Dave Miller alongside Clayton Szczech of Experience tequila at Wahaka Mezcal in San Dionesio, Ocotepec, Oaxaca
I first met Clayton Szczech of Experience Tequila a few years back when I was visiting the palenque of Alberto Morales and Wahaka Mezcal in San Dionesio Ocotepec. Little did I know that day that he was known as the Evangelist of Tequila! After a tour that included the fields of magueys, explanation of the different types of mezcals they made there and a lot of photos, we got down to business of sampling.
As the morning went on, I just came to truly enjoy talking with, and getting to know Clayton.
I reached out to him recently asking him to be part of our 5 Mezcals Everyone Needs to Experience series, but, as we did recently with El Gringo in Mexico, Scott Koenig, we wanted 5 Tequilas. Clayton was so gracious in saying yes, and he added a twist, choosing to focus on 5 newer, less known, or soon-to-arrive-in-the-US brands.
So here are, in no particular order, 5 “Newer” Tequilas Everyone Needs to Experience from Clayton Szczech…
Suerte (NOM 1530)
– One of the most exciting new tequilas in quite a while. Many were skeptical of the slick branding, but this small-batch, 100% tahona-ground Highlands juice is the real deal. The blanco is earthy, vegetal and very old school. The most recent batch of reposado was a revelation. They recently released six different single barrel extra-añejos. The maestro tequilero
is a brand partner, and produces no other brand (both admirable rarities for new brands).
G4 (NOM 1579)
– The legendary Felipe Camarena’s new product, made in Jesús María at El Pandillo, a totally unique distillery that only he could have dreamt up. In addition to genius details of energy efficiency, it features “Frankenstein,” a modern tahona he fashioned from a discarded steamroller! Most importantly, the juice is exquisite. If you want a maximum punch of oven-roasted agave, G4 blanco is it. It is not yet in the US, but I will be previewing it this summer at the Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest VIP tasting.
Celestial (NOM 1480)
– Made by my one of my favorite Tequila Valley producers, Álvaro Montes. His family has been growing agave in Amatitán for generations and went all in on their own small distillery about ten years ago, where his entire family works making tequila. He produces his own tequila and a number of quality brands. Celestial is widely available on the West Coast in blanco, reposado and añejo expressions.
Don Fulano (NOM 1146)
– A joint project of master distiller/blender Enrique Fonseca and his nephew Sergio Mendoza. Sr. Fonseca is one of the Highlands’ largest agave growers, an innovative barrel blender, and produces his tequila in the Valley. Don Fulano – from the 110 proof blanco fuerte
to the “Imperial” extra-añejo- will make believers of those who doubt that autoclaves and French oak can be used to make a tequila drinker’s tequila. The agave notes are fresh, big and robust, and the aging is light and subtle all the way through the añejo.
Siete Leguas (NOM 1120)
– One of the all time -and still- greatest tequilas, this brand doesn’t get nearly as much love in the US as it deserves. 7L is the product of two distilleries on the same street in Atotonilco – one using a tahona, ambient yeast fermentation and fermentation and distillation with agave fiber. The distilleries and brand are still owned and operated by the González family that founded it in 1952. After many years’ anticipation, their tasty “D’Antaño” extra-añejo just arrived in the US, and single barrel expressions are bottled and should follow shortly.
As we always say about mezcal, and now tequila, you are going to be hard pressed to find all of these tequilas in states, at least for now. The best place to really experience these fine spirits is where they are made, in Mexico. If you are looking for a great chance to Experience Tequila, make sure to contact Clayton.