A web journal about craft methods of distillation
Editors: Will Hodges & Ansley Coale
Tasting a first distillation run coming off a still at the Los Danzantes distillery in Santiago Matatlan, outside Oaxaca City. The first run is always very sweet, and ever so soft.
After a first distillation run at Los Danzantes. Ernesto is pitchforking the solids out, cleaning the still for the next rum. Distilling the solids makes the mezcal richer, more complex, and gives it the characteristic vegetal overtones of artisan mezcal.
Moving the milled agave solids to the still at Los Danzantes. Distilling with solids is more difficult (they want to cook to the inside of the still), but adding them makes the mezcal richer, more complex, and gives it the typical vegetal overtones of artisan mezcal. It’s a lot of work.
Artisan mezcal: Hector Vasquez on how the Alipús distillers make their cuts differently to satisfy the NORMA export regulations, plus encouraging the distillers to use their noses instead of tasting, which is how we work at Germain-Robin.
Putting the top on a potstill at Los Danzantes after filling the still. This is exactly how any artisan mezcal distiller does it. What got cut off in the video is wrapping the connections with a strip of cloth, which goes back for centuries.
Distilería Los Daznates has set up a sophisticated system of rolling tanks so they can have several batches in sequential fermentation. It’s about how to be Mexico’s #1 artisan mezcal without sacrificing rigorous artisan methods.
Fermentation with native yeasts is tricky. This is Hector Vasquez on inoculating the must with yeast collected from previous
fermentations, this to get complete and consistent fermentation. This is a great example of Los Danzantes’ work on improving ancestral methods. There’s a lot of info on agave fermentation at http://www.ianchadwick.com/tequila/fermentation.htm
Remixing the solids down into the tina, the agave fermentation tank, at Los Danzantes. The solids tend to float to the top. Remixing enriches the fermentation, so you get more flavor & complexity. It’s like punching down the skins when you’re fermenting crushed grapes.
Los Danzantes puts huge effort into preserving authentic craft methods. This is about their new millstone.
Héctor Vasquez of Los Danzantes talking about field tests at small family mezcal distilleries comparing stone-mill mezcals to ones using shredders, with an interesting sidelight about the social impact of shredders.
Agronomist Luis Mendez, who works out of Sola de Vega, explains that when a stone mill is used to crush roast agaves, the crushing is uneven, leaves larger pieces of the solids, and preserves all the liquids.
Yeasts like nooks and crannies to inhabit, and they like the sugars in the liquids, so the fermentation is longer and more complete, yielding richer and more complex distillations. He says that pulping by hand with mallets in a canoa is even better.
This in comparison to mechanical shredders, what most industrial tequila producers use.
Shredding loses a lot of liquid, so the shredder is adding water, diluting what ends up in the still. Tequila producers also remove the agave solids before distilling. These are two of the reasons that good artisan mezcal is richer and more complex than 99% of present-day tequilas.
Stone mill at Santa Ana del Rio. Yeasts like the non-uniformity of stone crushing : the fermentation is more complete and the mezcal is richer.
The stone mill at Alipús Santa Ana del Río. Yeasts like the non-uniformity of stone crushing: the fermentation is more complete and the mezcal is richer.
Perfectly Roasted Agaves at Distilería Los Danzantes
Ansley discussing the end of an agave roasting at Destilería Los Danzantes.
Here is Ansley describing an general overview of mezcal production. This particular clip was filmed at Alipús’s Santa Ana del Rio location.
A great story about the Hoga still at Danzantes distillery ended up in Oaxaca. For the next few weeks we will be posting a series of new videos from a recent trip down to Oaxaca. Very Informational. Stay tuned.
Devin Cain cleans the antique cognac still after every Low Gap whiskey run.
From Alberto Ortiz (“Don Beto”). Our immodest claim: the finest mezcal in bottle.
From Alberto Ortiz of Bramaderos, near Miahuatlan. Madrecuishe, bicuishe, dobadán (Americano), espadín. “Don Beto” has the most tidy distillery I have ever seen. His mezcal is very clean too. Intense, fruity, a hint of madrecuishe acerbity.