Scorpion Espadin Mezcal Review [Transcript]

Watch the original video review here

Sipping Off the Cuff | Scorpion Mescal Espadin [Transcript] http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4XYMIKE: You are watching Sipping Off the Cuff at TequilaAficionado.com a part of Tequila Aficionado Media. I’m Mike Morales in San Antonio. That gentleman over there with the wild hairdo…

RICK: Rick Levy in San Diego.

MIKE: Rick is helping me out, helping us out, as we go through a variety pack of Scorpion Mezcal, and Rick is just – we fell in love with the Blue Agave previously, if you’ve watched that with kind of a glitch in between.

RICK: I’m new to mezcal, and Mike is introducing me. And so he first gave me the training wheels and put me on the Blue Agave Mezcal and it was really beautiful, we loved it. 

MIKE: Yeah, we did, it’s really different. It’s not – as I said to you before, and to our watchers out there, our viewers – if you’re expecting it to taste like a tequila, it’s not. It will open your eyes though, it will rise up to greet you because it was made a little bit more traditionally and as we discovered, in copper pot stills, I believe, which is what the information said to us on the card previously. This one is the Espadin, now we’re going to go a little bit more – this is kind of what we’re used to Rick, the Espadin. In other words, it’s mezcal made from espadin, which is the traditional plant that most mezcals are made from. And depending on where they come from and where they’re harvested, and the hand of the maker, and the region – you know it all comes from Oaxaca and several other parts of that area in Mexico, but, you know just Oaxaca alone with the different microclimates and the makers, and the ABV. These are 40 ABV folks, that’s 80 proof. This is probably, as Rick said, a great introductory level of alcohol for those of you who are just experimenting with mezcals; you’re coming over from the tequila world and you kind of want to know what all the fuss is about. Because…

Sipping Off the Cuff | Scorpion Mescal Espadin [Transcript] http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4XYRICK: I was, you know, the mezcals I’ve had before were very smokey, they were probably very traditional, but I was turned off by the smoke. And so far with the one that we’ve tried, the smoke isn’t as predominant.

MIKE: Yeah.

RICK: So, you know, it was very – the fruit forward, you know the plant. And the nose was just big and herbal, and you still got that kind of peppery feeling on your palate and it had just this incredibly long finish and you know, just a hint of smoke.

MIKE: The thing that we talked about off-camera though, was the mouth feel. We kind of neglected that because there’s so much to talk about when you break these down with the different plants. I know for me, I had to actually cleanse my palate in between the Blue Agave, and before we attacked the Espadin, because I could still taste it!

RICK: You know, I did that as well, but I am still tasting it. 

MIKE: Are you really? Wow. 

RICK: I am, you know, even after the mineral water and alcohol (laughing). 

MIKE: Yeah, we – I like to use Vodka, use a neutral grain spirit, to rinse out your mouth; Vodka, some water as well, spit it out. You know, and that seems to do the trick for me, at least when I do tequilas, and that’s more of a traditional way of doing it. Sometimes, I know that with Alex we like to use matzo crackers. So for those of you who – and I’m not even sure if this is kosher or not, I think these mezcals are, but – in any case, anything like a dry cracker a non-salted cracker would help to cleanse anything like that. But these are really substantial mezcals and there’s no additives. If I know these folks, and I do, this is – what you see is what you get and if it’s going to coat your palate, it’s just doing it naturally from the oils in the plant itself and how, the method of distillation.

These are from what I can tell, on our cards here, we have Douglas French, who is the founder, he’s the master distiller. It’s copper pot stilled, and I think so far the first two that we’ve had have been copper pot. Artisanal, so it’s steam-cooked, is what the type of distillery is what it says here.

RICK: So, now with mezcals, I’ve heard about them cooking the agaves in like an earthen pit with previously used agave fibers thrown over the top and maybe rocks, or maybe dirt over the top… Now when he says ‘steam cooked’, you know, how..? Is that going to be like what we’re used to, where it’s probably like a masonry oven with tequila? Or autoclaves? It’s probably not an autoclave. 

MIKE: I’ve – well, that’s – again, the description’s a little bit misleading because, you know, steam cooked is traditionally an autoclave, I would assume. Now, I’m looking at their website also because we have minimal, point of sale material that was sent to us. It’s a long story how I got my samples but I had to go find the driver (laughing), and distributor from Houston to go get these, but anyway… I don’t even think that they’re telling us how exactly these are being processed. You know, I don’t have anything, any information. It’s telling me how they are being baked or cooked, all I can tell you is the information I have here says Artisanal, if that is the case, then I would say that they’re using a pit. Steam cooked, I’m not sure what that means, you know – to me those are two different things. But I didn’t write this, so you know, I’m going to go with artisanal, but I’m kind of anxious just to taste it. Sipping Off the Cuff | Scorpion Mescal Espadin [Transcript] http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4XY

RICK: And if it has that smokey accent, and they’re not using additives, then that would have to be the way that they’re baking the agave. 

MIKE: Yeah, I would think so. I would think so. I’m using my Glencairn, which I’m really enjoying. This is a Canadian Whiskey-blending glass, and I find that for Mezcal it’s beautiful, because there’s enough mouth surface and nose area. And it kind of chimneys up! And if you’ve got a Mezcal that is going to sing to you… 

RICK:  I’m going to use my hand-blown snifter from – 

MIKE: There you go, nothing wrong with that. When you’re talking about Mezcals, really there is no glassware. You know, last time I was using a clay copita. There were bubbles, did you notice your bubbles. 

RICK: Yep. 

MIKE: Oh my gosh – I love bubbles! (smells glass) Wow! Oh, wow!

RICK: (shows bottle bubbles) 

MIKE: There ya go, there ya go, there ya go. 

RICK: (laughing) 

MIKE: Oh my gosh. Oh, Rick. This is a much better nose. 

RICK: Oh! 

MIKE: Wow, wow, wow! Hey, compare for the Blue Agave has more of a tamer nose. This is a much more fruitier forward nose, though. 

RICK: Yeah. 

MIKE: This is like another notch up here. 

RICK: This would be more fruity and maybe flowery instead of the big herbal notes we were getting from the Blue Agave variety.

MIKE: Yes. Oh my gosh, wow. Wow. You know what’s amazing to me? Rick, is that we’re getting this much nose out of an 80 proof.

RICK: Yeah. Sipping Off the Cuff | Scorpion Mescal Espadin [Transcript] http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4XY

MIKE: I mean, I’m used to smelling this kind of a nose on a much higher proof mezcal. 

RICK: Yeah or on like a really high quality tequila from one of the legendary distillers. 

MIKE: Right, right. Wow this just comes right up to you and I can tell you from my experience, it’s more of a traditional Espadin nose, but it’s very fruity. 

