We started Mezcal Reviews in 2016 as a way to “connect the dots” between mezcals. As more mezcals arrived on US shelves each day, it became difficult to keep up (it still is). The goal was to make it easy to see the connections between different mezcaleros and brands. The website was also a way for us to learn more about this amazing spirit. As we became more educated, we also became more nerdy. We had our mental list of favorite producers and regions. But soon we began tracking individual batches of mezcal. As fellow agave nerds know, different lots often feature different flavors; the quality can vary as well. Unlike industrially produced spirits, each edition of small-batch mezcal is unique.
In a previous blog, we looked at different types of mezcal tastings. Vertical tastings showcase similar batches produced at different times by the same producer. In this blog, we’re going to look at one mezcal from one brand: El Jolgorio Tepeztate. So this tasting was more of a “brand vertical” rather than distiller. High priced and high quality, El Jolgorio works with many talented Oaxacan producers.
El Jolgorio translates to “the revelry”. Jolgorios are small festivals that spin and dance in vibrant colors down cobblestone and dirt roads in remote, mountain villages throughout Oaxaca, Mexico. They celebrate births, deaths, weddings and Saint’s days. For centuries, the lifeblood of these celebrations has been traditional mezcal.
This tasting was inspired by a friend’s comment: “I love El Jologorio Tepeztate!” I then asked, “which one?” They weren’t sure. Their feedback was valid, but why not seize this opportunity to try ALL of the El Jolgorio Tepeztates?!
Okay, so we weren’t able to round up all 20+ editions of this mezcal, but we did our best. A few months ago, Jonny, Chris, and I sat outside (physically distanced!) to sip 5 different editions of El Jolgorio Tepeztate. These 5 unique releases were produced by 5 different mezcaleros. From my research, only these 5 producers have made the Tepeztate (under the El Jolgorio brand). This is one of the most diverse El Jolgorio releases. Bottles like the Jabali and Arroqueno are only distilled by a single producer. Other editions like the Tobala and Madrecuixe are produced by a handful of mezcaleros. From our count, at least 6 producers have distilled the El Jolgorio Espadin. It’s worth noting that many of the Casa Cortes producers have releases under both the El Jolgorio and Nuestra Soledad brands.
At this point, the three of us had our favorite makers within the El Jolgorio collective, but we had never compared them directly. Tastings can be an opportunity to learn about how production differences affect flavors, but it is worth mentioning the similarities too.
How are these 5 maguey Tepeztate mezcals similar?
- Bottled under the El Jolgorio brand
- Average price of $140 USD per 750ml bottle
- 100% maguey Tepeztate
- Copper stills
- Made in Oaxaca
- ABV between 46% and 48.4%
Otherwise, all of these mezcaleros have their own styles of distilling. They might cut the heads and tails at different points of the distillation run. The plants could have been harvested at different ages. Different times of year might have changed the fermentation times. Anyway, enough blabbering… lets dive into the tasting. We sipped through all of them twice – to take initial notes and then additional notes after the mezcals opened up.
Edition 08 (2015) by Pedro Vásquez
Pedro Vásquez has produced nearly every type of mezcal for El Jolgorio. He is known for his special batches of Coyote and Arroqueño. He also distills an incredible Espadin under the Nuestra Soledad label. He produces mezcal at his palenque in Lachiguí, Miahuatlán. This edition of the Tepeztate came in a 48.4% which was the highest ABV of the group. This was also tied for smallest batch at 400 bottles.
Here are our notes:
Bugspray, pine-scented backwoods DEET, carburetor.
Peppermint schnapps, spearmint, burnt/charred mesquite, Newport undertone.
We all agreed that this mezcal tasted better after time in the glass.
Overall rating: 3.17 out of 5 stars
Edition 09 (2014) by Gregorio M. García
Gregorio “Don Goyo” Martínez Garcia produces mezcal at his palenque, 3 Mezquites, in San Baltazar Guelavila, Oaxaca. He has also produced the Tobala under the El Jolgorio label as well as an Espadin under the Nuestra Soledad brand.
Overly clean, saline, candied cherry, cough medicine, iodine, hand sanitizer.
Tree bark, pepper rock candy, green pepper, vicious, Mexican vanilla, cilantro.
