going straight for the Heartland.

What We’ll Do

On this tour, we’ll be traveling north from Texas to the Twin Cities to share some agave love in those states in between.  From there, we’ll explore pairing with Wisconsin Cheeses and Michigan apples.

All along the way, we expect to have plenty of pairing and photo ops for agave spirit brands that want to come along and we’re fine tuning all our networks to share as much of the experience as we can through live Facebook video, YouTube video, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and more.  This means epic, out-of-the-box content for the brands who choose to come with us.

How To Get In On It

If we’ve reviewed your brand and nominated it for or awarded it with a Brands of Promise Award, we’d love to have it on board for this tour that promises the best the American Heartland has to offer.

For details on the social content packages that we plan to provide for brands during this tour, contact Lisa@TequilaAficionado.com.

Bullying in Tequila?

By now, many of you have seen or read the following story that first appeared in the Chinese press and was then regurgitated by the Mexican newspapers, followed by this video report concerning the alleged shutdown and supposed seizure of over a million liters of tequila at the Embajador distillery (NOM 1509) located in Atotonilco, Jalisco Mexico.

 

Recently, a concerned tequila brand owner emailed us the following:

 

“Curious–in your opinion do you think they [COFEPRIS (Comisión Federál para la Protección contra Reisgos Sanitarios)  and SAT (Servicio de Admistración Tributaria)] might be just flexing muscle?  Wonder if some of it was just paperwork and getting blown out of proportion?  …Nothing surprises me, anymore.”

 

Whether you’re a consumer or a tequila brand owner, you’d be correct in asking these same questions.

 

And, since you asked…

 

To me, this is clearly a case of government agencies bullying an up-and-coming player poised to enter the Asian market.

 

 

Here’s why I think that–

 

My sources tell me that the family-owned distillery has had a clean track record without a single citation in over 15 years.  Moreover, in the past year or two, the family has made a number of improvements and investments to the distillery in order to compete effectively in Asia, with a focus on China.

 

Oddly, the news broke almost immediately in the Chinese press with an exact list of the seemingly minor infractions and liters of tequila “seized.”

 

Why was it not reported in the Mexican press, first?  How did China scoop Mexico in its own backyard?

 

 

Realistically, the amount of seized juice could be estimated to have a wholesale value of $10 million dollars, and a retail value of exponentially much more.

 

Why would a family-owned tequila distillery suddenly become so careless with a process that is very near and dear to them?

 

In my opinion, this whole situation reeks of a deliberate and malicious act to not only bully the family-owned distillery, but to also smear its reputation locally, and potentially, globally.

 

The aforementioned sources also claim that no tequila  was physically seized, carted away or even dumped.  Customarily, the minor infractions that were meticulously listed in the news reports would only garner a fair warning and would never warrant such a full blown assault on any tequila producing factory.

 

Strong arming Embajador Tequila and making it a sacrificial lamb to justify the existence of an illusory campaign against illegally produced tequila is simply bad politics.

 

My research reveals that the Embajador distillery is working closely with the CRT. 

 

It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds.
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