RICK: And with both of these so far I haven’t gotten any of the strong alcohol notes that you’ll sometimes get off of tequilas.

MIKE: Right, case in point last week, when we were doing Tragos Amargos. We were still getting that alcohol at the very bottom. We’re not getting any alcohol in these and these were still sealed until just now, a little while ago. Rare for me, because I normally dive right in.

RICK: Yeah, there was no need to let them oxidize or open up or anything. They’re ready to go.  

MIKE: No, no, no. Yeah, that’s the other thing too. For some reason, I guess the mezcals in the way they’re produced if they’re artisanal or traditional, or in whatever stills other than industrial, they’re not as temperamental as tequila is, I’m finding. Other than, when they get to me they’re really hot; they’re warm, you know they’re in a box. But one or two days at room temp, I don’t need to like you said, you don’t need to open it up let it bloom, it sings to you right away. Oh my gosh. That’s beautiful man. 

RICK: Oh a technical note, we’ve had a couple of drop outs on my end, so you might want to check that your camera’s still on. 

MIKE: Yeah, my camera’s on as far as I can tell. So as far as, yeah, we’re good. As you can see, we’re at the mercy of Time Warner Cable.

(both laughing) 

MIKE: On both ends, unfortunately. 

RICK: Yeah, we’re just biding our time until Google Fiber shows up. 

MIKE: Wow, I got to dive in. This is beautiful, and there’s no smoke by the way. 

RICK: Alright. 

MIKE: Okay. Now I’m getting a little bit more, really minerally. Great finish, especially on the back end. It explodes right in your, in the mid-palate. 

RICK: Yeah, the entry’s smooth. 

MIKE: Yeah, but on the retronasal –

RICK: Nice finish.Sipping Off the Cuff | Scorpion Mescal Espadin [Transcript] http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4XY

MIKE: But on the retronasal and as you, if you do you know, snap your palate you get everything all herbs, spices, minerals, mostly minerals is what I’m getting, minerals and herbaceousness. And I want to say that I’m getting some smoke, because I can taste it now… 

RICK: I’m not finding it.

MIKE: …on my palate. It’s very minimal, and I’m not even sure if I can if what I’m tasting is smoke, you know, unless I know how they’re producing this like I say it’s a little confusing what they have on these cards but artisanal and then steam cooked – if he’s using an autoclave then that would explain the minimal if any smoke at all, but still I’m getting something. I’m getting something that’s reminiscent of smoke.

RICK: Yeah, you know maybe it’s because – It’s so big in its nose and flavor that well, as we were saying at the beginning of the video even after I had rinsed I was still tasting it. So you know, my palate could be blown out from the first one. Way to go (laughing).

MIKE: Might be, well you know, but then again, these are only 80 proof. So you know, they’re not as aggressive as what I’m used to having; you know I’m used to having them at above 40 ABV. You know, 45, we’ve had some of them came in at 45, we had one Montelobos was at 41 point something or other.

But these are 80 proof. but I got to tell ya this is beautiful. This is really something. Now I’ve had what we consider, we would call this a gateway mezcal and probably one of the first gateway mezcals ever. Because as you recall, Del Maguey came in at higher by volumes, and these folks are celebrating their 20th anniversary, Scorpion Mezcal. Happy birthday to them. And I would say that they would probably be the first gateway mezcals. But this is really beautiful. It’s much sweeter on the nose than I’ve had in the past with other espandins, except for one. And that was at a higher ABV, that one is at 45.

RICK: Yeah, you know, and if I were to try to compare what I’m finding here to like a tequila production process, I would say that it would be the kind of thing that would involve slow baking of the agaves. I would expect with this kind of profile, I would expect that it would be a longer fermentation process so that the yeasts have a chance to make more of the varied compounds.Sipping Off the Cuff | Scorpion Mescal Espadin [Transcript] http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4XY

MIKE: And if he’s shredding, however he’s shredding and fermenting, I’d say he’s probably using a lot of fiber. Because that’s what it tastes like, it tastes like you’re literally drinking the plant itself.

RICK: Yeah but I’m not getting hit with like methanols and like wood alcohol or anything like that, that you get with the more fibrous stuff. And if I were, again, using my experience in tequila I would say that for fermentation, you know I would say that they’re probably taking generous cuts off heads and tails because you’re not getting any of those off kind of chemical notes.

MIKE: Yeah, not having seen any video of Doug French doing the distillation himself, I’m not sure how he does it. You know, I’ve seen how other traditional or artisanal master distillers are doing it, and it’s a – there are no instruments!

RICK: Yeah.

MIKE: You know, this is all done by nose and taste, and looks, you know and years of experience. So I’m not sure how he’s doing it, but whatever he’s doing he’s doing it right.

RICK: Yeah.

MIKE: You know, the information on the website says it’s a dry bouquet; hints of lime, citrus, cucumber, salt, which I would say maybe brine, and savory herbs. And it is herbaceous, I will say that.

RICK: Yeah.

MIKE: And the taste is dry to sweet. Again, lime, citrus, it says leather and dry smoke. So there is some smoke in there. I wouldn’t say leathery, because I, personally I don’t get leather until I start delving into reposados and anejos myself.  But they’re calling it that. And almost tannic is what it says here on the flavor notes. But I really like it. You know what? It has a less heavy mouth feel than the Blue Agave version.

RICK: Yeah.

MIKE: Did you notice that?

RICK: Yeah, and it leans more towards fruit than herbs.

MIKE: Right. And as you said, very succinctly, with the Blue Agave,
is that it’s like a lowlands tequila you know with a lot of minerals. It’s almost like, in fact, lowlands or I would say even tequila from Amatitan which has lots of minerals in it. But this is way more refreshing, is what I’ll say.

RICK: Yeah.

MIKE: And really different, the mouth feel is way different; it doesn’t weigh heavy on your palate, it explodes on your palate. It’s kind of more of what I’m used to having. Excuse me, and beautiful nose. This is again, one of those where you don’t need to do much with it. Just be with it. Wow. I got to say, again Rick, Brand of Promise in the Legacy category.

RICK: Absolutely.

MIKE: They’ve been around 20 years. I would say, do yourself a favor, you know, you’ve seen the other Mezcals out there that – but this one here, they’ve been around as long. Scorpion Mezcal. Now, they’re called Scorpion because their full bottles do have a scorpion in it. Yeah it’s kitchy.

RICK: HA! Put it right up there.Sipping Off the Cuff | Scorpion Mescal Espadin [Transcript] http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4XY

MIKE: Yeah! See? There it is, because everybody knows that worms are for wimps, right?. (laughing)

RICK: Are you seeing it at all?