After revisiting this one, it became our least favorite. Sour notes surfaced after time in the glass. Maybe the bottle had sat 1/3 full for too long and the extra air changed the flavors?
Initial overall rating: 3.67 out of 5 stars
Final overall rating: 3.17 out of 5 stars
Edition 15 (2016) by Ignacio Parada
Ignacio Parada is one of our favorite producers. Ignacio Parada distills mezcal in the remote village of Santa Maria Zoquitlán. He is known lovingly as “Don Chucho” and was the first mezcalero to join the Casa Cortés collective in 2012. He has produced nearly every type of mezcal for El Jolgorio. He might be most famous for his Jabali which was first released in 2015. This batch of Tepeztate was tied for smallest batch at 400 bottles.
Anise, pine, basil, oregano, fresh tobacco.
Grape Laffy Taffy, super herbal, flan, sweet and sour balanced well, tastes like the smell of new sneakers. Grape flavored Airhead candy.
As the third Tepeztate, this was the leading favorite. One of us mentioned that it reminded them of the Wahaka VdM distilled in a radiator.
Overall rating: 4.33 out of 5 stars
Edition 16 (2017) by Rafael Méndez Cruz
Rafael Méndez Cruz distills mezcal at his palenque in San Luis del Río. He has produced an Espadin under both the El Jolgorio and Nuestra Soledad labels. This was the largest batch by far at 1200 bottles.
Menthol, saline, salt, chlorinated water.
Overripe sweet lemon, punchy citrus note, ABV spiciness, charred wood, tanned leather, little mesquite, finish of vanilla ice cream.
This was the fourth Tepeztate and it became the favorite runner up to the previous one.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Edition 19 (2017) by Reynaldo Altamirano
We don’t know much about Reynaldo Altamirano. His palenque is in the remote village of Santa Maria Zoquitlán so he is likely friends with fellow mezcalero and neighbor Ignacio Parada.
Booze, anise, spearmint gum.
BBQ meat, green pepper, meaty leathery element, gasoline/alcohol, hot finish.
This was the most recently purchased mezcal of the lineup. It was opened the night of the tasting. As you can see above in main photo, we had planned a 4 mezcal tasting and then I found this one!
Overall rating: 3.33 out of 5 stars
After sipping through these mezcals we agreed that nothing blew our socks off. That was kind of a surprise. In 2017, we blogged about a Tepeztate blind tasting – this same bottle from Gregorio M. Garcia was one of the favorites. On top of that, our initial attempt at this El Jolgorio tasting was in May 2019 when I had only 3 different Tepeztates. The 2014 Garcia batch was our unanimous favorite then. Maybe we’re just spoiled as we’ve gotten more into mezcal over the years? As a sanity check that night, we sipped another 100% maguey Tepeztate mezcal from one of our favorite producers from a different brand. It is about 30% cheaper than the El Jolgorio and the ABV is above 50%. If we included it in this tasting, it would be a notch above the Ignacio Parada bottle.
It’s worth noting that most of these are a step above the average Tepeztate. The same can be said about almost any bottle of El Jolgorio. While they are a bit expensive, be wary of any Tepeztate that you find for under $85-$100.
Early on, we put El Jolgorio on a pedestal – the bottle art, the price, the mezcal… it is an authentic “luxury” mezcal brand. While we still love the brand, these days we are more picky about the producers and batches. In general, we gravitate towards these mezcaleros: Ignacio Parada, Regulo Martinez Parada (no relation to Ignacio), Pedro Vasquez, and Valentin Cortes. The hidden gems under the Casa Cortes banner might be some of the incredible Nuesta Soledad Espadin mezcals. Check out the Back Bar Project newsletters to learn about the various batches as they arrive in the US.
At the end of the day, ones reaction to mezcal can change week-to-week and year-to-year. Flavor preferences can shift and evolve. The flavors of mezcal change when stored in the bottle too; check out Jonny’s blog Does Mezcal Go Bad? about this topic. We might sip these a year from now and have a completely different opinion (if they last that long!). We hope you enjoyed reading about this epic Tepeztate tasting. As you dive deeper into mezcal geekdom, start noting down the unique production details of your favorite batches. As you zero in on your favorite brands, regions, and producers.. use Mezcal Reviews to find your next copita.