Time keeps on sippin’ sippin’ sippin’.. into the future. Let that mezcal spirit carry me. 2019 was a big year for Mezcal Reviews. Jonny shared some of our biggest milestones in the annual review blog. Another year also meant another anniversary celebration. Like we did in 2018, we swung open the doors of our mezcal vaults and organized an epic tasting for the September 2019 anniversary. This time around we changed things up by adding a blind flight with five bottles! We also ventured away from mezcal and the state of Oaxaca for a few flights. It’s also worth noting that a number of brands in our flights were not even on the market the year prior.
In the last year, many of us had grown as friends so the tasting had an incredibly congenial vibe. At one point in the evening, our friend and scotch guru named Matt had convinced half the party to visit the Tio Rey table. The blind 5-bottle flight also garnered a lot of interest, with many trying to guess which bottles were which.
The sticker voting system worked well in 2018 so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Since there were 8 total flights (26 bottles!) we abandoned the idea of picking a favorite flight. Instead we looked at overall participation as a metric for the “favorite” flight. Last year we had a total of 93 votes cast (stickers used). This year we had 134 total votes! We think these results are quite interesting and encourage you to arrange tastings of your own.
Below are all 8 flights, arranged from least to most participation (least to most stickers):
The Mixed Bag
Theme: Strange brews from the dusty corners of our collection
We are avid mezcal “researchers” and our collections have grown a lot in 3 years. This odd ball flight features some random bottles that you may have never seen before. One of them is the most popular brand in Mexico. Another is produced a few hours south of the Texas border in Tamaulipas. And finally, we are including one of the oddest tasting mezcals we have ever encountered.
3 overall votes
|400 Conejos||IZO||El Tinieblo|
|Agave Espadin||Agave Cenizo (Durangensis)||Agaves Espadin, Salmiana, Sierrudo|
|2 votes||0 votes||1 vote|
The Hills Beyond Tequila Land
The state of Jalisco is famous around the world for being the birthplace of Tequila. But there is another interesting spirit from this state: Raicilla. It is made from agave using production techniques closer to mezcal (and sometimes more primitive). In 2019, Raicilla received its Denomination of Origin. The last bottle in this flight was acquired in Puerto Vallarta from a little seafood restaurant in the fishing village of Chimo. If you want to visit, just our hosts about their Airbnb: Casa Cactus.
14 overall votes
|La Reina||Puntagave Rustico||Raicilla de Chimo, Puerto Vallarta|
|Agave Maximiliana||Agave Rhodacanta||Agave(s) unknown|
|Atenguillo, Jalisco||Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco||Somewhere near Puerto Vallarta?|
|1 vote||4 votes||9 votes|
Theme: Mezcal from the state of Durango
The vast majority mezcals coming into the US and Europe are from the state of Oaxaca. But there is a large state just south of Chihuahua that is making a name for itself: Durango. This flight includes mezcals produced in the state of Durango. All of them are produced using agave Cenizo (formerly known as agave Durangensis). If you like these, you may notice that two other flights feature a Durango mezcal. The mezcals in this flight are all produced in or around Nombre de Dios, Durango.
15 overall votes
|Bosscal||Derrumbes Durango||Origen Raiz|
|Agave Cenizo (Durangensis)||Agave Cenizo (Durangensis)||Agave Cenizo (Durangensis)|
|42% ABV||45% ABV||48% ABV|
|1 vote||9 votes||5 votes|
All Cooped Up
Theme: Mezcal made with agave Cupreata
Agave Cupreata is found widely on steep mountain slopes in the states of Michoacan and Guerrero, growing at high elevations. While there are only a few certified mezcal producers in these regions, a relatively large percentage of them are exported to the US.
15 overall votes
|Ánimas Papalometl||Leyenda Guerrero||Amaras Cupreata|
|Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca||Mazatlán, Guerrero||Mazatlán, Guerrero|
|7 votes||6 votes||2 votes|
Las Jefas (The Bosses)
Theme: Mezcals crafted by women
The word “mezcalero” refers to a male mezcal distiller. While most mezcals are produced by men, women are almost always involved in the process. There might be one man’s name listed on the bottle, but many palenques are powered by the entire family. The following mezcals are produced by mezcaleras, women that distill mezcal. These bosses, who are famous among mezcal fans, are in charge of the whole production process.
