The other day I was at a conference and the speaker gave a great piece of advice… “Never assume you are the smartest person in the room.”
What he was saying was that all of us can learn something from someone else. The last few years I have learned tons about mezcal from some people that have become what I would call, good friends. People like Alberto Morales of Wahaka Mezcal, Erick Rodriquez, Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza and of course Ulises Torrentera and Sandra Ortiz of In Situ in Oaxaca.
Recently I was connected to John McEvoy, the Mezcal Phd. I’ve read his book “Holy Smoke! It’s Mezcal” and if you haven’t read it yet, get on it. Simply put, John knows his stuff and is quickly becoming one of my favorite teachers about this incredible spirit.
Naturally, I reached out to him for his 5 Mezcals Everyone Needs to Experience. I’ll warn you ahead of time, most of these are not gonna come cheap, but nothing worthwhile ever does.
Here they are in no particular order!
- Tepeztate. Sometimes spelled Tepextate, this is a wild agave that can take from 25-35 years to grow. It creates an herbal, lovely, and rare mezcal. What’s the best way to try this out? Go into In Situ and ask the Mezcal Masters, Ulises and Sandra, to pour a tasting of three different tepeztates. Buy a bottle of the one you like best. Tepeztates are difficult to cultivate and the wild population is dwindling so buy them while you can.
- Ilegal Anejo. Many in the mezcal world deride aging mezcal, and they could not be more wrong. Yes, mezcal is beautiful as an unaged spirit, but barrel-aging can add tremendous complexity and character. This anejo is unsurpassed with vanilla, cinnamon, hints of chocolate and orange, while still keeping in touch with its rich roasted agave roots. It makes the list because it is brilliant in its own right but also a great introduction to mezcal for the unconverted.
- El Jolgorio Arroqueno. You can find this in the US. It is amazing – bursting with rich roasted agave and tropical fruit with a light touch of smoke. Some feel this is the best mezcal they have ever tasted and I cannot argue the point. It is smooth and easy drinking yet at the same time you will find a myriad of flavors seeking your attention.
- Mezcaloteca. Mezcaloteca is a non-profit with tasting rooms (more like Tasting Churches) in Oaxaca and Mexico City. They work with up-and-coming producers to support and educate the world about mezcal. You can go in and do a tasting of very small batch offerings across a wide range of agaves and production styles, and then buy what you like best. You won’t go wrong because they have some incredible mezcal. They are also planning on importing a limited number of bottles in 2015.
- Pierde Almas Espadin. You can readily find this bottle in the U.S., either online or at many liquor stores. Most mezcals are made from the Agave angustifolia , varietal espadin and they are the center point of taste for a mezcal. A well-executed espadin will have no polarizing flavors, and this one from Pierde Almas hits the mark perfectly. An excellent balance of medium smoke, roasted agave, and a long lovely finish.