Mezcalero is a vehicle for displaying the work of individual artisan distillers who work in tiny distilleries, often in remote village. The truly great distiller adapts centuries-old artisan methods to the particular characteristics of his local agaves. These bottlings are extremely well and very cleanly distilled.
Hector Vazquez of Los Danzantes works closely with these small producers to help them with the complex paperwork required to certify these local mezcals for export.
Mezcalero #1, 170 bottles, came from the family distillery of Juel Antonio Cruz of San Juan del Rio. It was distilled largely from wild tobalá agaves, feral, focused, and intense, with an admix of the wild agave tepeztate, full-bodied and spicy.
Mezcalero #2, 580 bottles from the single-still distillery of the Hernandez family in San Balthazar Guélavila, was a blend of the agaves tobalá, tepaztate, and espadín. The espadín adds cultivated calmness and suavity to its wilder cousins.
Tasted side by side, the Mezcalero bottlings suggest the amazingly wide range of qualities and flavors to be found in well-distilled agaves.
Left, the village of San Juan del Rio; below, distillers at San Balthazar.
Very limited amounts, produced with rigorous attention to the details of artisan distillation methods. These tiny distilleries often have only one 60-liter still. Production at this level is laborious: pitchforks, wheelbarrows, long waits as the single still slowly processes its precious contents: after one month, perhaps 600 bottles.
Each release of Mezcalero is a one-time batch from specific agaves. The ones we like are usually from unusual agaves, even wild species. Here's a few:
Mexicana, agave rhodacantha (dobadan):This semi-wild agave does best at 6000 feet altitude, or higher. It can be cultivated but not easily. Distilled, it is intense and brilliant, with a very appealing lemony overtone.
Tepeztate, agave marmorata:A very large wild species that resists cultivation. Distilled, it is surprisingly spicy and has very rich flavor.
Tobalá, agave potatorum:A wild upland species, usually small and a very beautiful agave. It yields elegant and unusually complex mezcals.
Sierra Negra:Another wild species, this one very rare. Mezcals from the sierra negra are notably suave and have a long finish.
Prices are those listed by our Ukiah CA neighbor Caddell & Williams. At your local store, the price(s) may vary significantly, due to transportation costs, state excise taxes, and the pricing structure of the store and of the distributor.
The Mezcalero releases are one-time batches from named agaves, usually uncommon ones. They are individuated, distinctive, and extremely carefully distilled.
The question we get asked most is, how do these mezcals differ from their name-protected mezcal cousins from Tequila? First, artisan mezcals have a smoky taste element because the agaves are roasted in an in-ground fire-pit above a live wood fire. Second, artisan mezcal producers distill the agave solids along with the fermented agave juice while tequila producers filter the solids out and distill liquids only. For this reason, artisan mezcals embody more of the vegetal character of the agave, thus are noticeably more complex and, to our tastes, richer.
Mezcalero #1 (2009/170 bottles) -
sold out.Tobala and Tepeztate from San Juan del Rio.
Mezcalero #2 (2010/620 bottles) -
sold out.Espadín, Tobala and Tepeztate from San Balthazar Guelavila.
Mezcalero #3 (2011) - $84.Agave Mexicana (dobadán) and agave espadín from Don Valente of Santa Maria la Pila. The ...
Mezcalero #4 (2011) - $84.Distilled at the Joel Antonio Cruz distillery in San Juan del Rio, from the extremely rare wild agave sierra negra and the large, contorted, and wild agave tepeztate. The tepeztate brings spiciness, with the sierra negra's long and suave finish.
"One of the best these taste buds have evaluated."
-Paul Pacult, March 2010.
"The most exciting series in all of booze."
-David Driscoll, October 2011.