MIKE: Yeah! We can see it! It’s there! You know, and I’d rather have a scorpion in it than a worm, myself, but tell I’ll ya what – with or without, these are really, really good. I am so jazzed that we are finally getting them on Sipping Off the Cuff after 20 years. It took us that long, to get these guys on.

RICK: Yeah. I’m thoroughly enjoying this.

MIKE: How do you like it so far?

RICK: I’m loving it! I’m loving it!

MIKE: Oh my god. (laughing) It’s alive! It’s alive! We created a monster.

MIKE: Okay. Well, Rick, that’s our take on Scorpion Espadin. We’ll be back a little bit later with two more varietals. I’m Mike Morales here in San Antonio.

RICK: Rick Levi in San Diego.

MIKE: You’ve been watching Sipping Off the Cuff, on TequilaAficionado.com also part of Tequila Aficionado Media. Please subscribe! And tell us what you like, because if you’ve had longer than Rick and myself, tell us, you know, what your favorites are. Give us some comments, but whatever you do, do what we tell you to do here at Tequila Aficionado, and tomar sabiamente (sip wisely).

Find Scorpion Mezcal online here.

Men In Mezcal: Douglas French

Men In Mezcal: Douglas French http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4LfPioneer innovator, Douglas French, founder of Scorpion Mezcal kicks off a new feature on Tequila Aficionado called Men In Mezcal.

Establishing his distillery in Oaxaca in 1995, Scorpion has just celebrated its 20th anniversary as the original leader in introducing entry level mezcals to over 38 states, and globally to 16 countries.

Even before this current mezcal boom, Scorpion was often overlooked as the forerunner of producing varietal and barrel aged mezcals, while at the same time elevating its image into the “cognac of Mexico.”

Here to set the record straight–in his own words–is Douglas French of Scorpion Mezcal.

My Story

This is my story of living and working with the Zapotec peoples in Oaxaca to help build a category that has been hidden in the Sierra Madre del Sur forMen In Mezcal: Douglas French http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lf centuries.

It has been forsaken and beaten down by taxes and tequileros over the last century.

Now is its time to bloom as a category in the global arena.  I am a part of this movement.

I have exported 14 mezcal brands to 16 countries around the world and my import company Caballeros, Inc., is adding more brands to the portfolio to get even more mezcal into the US market.

I have worked on this project for 20 years.

Weaving The Tapestry

“To make something of quality means that you put your body and soul into it.  To create something new is an art form and an extension of oneself.”

I was a yarn and textile designer and weaver in San Francisco before I moved to Oaxaca, Mexico with my small craft mill.  I made high quality original designs of natural cotton, wool and silk fabrics for interior decorating, and some clothing.

In Mexico, my mill started to thrive until it went bankrupt as a consequence of the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement between the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Most (about 70%) of Mexico’s factories closed down because of the free trade agreement.  I was just one of many to suffer this collateral damage.

What Next?

The mezcal industry in Oaxaca has been a subsistence level business activity. Most of the producers make very small quantities and are quite poor. However, I felt that there was potential to carve out a small business.

So, I changed my career to make mezcal.  I hired Don Lupe, a Zapotec and 3rd generational maestro mezcalero to start work.

Establishing a Palenque

We set up a rudimentary palenque.

We dug a hole in the ground for the pit oven to cook the maguey.  Lupe bought a log and had it cut into a rectangular block and had it dug out for mashing with wooden mallets.

Men In Mezcal: Douglas French http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lf

I bought a bunch of sabino boards and Lupe sent them to the carpenter to make the fermentation vats.  I found an old 100 liter still and had a local coppersmith patch it up.  I also built a home made bottling machine.

The Small Batch Process

With this equipment Don Lupe started to make mezcal, teaching me and some of my weavers how to do it.

We were cooking the agave with oak logs in the pit.  We cooked about 3 tons at a time per batch.  I say about, because there were no scales, it was just a 3-ton truckload.

We pounded the agave with wooden mallets to make the mash that was then fermented and distilled.  A batch ended up yielding about 175 liters of mezcal.

In the beginning we cooked 1 oven load a month.  Then, we got up to 2 oven cookings a month for a maximum production of about 350 liters of mezcal a month.

I figured that 100 cases a month would be a perfect business and I could set up a hammock to relax in and watch the liquid gold drip out of my pot still.

It was looking like a great plan.

Off to Market

I set off to market to sell my mezcal.

Unfortunately no one wanted to buy.  The local buyers already had suppliers and didn’t need any more.  So the Oaxacan market was saturated with mezcal.

I decided to go back to the USA to sell it.  However no one knew what mezcal was and no one wanted to buy it.  No importer was interested in investing in it.

So with an old buddy in California, we started our own import and distribution company, Caballeros.  This way we at least had the product in the USA ready to deliver without any delays.

Still no one wanted to buy mezcal.

Worms Are for Wimps! 

I didn’t have the millions of dollars necessary to run a promotional program, so I needed something to get sales started.  I came up with the Scorpion name and a real scorpion in the bottle.

That was exciting, and it got sales going, even though very slowly.

Turning Point

I soon realized that 350 liters a month wasn’t enough for me and my partner and my employees to earn a living.  We were doomed to live in poverty unless we sold the product very expensively and abused the consumer.

I couldn’t bring myself to do that.

My vision had been to give the best quality mezcal that I could make at a reasonable price to the consumer.  So the solution was to make larger volumes.

So much for hanging out in the nice, comfortable hammock.

Phase 2

Men In Mezcal: Douglas French http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4LfI started phase 2 of the distillery by adding a second 350 liter copper still and then a third 500 liter copper still.  I got a motorized shredder and a bunch of fermenting tanks.

For a while, I produced more than I was selling, so I put the excess into oak barrels to start aging.  I started offering reposado and anejo mezcals to compliment the basic silver, as per my customer’s requests.

Phase 2 started to separate my palenque from the standard poverty/subsistence level indigenous artisan mezcaleros in the villages spread throughout Oaxaca.

There are 2 reasons for this:  1) the volume we were making was generating a larger cash flow and 2) we were enhancing the product with barrel aging, which the indigenous producers could not afford to do.

An old textile friend, Barbara Sweetman, decided to join in the effort and started selling mezcal full time in the USA.  She is based in New York City.  With her efforts, sales grew and I needed to produce more.

Phase 3

I started phase 3 with several bigger stainless steel stills:  one 800 liter and one 1400 liter and eventually a 1,800 liter copper finishing still.

I built a brick oven to steam cook 5,000 to 6,000 kilos at a time.  The steam cooking reduced the smoky flavor of the mezcal, and it let the agave flavors unveil themselves.

I was producing a lot and again more than I could sell.  I bought a container load of fine French oak barrels from a Bordeaux red wine producer.  This really ratcheted up the aging program.

