Del Maguey Mezcal Tasting

Every so often a group of us get together and try some type of spirit that most of us are unfamiliar with. It’s proven to be a really fun idea where we can learn quite a lot. This time we were trying mezcal. Mezcal is to Tequila what Brandy is to Cognac, i.e. it’s made from Agave but doesn’t have to come from a specific region of Mexico and doesn’t have to be made from only Blue Agave. It’s also generally unaged and the agave hearts are heated with a ground fire before fermentation, imparting a smokier flavor.

The mezcals we were trying were all from Del Maguey, a very unique bottler which collects and bottles high quality, hand-produced mezcals from a range of villages in Oaxaca, Mexico. Each village has its own unique methods of production, such as different types of agave, different still types and the use of a chicken (more on that later). These mezcals are all produced from organically grown (and some even wild foraged) agave and are made by the villagers, so aside from authenticity it’s also a great initiative for job creation.

Our lineup for the night was as follows:

  • Chichicapa
  •  100% Tobala
  • Wild Tepextate
  • San Luis del Rio – Special Cask Finish
  • Pechuga

Disclaimer:

Aside from the mass produced gimmicky stuff with a worm in the bottle, I have zero experience with mezcal (nor much experience with Tequila for that matter), so just know that these tasting notes and opinions are from the uninitiated. In saying that please feel free t fill in any informational gaps I may have missed.

 


Chichicapa

From the village of Chichicapa, this one is meant to be lighter and fruitier but still complex. It has received quite a lot of praise in a lot of publications.

46% ABV. 

Nose: Smoky. Meaty. Salty. Burned fruit. Rosemary. Rawhide. Bit of sour Berry. Wintergreen.

Palate: Rawhide. Dry fruits. Salt. Leather. Ash. Molasses. Aromatic herbs.

Finish: Long. Salty fruits. Aromatic herbs. Something papery.

Would I buy this: Yes

Would I order this in a bar: Yes

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes

VFM: 3/5

I liked this one quite a lot. It reminded me a bit of an aged Islay whisky which I love. IT had quite a lot of complexity to it with some herbal, salty and fruity notes joining the ashy, smoky notes. I would really like to get a bottle of this one.


100% Tobola

This one is made using Tobola maguey, a wild harvested type of agave, which has a lower yield than the farmed varieties and is meant to impart a lighter and fruitier character.

45% ABV

Nose: A bit more fruity, acrid. Sulphur dioxide. Asphalt. Vinegar. Sour Pineapple. Overripe banana.

Palate: Dirty laundry water. Carbolic soap. Earthy notes. Clay. Anise. Mango peel.

Finish: Long. Anise. Asphalt. Soapy water.

Would I buy this: No

Would I order this in a bar: No

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes

VFM: 1/5

I liked the nose on this one, it was lighter and fruitier than the Chichicapa. But when I tasted it there was a lot that didn’t sit right with me, I found it all too soapy for my tastes. It’s still a complex and interesting spirit, and I can definitely see what other could like in this, but it’s not for me.


Wild Tepextate

This is from a special range Del Maguey has called Vino de Mezcal which are very small batch, artisanal mezcals created from a variety of wild-harvested agave species not conventionally used in mezcal production. This one is made from Tepextate, a high altitude agave meant to produce quite a sweet flavour.

45% ABV

Nose: Chemical smoke. Bitter Apple. Char. Acacia sap. Tear gas. Boiled sweets.

Palate: Pineapple. Acetone. Salt. Wood smoke. Molasses.

Finish: Long. Quite a sharp bitterness. Citrus peel. Grass. Kerosene

Would I buy this: Yes

Would I order this in a bar: Yes

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes

VFM: 2/5

I enjoyed this one a lot. It was very smoky like the Chichicapa, and there really were some more sweet notes in here. I also found quite a harsh chemical or maybe medicinal note in this which worked quite well (at least for someone with my taste for heavily peated medicinal Scotch whisky).


San Luis del Rio – Special Cask Finish

This one was from a range called Special Cask Finish where one of the standard mezcals from the Del Maguey range is aged for a while in a cask of some sort. This particular one spent 124 days in a cask which had previously held bourbon in it for 20 years.

The mezcal here comes from San Luis del Rio, a mountain surrounded village where Maguey Espadin is grown. The character is supposed to be sweet, spicy and smoky.

42% ABV. Aged 124 days in an ex-bourbon cask.

Nose: Tear gas. Clementines. Clay. Wood smoke. Salt.

Palate: Chutney. Walnuts. Salty pretzel. Dry citrus zest.

Finish: Medium. Salt. Tar. Nuts. Dry dry dry.

Would I buy this: No

Would I order this in a bar: Yes

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes

VFM: 2/5

This was an interesting one. I didn’t feel the cask influence very much here, maybe it added a little fruit to the mix. I would have liked this a little bit more if the chemical, tear gas note on the nose wasn’t so dominant.


Pechuga

Pechuga means chicken breast, because it’s an integral part of the process for making this mezcal. Yes, it’s a weird one. This comes from Santa Catarina Minas, a village that uses a somewhat unique clay still with bamboo tubing. They regularly produce a double-distilled mezcal called minero. This expression is made in small run at year’s end where this spirit undergoes a third distillation along with a range of local fruits, nuts and rice (?) a-la-gin.

To ‘balance’ the fruit influence they hang a washed whole chicken breast in the still above the spirit.

49% ABV

Nose: Banana. Anise. Coconut. Liquorice rounds.

Palate: Anise, anise, banana.

Finish: Medium. Anise.

Would I buy this: No

Would I order this in a bar: No

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: No

VFM: 1/5

The nose on this was quite interesting, very anise-rich but there was some other stuff going on too. But after that the anise flavour just totally took over. For the price that this is sold for it really feels like a raw deal, the chicken replacing the worm as a gimmick.


In summary I had a fantastic time. It was really great to learn about mezcal and see its potential when well made. I really might get myself a bottle of the Chichicapa with along with the Wild Tepextate was my favourite of the evening. I noticed that I preferred the more heavily smoky mezcals, which I find balance out the other flavours quite well.

Lastly a huge thanks to Assaf for organizing the evening and presenting these really interesting spirits to us, and to Oron at French 57 for hosting us.

 

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One thought on “Del Maguey Mezcal Tasting

  1. Pingback: Vida de San Luis del Rio – Stuff I Like

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