The other day I had a group of people with me from the states here in Oaxaca. A couple of them wanted to try a few different mezcals, so off we went to one of the local mezcalerias for an ad hoc tasting.
Soon I was being peppered with all sorts of questions from everyone on the different types of mezcal available, how it’s made and what I’d recommend.
That got me thinking.
I’ve never thought of myself as an expert on mezcal, and I’m not, but over the years, I’ve learned what I like. I’ve also come to learn how a lot of Americans experience mezcal. So, while I’ve resisted this in the past, perhaps now it’s time to add my 5 Mezcals Everyone Needs to Experience to our series.
But then, if I’m being honest, how do you limit it to just 5? That’s a question I’ve been asked many times by others. In this case, I’m going to give you 5 Espadins. My criteria? I like them, have had good experiences with each one, and they’re pretty widely available.
So, as I say with our other contributors… here are my 5 Mezcals, in this case, all Espadins, Everyone Needs to Experience, in no particular order.
- Koch… Day in and day out, this is simply a crystal clean, crisp mezcal. At 47% alcohol, this mezcal has become one of my go to mezcals for sharing with friends and for mixing. Everyone should have this in their collection.
- Wahaka… At a slightly lower alcohol content, 40%, than some other mezcals, this espadin, from Alberto Morales is one you can drink all day long, and then still stand up. On hot summer days I love to put this mezcal in my freezer, get it bone chilling cold and drink it neat. There are few better respites from the Las Vegas sun on a hot August afternoon.
- Alipus… I was sitting in my living room watching college football one fall afternoon and thinking about Oaxaca. I went to my mezcal collection and poured a shot. Before even a taste of this mezcal hit my lips, the aroma hit me. San Baltazar! Having spent significant time working in that village, the aroma was unmistakable. It was my first real experience understanding terroir.
- Jarabe de Pico… I went searching for this San Dionesio mezcal a few years back on a recommendation from Eduardo Belaunzarán. As I walked into the palenque where it’s made, Maestro Mezcalero Clemente Martinez met me. And there I stayed for the next two hours, learning from him and tasting. I love his espadin and you will too. But… if you ever get the chance, get out to his palenque and get some of what he sells locally. At a much higher alcohol content then what they sell to the general public, the flavor bursts open in your mouth, stunning.
- El Rey Zapoteco… I cannot be without this mezcal. If I am, it’s as if there is a disturbance in the mezcal force at my home. It’s that good. I’ve shared this in blind tastings with friends both here in Oaxaca and in the states and everyone loves this mezcal. If you’re ever in Oaxaca, make sure to head to Matatlán to get a bottle. It’s the last major palenque on the right as you head south.
Final thoughts… You can visit where each of these mezcals is made, sample them and buy them from the source. You’ll save lots of money, experience this great spirit in its native environment [terroir] and have a day you’ll never forget. But, you have to come to Oaxaca.
Koch, Wahaka and Alipus are widely available, for about $45.00 a bottle in the states. If you want to get some Jarabe de Pico or Rey Zapoteco, those are only available in Oaxaca.