Scorpion Mezcal samples were sent out to the Beverage Tasting Institute (BTI) and numerous competitions.

Accolades

Scorpion Mezcal received a Gold 94 points rating on the basic Silver, a Gold 92Men In Mezcal: Douglas French http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lf on the Reposado, a 95 for the Anejo 1 Year.  Platinum 96 on the 5 year Anejo and Platinum 97 on the 7 year Anejo.  Plus, Best Mezcal from Food & Wine Magazine.

In all the other competitions, Scorpion Mezcals were awarded Golds, double Golds and a couple of Silvers.  The market reacted very well to this change and sales increased quite quickly.

Soon I had to set up phase 4 of production with more stills, fermenting tanks and bigger ovens to process more agave to be able to supply the growing demand.

Scorpion Never Bores

I have always produced more than I sell so that I was sure that I could deliver my customers’ orders on time.  The excess mezcal is put into barrels for the Reposado and Anejo mezcals.

Like anything, the repetitive process of making silver mezcal becomes tedious and boring.  Also, drinking silver mezcal is ok for entry-level drinkers, but again gets boring.

The Reposado and Anejo are always welcomed delicious variations to the basic silver mezcal.

Variety:  The Spice of Life

The aging process is always an exciting and mysterious process.

Since every barrel is different, the number of uses is different, the type of wood is different, the char is different, etc., so as a result, the flavor is always different.

I also discovered early on that different varietals of agave create different flavored mezcals.

So during the process of buying the agave from the indigenous agave farmers and cooperatives in different regions of Oaxaca, a fellow would pop up with a batch of a wild agave.  I would usually buy it.

I then made it into mezcal–delicious stuff!

Since I wasn’t selling it, it just sat around.  If it were a big batch, I would put some into barrels to age and become even more delicious.

Finally in 2012, I started introducing the Tobala varietal for sale, long considered the King of Agaves.

I sent samples of the Tobala to BTI and they were judged and awarded Platinum 96 rating for the Silver and a Platinum 97 rating for the Extra Anejo Tobala.

Little by little, I am designing different presentations to offer more varietals for sale.

Dispelling Myths

A long time ago, I realized that there wasn’t enough wild agave available to bring a product to market and still be able to deliver it consistently.   So in 1997, I started to plant Tobala along with the Espadin agave that I was already growing.

The existing folklore in Oaxaca says that Tobala can only grow in the wild; it cannot be cultivated.  I collected seed in the mountains and I planted some experimental plots.

Men In Mezcal: Douglas French http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lf

Tobala grows very well when cultivated; the folklore is not true.

I also hired an agricultural engineer to study Oaxaca’s agricultural university records on the subject.

He discovered that in the 1930s and 40s, Tobala was a standard production crop.  This was an era before the government introduced programs to establish Espandin as a monocultural crop in Oaxaca.

Scorpion’s Sustainability

To grow a plant you need seeds to start.  So I have hiked through the mountains of Oaxaca many times looking for, and sometimes finding, ripe seeding wild agave varietals and collected bulky bags of seeds to carry back to my nurseries.

I have created a seed bank of agave varietals, and maintain nurseries to grow the baby plants.  It is slow work to create a basis for commercial crop cultivation of varietal agaves.

It takes 1 to 2 years in the nursery to germinate the seeds and to get the plant large enough to be transplanted as a crop.  Then, it takes 6 to 15 years in the Oaxacan central valley, where I live, to grow the crop.

Of course, all of this takes money, money and more money, which is very scarce for us small artisanal mezcaleros.

We have no source of financing except or own hard-earned profits.  The only way to grow is to tighten the belt and reinvest as much of the profits as you can into growth and crops.

I now have about 50 acres growing, with 5 varietals.  Every year I harvest and every year I plant; that is the way with maguey.

Men In Mezcal: Douglas French http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lf

Last year I planted 5000 Barril agave plants (also called madrecuixe, verde, largo of the Karwinski family).  They take about 15 years to mature.  At my age, I have no idea if I will live long enough to see the harvest.

I also realize that my efforts are just a drop in the bucket in comparison with what is needed for the growing mezcal market.  However, it is a starting place to get this segment of the market going.

I am now presenting these small exclusive varietals under my trademark ESCORPION.

The Mother of Invention

There is currently a shortage of agave and lots of the small palenques are not distilling because there is no maguey.  I am in the same boat.

So instead of looking for an outside job, I have developed recipes to make Rum and Whiskey.  They will be launching in the USA by the end of 2016 under the SCORPION brand trademark.

Men In Mezcal: Douglas French http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4Lf

The whiskies are especially exciting, because they are made with heirloom corn.  I am using white, yellow and black corn.  Oaxaca is the origin of corn in the world and has over 2,090 varieties of corn.

Mezcal is Trending

As I write this, there are about 100 Zapotec indigenous people in Oaxacan villages who eat every day because of the business transactions that I conduct with them, their fathers, brothers, wives or children.

Things are getting a little better now that mezcal is becoming more recognized and appreciated.

I hope to continue working and building the Scorpion brand, the mezcal category, and more jobs in Oaxaca.

Gracias a Dios Espadin Joven Mezcal Review

About Gracias a Dios Mezcal

Gracias a Dios is a double distilled mezcal, 100% artisanal, handmade with “piñas” from espadín agave and other varieties, ground and fermented in our own palenque in Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca, honoring fair trade with the help of maestro mezcalero Oscar Hernández Santiago.With a strong, aromatic and balanced flavor, this spirit is the product of a 4-generation family of maestros mezcaleros, who have traditionally kept the artisan processes of making this drink.

Tequila Aficionado, thank gad, gracias a dios, mezcal, sipping off the cuff

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Sipping Off The Cuff™ began as an audio podcast in 2006 and is Tequila Aficionado’s first and longest running tequila review program.

Sipping Off The Cuff(TM) is broadcast regularly on YouTube and TequilaAficionado.com. If you are a Tequila, Mezcal or Sotol brand owner and would like your product(s) reviewed on an upcoming episode of Sipping Off The Cuff(TM), please contact Mike@TequilaAficionado.com.

About the Tequila Aficionado Brands of Promise

The Tequila Aficionado Brands of Promise Awards were our response to a secondary industry that has sprouted up around awards programs in the spirits industry.  In a very much pay-to-play world where large sums of money are involved in entering today’s contests and even more is required of winners in licensing fees to use the award logos on marketing, online and point of sale materials, we felt it was time that something change.

Bats Are Dying!

1016151502aDuring Tequila Aficionado Media’s historic Dia de los Muertos Tequila Tour, Lisa Pietsch and I paid a visit to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.  Before exploring the awesome depths of the caves and the formation of stalactites and stalagmites, we were also met with this alarming notice.