18 overall votes
|Reina Sanchez||Fabiola Ávila||Karina Abad Rojas|
|n/a||Lagrimas de Dolores||Los Nahuales Método Antiguo|
|Agave Madrecuixe||Agave Cenizo (Durangensis)||Agave Espadin|
|10 votes||0 votes||8 votes|
Theme: Different Combinations of Agave in Tio Rey Ensambles
Tio Rey’s Ensamble en Barro from Mezcal Vago is one of the most consistently great mezcals available outside of Mexico. All of his ensambles are made with a different combination of agaves in Sola de Vega, Oaxaca. If you see an Ensamble en Barro on the menu at a bar or restaurant (or on Tyler or Jonny’s shelf) ask to see the bottle to check which agaves were used in its production.
22 overall votes
|Vago Ensamble en Barro||Vago Ensamble en Barro||Vago Ensamble en Barro|
|55% agave Espadin
45% agave Mexicano
|64% agave Coyote
31% agave Espadin
5% agave Arroqueno
|67% agave Espadin
33% agave Tepeztate
|8 votes||8 votes||6 votes|
The Blind Date
Theme: Agave Espadin from Different Regions in Oaxaca
About 90% of all mezcal consumed in the US is made with agave Espadin. It’s the easiest of agave species to cultivate and it’s incredibly resistant to drought, pests, and harsh environments. This blind tasting of 5 different mezcals made from agave Espadin demonstrates the vast differences between mezcal made in different regions.
23 overall votes
|Alipus (Green)||Alipus (Blue)||Alipus (Black)||Alipus (Purple)||Alipus (Pink)|
|Agave Espadin||Agave Espadin||Agave Espadin||Agave Espadin||Agave Espadin|
|Santa Ana del Río, Tlacolula||San Luis del Río, Tlacolula||San Juan del Rio, Tlacolula||San Baltazar Guelavila||San Andrés Miahuatlán|
|10 votes||4 votes||1 vote||3 votes||5 votes|
Our post from August 2016 served as inspiration this blind flight.
Tall Glass of… Mezcal
Theme: Mezcal made from Karwinskii agaves
The Karwinskii agave family is known for its finesse, silky texture, and notes that range from being green and vegetal to having high minerality. This agave family includes agave Mardecuixe, Cuixe, Barril, Tobaziche, and many more agave that tend to grow in long, thin stalks that can stand several meters above the ground.
24 overall votes
|Paquera||Rey Campero||El Jolgorio|
|Agave Barril||Agave Madrecuishe||Agave Cuixe|
|Ejutla, Oaxaca||Candelaria Yegolé, Oaxaca||Santa Maria Zoquitlan, Oaxaca|
|4 votes||11 votes||9 votes|
Another 'flight' to remember
Again, like the year prior we owe a huge thanks to our generous hosts. If you enjoy raicilla, we recommend you book their Airbnb and explore the raicilla scene near Puerto Vallarta. We were also fortunate to have made many new mezcal friends in 2019. Our new friends brought delicious homemade foods to share with the party. Our friend Squashplayer brought octopus ceviche and Ministry of Mezcal prepared five different salsas.
What new and surprising things did we learn from the voting system?:
- Rey Campero continues to be a crowd favorite – the Madrecuishe earned 11 votes and topped the Karwinskii flight.
- It was surprising to see Lagrimas de Dolores not receive any votes in the popular mezcalera flight. It is quite a good mezcal and one of the early exports from Durango.
- Tio Rey had a relatively even distribution of votes across his ensamble en barro mezcals. His creations are quite consistent.
- It was interesting to see a “water bottle” raicilla purchased in a small fishing village to beat out established brands.
- The blind flight offered both surprises and affirmations. We expected Alipus San Andres to fare better (it technically includes some agave Bicuixe). The dominance of Alipus Santa Ana was a fun surprise. For us, Alipus San Juan is the least favorable of the Alipus Espadin offerings and its single vote confirmed that opinion.
If you enjoyed this post, check out the 2018 blog 2nd Anniversary Party: Mezcal Tasting Results which had 7 flights with 3 mezcals each. What kind of tasting will we do in 2020? Follow us on social media or join our newsletter to find out.