The nose of the mezcal reaches me, its earhty…and smoky…but not overwelmingly so – in a pleasant way it invites you to take a sip.
Its a long time i wanted to try out Del Maguey mezcals and at the Tales i got my chance during their session Agavepalooza. I also got my chance to finally bring home the samples which were laying about in the US with this beautifully handcrafted spirit from the villages in Oaxaca, Mexico using old traditional methods. I was amazed to learn that even airborne microbes at different levels in the air affects the flavour of the mezcal.
In this video Ron Cooper from Del Maguey explains the myths and the seven factors that affects the quality and flavor of the mezcal. You should really watch this video, its very interesting.
In short, those seven factors are the following:
Plant Species – there are about a dozen maguey plants that produces good mezcal, so the plant variety is important as each one gives different flavours.
Altitude – its here the airborne microbes plays their role and at every 300 feet up (100m) its different species of microbes. These airborne microbes affects the fermenting. In commercial tequila and mezcal production chemicals are used but in the production of Del Maguey they wait between 4-30 days to let the airborne microbes start the fermenting. That`s a handcrafted spirit!
The soil – Different soils are used, and soil definetily adds a flavour component. Del Maguey uses a soil type that is called tierra amaria. Its a well drained granite-rich soil thus letting the water drain off fast which is very important as water from the soil is not good for the maguey as water through the roots and up in the plant makes it bitter. Instead the plants opens up its poores in the night and absorbs moisture.
Wood – the kind of wood that is used to heat the rocks that roast the hearts on gives off different flavours.
Water – the water of the village also has a flavour effect and the water is used after the hearts are ground and everything is placed in tanks or vats. Different village waters affects the flavours.
The hand of the maker – This is that magic personal touch that every producer of mezcal adds to the product and its possible to by blind tasting tell which village and which specific producer has made a certain mezcal.
Time – is one of the most important factors in a good mezcal – as mezcal is a real slow-food product – this is how flavour is made.
DEL MAGUEY MEZCAL
Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal is produced in different tiny remote villages in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico and each Del Maguey mezcal carries the name of the village where its produced. Only two ingredients are used – water and the heart of the maguey (agave) plant.The traditions used in the production are over 400 years old.
Over hot stones the hearts are roasted in a pit in the ground, covered with banana leaves, woven palm-fiber mats or other plant material and finally earth for 3-5 days absorbing flavors from the earth and wood smoke and oils on the rocks.
After roasting the pinas are removed from the pit and being rested covered by palm mats in the shade for a week – they begin to ferment naturally with the help of airborne microbes.
The roasted hearts are then ground by horse-power into a mash followed by a long natural fermentation period in wooden vats – its here the water of the village plays its role as well as its own yeasts and microbes. Then its slowly distilled twice – in wood-fired clay or copper stills.
The mezcal has both social, ceremonial and medical uses among the villagers and is very highly esteemed.
I received four samples of Del Maguey mezcals and i`ll try to describe them as good as i can:
Made in the village of Chichicapa south of Oaxaca, this mezcal has a lightly earthy nose. It has a earthy flavour too with a hint of smoke and which stays long with you. Its also a bit sweet, a very nice mezcal indeed. Its like a premium all-round mezcal good for both sipping and mixing.
CREMA DE MEZCAL
This one is my favorite, it`s hands down outstanding with a full creamy flavour and a hint of smoke lingering in the background and which grows on you slowly rather than attack you. I spent the last night in New York sitting on a rooftop terrace under the stars sharing a bottle of this awesome mezcal with a good friend and so i have fond memories linked with it as well. Its so easy to sip it, its so smooth. According to Del Maguey this mezcal is made “for women only – and a few strong men”.
Its made in Oaxaca and is a combination of Miel de Maguey (unfermented syrup of the roast agave) and Mezcal San Luis del Rio. I cannot enough recommend this one and preferably sipped please..
SAN LUIS DEL RIO
Omg..this one is NICE! no wonder Crema de Mezcal is so tasty if it has this one in it. Its earthy, its deep, its spicy and a bit of smoke. Its citrusy too in the nose, so pleasant and my second favorite of these four awesome mezcals.
San Luis del Rio is appr 8000 feet above sea level and south of Oaxaca.
SANTO DOMINGO ALBARRADAS
This mezcal is pretty light and also fruity with a hint of the typical smoke. Its as smooth as the others, very nice and flavourful. If i were to mix with this one i would be careful to not use too much other flavours but rather mix with few ingredients.
Santo Domingo Albarradas is located at high altitude in the high Mixe (Mee-Hay) region south of Oaxaca.
Well what can i say? Del Maguey is the top notch of mezcals. Of course i haven`t tried all mezcals but Del Maguey is good. In New Orleans i tried the Tobala which is made from wild Maguey that grows in the shade of oak trees at high altitude. The Tobala is sweet and fruity as well as spicy.
Another interesting mezcal i tried was the Pechuga – triple distilled – which is made with wild mountain apples and plums and is only made by the end of the year when these are in season. Other things they add is pineapples, red plantains, figs, almonds, hazelnuts and uncooked white rice.
Furthermore – and this is interesting – a whole chicken breast with skin removed is suspended by strings hanging over the still for 24 hrs and this is the final 3rd distillation.The vapor passes over the chicken breast and condenses it to a clear liquid and only the bones remain. My memory of tasting it is that it was good – no surprise – and spicy, smoky and i didn`t detect any chicken flavour in it but maybe others do.
I like the colorful labels on the bottles too, a bit childlike, very happy and gets me to think about sunshine.
The only final conclusion i can make is that i must try to get all Del Maguey mezcals and never be out of the Crema.
Mezcal is traditionally sipped, and a good mezcal is indeed a wonderful sipper but is also more and more used in cocktail mixing – and that`s part of the reason why i write about cocktails with mezcal as i think it deserves to be used much more. It`s also a very interesting spirit to work with and adds an interesting flavour and may also be floated, rimmed etc.
I recently made a batch of the hibiscus tisane that is called jamaica and i wanted to try it with mezcal, lime and agave syrup. Its a very simple cocktail with only natural ingredients where the mezcal adds some fire and smoke to the tangy lime and jamaica.
UNDER THE SMOKY CLOUD
The name comes from that the mezcal is produced in Oaxaca, which is the historic home of the Zapotec and Mixtec peoples – mixtec meaning “place of the cloud-people”.
2 oz Del Maguey mezcal chichicapa
¼ oz agave syrup
¼ oz bitter seville orange syrup
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
Top with Jamaica
Shake over ice and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a speared orange wedge and a lime twist.
This cocktail turned out to be very light, fruity and refreshing with a punch of smoke from the mezcal. You may also use just agave or simple syrup if you dont want to make your own bitter seville orang syrup which is very simply made by making a simple syrup with 1:1 (or 2.1 if you prefer) light raw cane sugar and water, then adding 5-6 tblsp of bitter seville orange marmalade. Then cook it for a while , cool and strain.
As for the jamaica just follow the recipe here. If you cannot find hibiscus flowers to make your own jamaica you could use just orange juice or maybe something different like cranberry or pomegranate?
5 dl water to 2 handful of dried hibiscus flowers
9 cl agave syrup
Boil for 5 minutes
Cool for 2 hrs
When cool, strain and bottle.
If you get a chance to try Del Maguey just do it.
There´s something mysterious in the feel about mezcal, something ancient… and it transports you.