Even though it’s the Mexican freetail bats that are suffering man’s encroachment onto their turf, all bats are going through a hard time, including the “tequila bat.”

1016151441

Vicious Circle

The industrialization of the tequila making process, and to a certain extent some mezcals,  has made the preservation of the agave (blue, espadin, etc.) vital to the longevity of these industries and to the survival of the people who rely upon them for their existence.

It’s no secret that the weber blue agave is susceptible to diseases now that it is not allowed to bloom a quiote or stem for pollination by the lesser long-nosed bats.

By not letting the agave run the length of its lifespan, it is also upsetting the eco-system and natural migratory patterns of bats that rely on the agave for sustenance.

The agave gene pool has been tampered with by the explosive growth of the 1016151541tequila and mezcal industries.

The plant’s natural defenses against diseases and pests are compromised.  This means that pesticides are required to defend the valuable agave crops against diseases and pests.

In turn, the pesticides are hazardous to the health of harvesters, bats, bees and birds alike.  Not to mention the eventual pollution to the soil, ground water and water supplies.

It’s a vicious circle that agave growers can remedy by simply letting a portion of their agave crops grow naturally.

What Can Consumers Do?

Look for certified organic tequilas, mezcals, or sotols for starters.  These must follow certain protocols which prohibit the use of pesticides in order to earn the USDA seal.

1016151438aIn addition, though considered a marketing buzz phrase, look for agave spirits that are produced with agave or sotol that has been “wild harvested.”  Chances are, none of them are using pesticides.

Secondly, seek agave spirits brands that claim to be “bat friendly.”

According to Angelica Menchaca Rodriguez, whose PhD studies are concerning this very subject, look for mezcal made with maguey papalote (agave cupreata) since “…this species cannot reproduce without the intervention of bats and can be found mainly in the state of Guerrero.”

The Tequila Interchange Project is working with Rodrigo Medellin–the Batmanbatfriendly of Mexico–in the pilot stages of a massive Bat Friendly Tequila & Mezcal Recognition Program that will likely include some beloved brands of tequilas and mezcals.

In the meantime, be kind to bats.  Build bat houses for them to roost in as suggested by the Bat World Sanctuary.

The bat you save could be your best sipping buddy.

 

Thank GAD for Gracías A Dios Mezcal

[Long before the general public does, Tequila Aficionado Media often gets tipped off about new agave spirits brands that will be entering the market.  One such tip was for Gracías A Dios (GAD) mezcal.  We had no idea that we would bump into them during the San Antonio Cocktail Conference in mid- January, 2015.  Of course, we had to invite the co-founders to HQ to learn more about this hot mezcal label making amazing traction across the country.]

 

GAD To Meet You!

GAD_lineup

You can’t help but get wrapped up in the charm of Gracías A Dios mezcal.  You also can’t help but be drawn in by the infectious enthusiasm of its co-founders, Pablo López, Enrique Jimenez and Xaime Niembro.

Here, the trio introduce themselves.

Whose Idea Was It?

From a pure love of drinking mezcal, to owning a mezcalería (mezcal bar), to making lofty plans for the future, the three friends tell how their mezcal brand was born.

Invoking the Name Of GAD

The phrase, “gracias a Dios” (thank God) has been uttered by families in Mexico and throughout Latin America since the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.

In this clip, the friends give their explanation behind the name of their mezcal.

Maestro Mezcalero de Matatlán

GAD_Oscar

In the town of Santiago Matatlán, considered the world capital of mezcal in Oaxaca, lives Oscar Hernández, the force behind Gracías A Dios.  A third generation Maestro Mezcalero, or Alchemist as Enrique refers to him, he learned his craft from the young age of eight years old.

The trio discuss how they came across such a talented distiller.

GADTobalaCuixe

Distilling from espadín agave at first, it wasn’t until Oscar met with the co-founders of Gracías A Dios, that he considered producing mezcals made from other types of agave.

Enrique and Xaime continue relating Oscar’s fascinating personal history.

Xaime expounds further on why they chose to work with Oscar Hernández, then demonstrates the purity of GAD’s specialty mezcals made from tepextate and cuixe agave.

The GAD Line Up

Pablo, Enrique and Xaime give us the rundown of Gracías A Dios’ core line, what type of barrels they use for aging, and how they decided on the proof of each of the expressions.

True Small Batches

Xaime describes the labeling plans for the Tepextate and Cuixe expressions and how they will tie in to a Texas-Oaxaca relationship.

Organic Investments

Each of Gracías A Dios’ agave expressions are certified organic.  Xaime details what investments and improvements were made to the brand’s palenque to meet those standards.

Xaime reveals what it takes to maintain GAD’s organic certification, including the innovative improvements made to the brand’s palenque that were invented by Oscar himself.

Wild Harvesting

Xaime chronicles each of GAD’s expressions and then illustrates the difficulty in harvesting wild tobalá.

Image Reboot

GAD_espadinOutside of their mezcalería, the partners had virtually no background in the
spirits sector.  Keenly aware of their limitations, they met with industry consultants for advice.

In this segment, Pablo, Enrique and Xaime recall their experience in bringing GAD to market, and how they managed to rebuild their entire initial concept and image from the bottom up.

These three amigos are the first to admit that Gracías A Dios is still a work-in-progress and are proactively solving challenges that unexpectedly crop up such as using synthetic corks versus imported ones from Portugal, and labeling special edition batches.

Love and Passion Will Take You Places

The GAD triad disclose how working together to get Gracías A Dios into the market has deeply and completely changed their lives.


GAD_shotThe partners all agree that their passion for great mezcal–long before it became trendy–is what fuels their love for GAD.

Cheers For Tomorrow

Xaime and his partners explain how their program, Cheers For Tomorrow, will tackle the Mezcal Industry’s sustainability issues and how the use of biofuel will play an important part of their palenque.

Continuing, Niembro describes how the used bagazo (solid waste) is recycled as an insulator during the roasting of agave piñas.

Sharing the Mezcal Experience

GAD_sharing

Long term plans for the group and the land surrounding their palenque include a boutique hotel, restaurant, and a complete mezcal experience for visitors.

In this snippet, the trio discuss where they see themselves in five years and spill the beans on a specially blended Mezcal Del Cura that’s in the works.

Pablo and Enrique continue the conversation by revealing GAD’s plans for replanting different types of maguey and other projects within the region of their palenque.

Free Your Mind–And Your Taste Buds!

Team GAD divulge the one thing that they would like their audience to know about Gracías A Dios mezcal.

Pablo, Xaime, and Enrique have no intention of changing their methods create a more industrialized mezcal.  Their long term mission remains staunchly intact–

To get their small batches to the right audience who will honestly and passionately cherish and appreciate them as much as they do.

Gracías a Dios!

Mezcal and Dogmatism in Oaxaca: Agave Species (Part 5 of 7)

tobala1“Tobalá [Agave potatorum] is a wild agave; tepeztate [Agave marmorata] takes 35 years to grow.”

Yes some, but certainly not all of the mezcal made with the former uses wild tobalá, and some tepeztate no doubt takes 35 years to mature.  But such statements, made as hard-fast truths not subject to discussion, bandied about by staff in some Oaxacan watering holes, lack absolute veracity.

I now rarely speak or write about mezcal or agave with a tone of certainty, and prefer including in my own bluster qualifying words such as “usually,” “on average,” “it is suggested,” or “in my opinion.” Tobalá is being cultivated from seed and thereafter transformed into mezcal.

espadinSome producers are apparently dropping seeds or small plants from airplanes, and letting them grow and mature in the wild prior to harvesting.  Others are germinating seeds, growing small tobalás close to their homes or palenques, and then transplanting them in the wild.

I confess that I don’t know whether such projects result in mezcal made with wild, domesticated or cultivated maguey. Regarding tepeztate, my palenquero friends tell me that it usually matures after 12 – 15 years of growth, but that yes, it can take much longer.  They do not speak in absolutes.

Agave Madre cuisheI suppose that this promulgation as fact of matters relating to agave species, does help the proponent of half-truths, and to some extent initially the industry in a couple of ways.  It advances the sense of romanticism and uniqueness regarding mezcal.  But it could also be a means of rationalizing a highly inflated price for mezcal made with tobalá, tepeztate and other “designer” agave species (without of course denying the often dramatic increased cost of producing mezcal with them; although with the current stratospheric cost of buying espadín piñas on the open market, who knows?).

The ultimate disservice to the client, and it is suggested adverse impact for the retailer and broader business interest, is occasioned when the novice begins hearing and reading alternate viewpoints reasonably not stated as dogma; he then may become confused and frustrated.

Read our next installment on this thought provoking feature by Alvin Starkman tomorrow where he’ll discuss glasses, cups, jicaras, and clay.  

alvin starkman, Oaxaca, mezcalAlvin Starkman is a permanent resident of the city of Oaxaca, from where he operates Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca.  He can be reached at mezcaleducationaltours@hotmail.com.

Alvin Starkman holds an M.A. in social anthropology from Toronto’s York University and a J.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School.  He has written one book about mezcal (Mezcal in the Global Spirits Market:  Unrivalled Complexity, Innumerable Nuances) and over 35 articles centering upon Mexican craft beer, pulque, mezcal and sustainability, as well as a further 250 articles about Oaxacan life and cultural traditions. He co-authored a chapter in an edited volume on culinary heritage (published August, 2014), and wrote an article about brideprice in a Zapotec village (scheduled for release in autumn, 2014, in the Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies).

The Montelobos Mezcal Project

[After The San Antonio Cocktail Conference held in January, 2015, Tequila Aficionado Media caught up with Dr. Iván Saldaña, producer of the upstart mezcal, Montelobos, a partnership project with the makers of Milagro tequila.  A featured speaker during the conference, here’s our in-depth discussion held at the bar of the lavish Westin Riverwalk Hotel.]

La Anatomia del Mezcal

Iván Saldaña (Photo courtesy of David Suro)
Iván Saldaña (Photo courtesy of David Suro)

In Dr. Iván Saldaña’s nifty little primer, The Anatomy Of Mezcal–which, by the way, belongs in every serious agave students’ reference library–he goes to great lengths to demystify maguey (agave) and mezcal in a concise and easy-to-understand fashion. As an introduction into the fundamentals of mezcal, the book covers it all, from what it is to how it’s processed.  Saldaña also defines the differences of artisanal mezcals distilled in palenques and haciendas from those using industrial methods. The latter is a situation currently being hotly contested inside the Mezcal Industry as it tries to cope with its alarming expansion without repeating the mistakes made by the Tequila Industry while still in its infancy.

A Double PhD.

Montelobos_ABVFrom his research, Saldaña asserts that the maguey plant efficiently evolves when affected by environmental stress.  It is precisely the plant’s adaptability to extreme conditions that makes it not only a versatile prime material for tequila and mezcal production, but also gives it its unique flavors and aromas that set it apart from other spirits. The same could be said about Iván’s versatility as a passionate scientist, researcher, environmentalist and mezcal developer who prefers to be challenged to come up with unique solutions. Here, Dr. Saldaña elaborates on his academic background leading to his PhD. In this segment, Iván recounts how his wine and spirits experience working for global distiller, Pernod Ricard, led to a craving to create something more intrinsically fulfilling.

My Way

Montelobos_derecho

Taking a lesson from Frank Sinatra, Iván explains what it was like to compose a mezcal like Montelobos without following any commercial guidelines.

Montelobos Explained

Iván has been quoted as insisting that “Mezcal is too often dominated by either an excessive smokiness or inopportune proportions.”  In his quest for the perfectly balanced mezcal, he concentrated on bringing forth Montelobos’ sweeter notes, along with citrus and smoke using cultivated espadin. 006The successful result garnered Montelobos a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013. Not wanting to create a single faceted mezcal, or replicating an old family recipe, Dr. Saldaña further breaks down Montelobos’ complexities.

The Value of Innovation

Dr. Saldaña produced his mezcal under the guidance of fifth generation Maestro Mezcalero, Don Abel López Mateos, but still believed in exploration and experimentation when designing its unique flavor profile.  Coupled with innovation, Iván contends that Montelobos is not about science, but about passion.

43.2 ABV

Montelobos_label   Iván explains how he arrived at the perfect 43.2% (86.4 proof) alcohol by volume to achieve the flavors and aromas unique to Montelobos.    

Sustainability

Agave_MontelobosNot only vigilant on creating Montelobos his way, Dr. Saldaña was also concerned about its environmental footprint on Oaxaca where it is distilled. Montelobos uses only organic, commercially grown espadin, certified so by certifying agency, Certimex.  Iván also makes sure that the wood used in roasting the espadin comes from a sustainable source.

The Universe Within the Universe

Dr. Iván Saldaña’s expedition into the anatomy of mezcal is by no means over. He confessed to having an urge to distill other variations of Montelobos that would emphasize additional flavors and aromas often hidden in traditional mezcal flavor profiles. For the time being, he prefers to continue to examine and discover the world within the world of mezcal.

Dazed & Diffused: More on the Diffuser in Tequila Production

We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? and in Craft Tequila–WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 2  where we featured our Craft Tequila Gauntlet to help you make better buying decisions when seeking quality craft tequilas.

 Here, Tequila Aficionado Media delves deeper…

What’s Not on The Menu

The Pastry War's stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal., We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating?, diffuser, diffusor, difuser, difusor
The Pastry War’s stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal.

On the wall of The Pastry War, a world renowned mezcalería and restaurant in the heart of Houston, TX, this chalkboard message proudly explains why owners, outspoken agave advocates Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta, staunchly refuse to serve tequilas and mezcals produced with a diffuser.

In their view, it’s a battle between traditional methods of tequila [and mezcal] production which yields “delicious tequila [or mezcal],” versus more cost-conscious methods adopted by distilleries that produce “a shitty version of tequila [or mezcal].”

Let’s look more closely at this cursed contraption.

WTH Is It?

Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary diffuser definition–

“a device for reducing the velocity and increasing the static pressure of a fluid passing through a system.”

Diffuser, by its own definition, denotes watering, stripping, deflecting or softening down the finished product, whether it be light, air, or agua miel, what will eventually be distilled into tequila.

Using only hot water and sulfuric acid to extract up to 98%-99% of the sugars from raw, uncooked agave, the resultant tequila, as described by noted agave lover, Fortaleza tequila brand ambassador and blogger, Khyrs Maxwell, in his detailed instructional post, There May Be Too Much Agave in Your Tequila or Mezcal  tastes like…

“…what I would consider to have a chemical/medicinal taste–sometimes slight, sometimes overbearing flavor profile that always seems to overshadow the beauty of the agave.”  

He further states that it “tastes very much like vodka” and has coined the term “AgaVodka.”

Lastly, Maxwell warns…

“So if you come across a tequila or mezcal made with a difusor, the only way that there can be “notes of cooked agave” is by adding that flavor during the finishing process.  They can add “notes of cooked agave?”  Why, yes.  Yes they can…I’ve seen and smelled the additive.  It does exist.”

Maxwell’s statement above excludes the use of authorized additives to blanco (unaged) tequila, of course.

As of December 2012, such practices have been outlawed by the CRT in its normas (rules and regulations governing the production of tequila).  It remains to be seen how well it will be enforced, however, so your pricey, Fruit Loop scented blanco may still be safe for a year or two until inventories are depleted.

Spanish diffuser manufacturer, Tomsa Destil, offers a closer look at the mega-masher and its process, which seem to go hand-in-hand with column distillation.

The site mentions that they have installed 12 diffusers for use in agave processing, but makes no mention of their clients, nor if sulfuric acid to extract sugars from agave is also needed.

Tomsa Destil diffuser., Diffusor in Tequila
Tomsa Destil diffuser.

The Stigma

While controversy swirls around the use of a diffuser, most educated tequila aficionados understand that it is not illegal to do so.  In fact, its application was accepted by the CRT some time ago.

As we mentioned in item #5 of our Craft Tequila Gauntlet, diffuser use by a distillery is a closely guarded secret even though it is a fairly large piece of machinery to try to hide.  There is a stigma attached to it, with most distilleries that have one completely denying that any of their star brands are processed with it.

While most of the Tequila Industry’s heavy hitters are known to possess diffusers, many also own regular shredders, autoclaves and even stone ovens.  Ask any major brand owner whose tequila is produced at these maquiladoras (large production facilities that churn out juice for contracted brands) whether they are a by-product of a diffuser, and they vehemently deny it.

#AskRuben

Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura, Diffusor in Tequila
Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura.

 

In the Twitter thread attached to The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? it was revealed that Casa Herradura had used a diffuser from 2001-2010.

The historic tequila maker initially implemented the super shredder during the last great agave crisis of the late 90s.  Years later, it was taken to task by an organized group of key concerned mixologists and tequila supporters who refused to use Herradura in their cocktails or to include it in their bar menus due to a drastic change in its original flavor profile and quality.  Herradura finally succumbed and stopped using it for that label.

Vintage Casa Herradura, logo, Diffusor in Tequila

In the following screen captures of a Twitter chat from May 1, 2014, Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura’s Director of International Brand Development, admits that the diffuser is now only used for their Antiguo, El Jimador, and Pepe Lopez brands.

 

Twitter chat #AskRuben.

More Twitter chat. #AskRuben

 

Aceves had previously come clean to spirits writer, Emma Janzen in her article for The Statesman here.

In Khrys Maxwell’s aforementioned blog, he lists tequila producers known to employ diffusers.  Tequila Aficionado also includes this list on every updated NOM List for your convenience.

Nevertheless, one of those distilleries mentioned in Maxwell’s list boldly refuses to hide behind a veil of secrecy–

Destilería Leyros (NOM 1489).

In Defense Of Diffusers

Destilería Leyros, producers of their flagship brand, Tequila Don Fermin and many others, bills itself as a model for modern and efficient tequila making.

It was proudly represented that way even in the wildly popular Spanish language telenovela Destilando Amor, where it stood in for the then fictional Destilería Montalvo.

 

Enrique Legorreta Carranco, one of the owners of Leyros, agreed to answer some of our questions and to try to help dispel the myths and mysteries surrounding the diffuser.

Controversy

“I am aware about the controversy of using difusor [Spanish spelling] in the tequila process.  Here are some key factors and benefits of the process in order to be firm with the press:

“In fact, there is nothing to hide and we are willing to receive tequila bloggers, media or people from Tequila Aficionado in order to know first hand this innovative and ecological process.”

Process

“The difusor extracts the agave juice first of all, followed by the cooking of the agave juice to extract the agave sugars.  This cooked agave juice is called the agua miel.  In traditional process they first cooked the agave followed by the agave juice extraction.  We obviously need to cook the agave juice in order to get its sugars in order to be able to be fermentated (biological process where sugar turns into alcohol).”

Flavor

[We’ll note that Sr. Legorreta took issue with the portrayal of the tastes and essences of tequilas produced with a diffuser as described by some bloggers, believing them to be too subjective.]

“This process gives to the taster a more herbal, clean and citric experience.  Also this process is more efficient and as a result gives a tequila with better standards in methanol, aldehydes and other compounds not desired because at high levels produces hangovers.”

 

Traditional Process vs. Modern Technology

“We respect a lot [the] traditional process.  The only thing we believe is that the consumer has the last word to choose between one tequila flavor from another.
“There are people that prefer the traditional strong flavor from tequila.  Other people are preferring tequilas [that are] more pure, citric with subtle notes of fresh agave like if you are smelling [the] agave and [the] land.”

 

Environment

Reiterating what was demonstrated in the videos above, Sr. Legorreta explains…
“A difusor process uses less than 50% of energy, and less than 60% of water used in traditional processes to produce same quantities of liters.  Additional to this [at the] Leyros Distillery we recycle the bagasse that we get in the last phase of the difusor.  All this with our completely self-sufficient green boiler is fueled with bagasse from our own mill.”

 

About That Stigma…

“About why many distilleries denied they have a difusor, I can guess without knowing a reason from first hand–that is because traditional process with ovens sounds more romantic than the technology of a difusor.”
“In fact, a lot of distilleries focus their marketing efforts around traditional processes.  I guess this is working.  If not, I [suppose] they would be focusing more in the tasting notes of the final product.”
Indeed, Destilería Leyros’ website and videos play on the romance using a smattering of phrases as, “It tastes like countryside, like fire in your blood,” and “Like a passionate kiss, the Taste of Mexico.”

A New Style

In much the same manner as importers, brand owners, and maestro tequileros defend

Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.
Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.

(and advertise in their marketing materials!) the use of additives in their aged tequilas (“finished and polished”), Sr. Legorreta asserts that juice made with a diffuser is simply another style of tequila.

“The essence of tequila is the agave, and both processes distill agave, just in different ways.  There are some people that love traditions [and] there are others that like to innovate and improve things.”
Just as Leyros’ website and videos “invites you to taste and compare, and then let your palate decide which tequila you’d rather raise in a toast,” Sr. Legorreta concludes:
“At the end of the day, or the end of the history, [it] is the consumer [who] chooses their tequila without a bias in the information.”
Some Truths to Consider

The Leyros videos above claim to use machinery as a way to “considerably reduce the risk of injury” to the people on their workforce.  Yet, as Maxwell points out…

“Not only is the difusor a way to pump out product, it also uses a very small labor force.  As more distilleries use the difusor, there will be less jobs available to those, who for hundreds of years,  have built towns and created families by working in the agave distillate industry.  So what happens to the unemployed?  …do they leave for the US to become illegal immigrants?  Or do they work for the narcos?”

At the risk of being redundant, it bears repeating what noted agave ethno-botanist, Ana Valenzuela said about the diffuser here

Shredder.
Shredder.

 

“…to prohibit the use of diffusers (in hydrolysis of agave juices) that takes the “soul” (the flavor of baked agave) out of our native distillates, singular in the world for its complexities of aromas and flavors.”

In conclusion, if current figures are correct, exports of tequila rose 16% to US$568 million in the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period last year.  It is expected that China will import 10 million liters of tequila in the next 5 years.

Where will Mexico find enough agave to serve their thirsty customers?

Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.
Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.

These guys know where.

Turning A Blind Eye

On September 4, 2014, dozens of mezcaleros (mezcal producers) dumped 200 liters of mezcal onto the streets of Oaxaca City in protest for their government’s lack of support against tequileros from Jalisco who are allegedly raiding tons of espadín and other maguey (agave), the prime ingredient in mezcal, to produce tequila.

In the process, say Maestros del Mezcal Tradiciónal del Estado de Oaxaca (a trade association) 15 of the 32 varieties of maguey native to Oaxaca are in danger of becoming extinct.

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.
Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.

Thanks to these transnational maguey marauders, the burgeoning mezcal industry’s days are numbered, it seems.

If indeed a diffuser strips away the agave’s regional characteristics leaving behind a more citric, vodka-like, cookie cutter flavor profile that easily lends itself to clandestine adulteration, over distillation and multiple barrel blendings, then what’s to keep these pirate tequileros from pilfering agave from outside the requisite growing states and using a diffuser to crank out “tequila?”

These days, filling orders to emerging world markets is more important than the blatant disregard for the Denomination of Origin.

The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention

What’s New

The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention successfully launched its first annual event at the Radisson Hotel & Suites in downtown Austin on August 10-11, 2014.

Primarily a show that serves the spirits industry (or trade) in Texas, for us at Tequila Aficionado Media, it was a chance to visit with new brands, products and services trying to break into the challenging Texas spirits market.

In this clip, Michael E. Klein, a spirits entrepreneur and long-time Austin businessman who spearheaded the formation of the alliance, explains its purpose.

What follows are some of the highlighted products that you should watch out for on Tequila Aficionado Media, in Texas, and beyond.

Briscas Mezcal2014-08-11 15.09.09

In the current booming mezcal market, more and more brands are appearing under the traditional higher alcoholic proofs that more established mezcals are known for.  Briscas is a refreshing libation that refuses to be confused with other gateway mezcal brands.

Ricardo Gonzales, Sales & Marketing Director for importer Moreno Spirits, gives us a quick rundown of the small batch espadín Briscas Mezcal.

Juan Moreno, President & CEO of Moreno Spirits, explains how bringing Briscas to market was a journey of discovery for himself and his family.

Surprises

The Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance Convention was not without surprises for us at Tequila Aficionado Media.

Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the 86 Company.
Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the 86 Company.

Austin resident Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the celebrated The 86 Company responsible for a brilliant line of spirits with exacting quality like our Brands Of Promise(TM) Overproof Silver Medal winning Tequila Cabeza, made an appearance in support of the event.

tbnca
L-R: Mike Morales, Jason Kosmas, John Rivers

Also exhibiting in grand style was John L. Rivers IV (a.k.a.: Juan Rios), Managing Director of Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila, a new offering from the illustrious former boxing champion.

Not only did he share with us some of this fine sipping tequila and listed its current markets, but also an exclusive photo of a super piña in the champ’s agave fields.

[Spoiler Alert!  At press time, we had not notified John about our verdict of Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila’s review on a future Sipping Off The Cuff(TM), but we let the cat out of the bag, here….]

Mixing and Matching

2014-08-11 16.02.19One of the more exciting and refreshing combos we discovered at the Texas Nightclub & Bar Alliance Convention was between Pablo Madrigali, Brand Manager with Mexcor International and Lucy Corona, co-founder of Slim Ritas, the 100 calorie fresh juice margarita mix.

Mexcor, a family owned business based in Houston, TX, has been the importer of crowd pleasing tequilas at reasonable prices from Destiladora del Valle de Tequila (NOM 1438)  for several years, including El Reformador, Cava de los Morales and Agavales.

Lucy Corona is a dynamic and spirited mother and business owner whose dream after giving birth to her children was to enjoy a satisfying and natural margarita.  So she made them herself!

Here, Rob Corona explains the birth of SlimRitas.

Here, Pablo gives a bit of Mexcor’s and Agavales’ history, and how he and Lucy joined forces.

One To Watch

2014-08-11 14.35.19 michael kleinMichael E. Klein has handed the reigns of planning future conventions to the team at San Antonio based SMC Events, and it looks to expand the tradeshow’s reach even further with more products and services participating.

Judging from the contagious energy coming from the booths of other exhibitors at the first annual Texas Nightclub & Bar Alliance Convention, the promise of bigger yearly events looks to be a sure thing.