The Annual* Mezcal Reviews Anniversary tasting party is one of the premiere events in Austin, Texas. Each year, thousands of mezcal fans await the special date.. hoping for an invite. Those lucky few enjoy a night of mezcal flights, food, and high ABV conversation. Okay, that might be a bit exaggerated, but there has always been a ton of mezcal.
“You know nothing, Jon Snow”
The barely double-digit crowd fit into a condo’s kitchen.
A sticker voting system was debuted during our 1st anniversary tasting.
By our 3rd anniversary, the participation numbers hit a milestone with 8 flights and 134 sticker votes cast.
And in 2020… the party was cancelled like everything else. Onward to 2021 and… our generous hosts’ house was being spectacularly remodeled.
Finally in September 2022, the event was reignited to celebrate our 6th anniversary.
Once again, we tried to mix things up with some exciting flights including Peculiar Pechugas, an all clay Espadin flight, a Sotol flight, and a vertical flight featuring a Michoacán mezcal distilled in different seasons. This year there were 7 flights in total with 91 total votes – the participation was similar to our 2018 event but below 2019.
The past few years have been weird.. but one thing is for sure: Mezcal is more popular than ever. Prices are higher and sales are up. We saw website traffic spike during the pandemic as more people used the internet to learn about mezcal and make informed buying decisions at stores for their home collection. On the flip side, we noticed some people having buyers remorse and expressing their disappointment via reviews.
Check reviews before buying a full bottle, y’all!
It was great to see a lot of familiar faces again. Everyone was exited to catch up but nobody was in full-on party mode. It seemed like we were still in an awkward post-Covid hangover. Some of our friends had new kids, and another couple missed yet another anniversary party due to an impending baby arrival. Another agave advocate declined to join due to a wedding anniversary; they decided their marriage was more important than mezcal, crazy! 😉
Below are all 7 flights, arranged from least to most participation (least to most stickers):
Not the “Tep” of the Iceberg
Theme: Mezcals produced using Maguey Tepeztate
Maguey Tepeztate (also spelled Tepextate) is in the Agave marmorata family. Some say that this prized plant takes up to 30 years to reach maturity. You will often find this resilient agave growing off the sides of hills and cliffs. Bottles can be expensive and scarce. We are big fans of Tepeztate and cherish our favorite bottles. These are not our favorites, but don’t let that discourage you from exploring mezcal from this incredible plant.
9 overall votes
|Cruz de Fuego Tepextate||Mala Idea Tepextate||El Yope Tepextate|
|Carlos Mendes Blas||Celestino Sernas||Ismael Rosales|
|Cooper pot||Copper pot||Copper pot|
|Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca||Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca||San Baltazar Chichicapam, Oaxaca|
|8 votes||0 votes||1 vote|
Theme: Not your average pechuga
Nothing is standard in the world of mezcal, but a typical pechuga involves adding seasonal fruits, spices, and nuts to the second or third distillation. A chicken breast is hung inside the still which balances and tames the flavors. These pechuga mezcals are different. Made using single ingredients and no meat, these mezcals represent a wave of different types of pechuga mezcals that have entered the US market in recent years.
10 overall votes
|5 Sentidos Espadilla con Damiana||Mezcalosfera Espadin con Cacao||Siembra Metl Quiote|
|Marcelo Luna||Margarito Cortés||Jorge Perez|
|Espadin fermented in cow hide with fresh Damiana. Damiana is also added to the second (final) distillation.||Espadin fermented with wild yeasts. Theobroma cacao is added to the third distillation.||Agave inaequidens fermented with pulque and then distilled with lemongrass.|
|2 votes||2 votes||6 votes|
‘Tis the Season
Theme: The same mezcal produced in different seasons
Hacienda Oponguio Mezcal is produced in Michoacán. Average temperatures in Michoacán vary from the low-60s to the high-80s throughout the year. December is the driest month and July gets the most rain. Not only do these climatic changes impact the agave’s sugar content at the time of harvest, they also impact certain stages of production, like fermentation, which happens much faster in warmer months.
11 overall votes
|Hacienda Oponguio Ineaquidens Frutal||Hacienda Oponguio Ineaquidens Herbal||Hacienda Oponguio Ineaquidens Seco|
|Produced in the warmer months||Produced in the colder months||Producing using agave that was grown in the shade of pine and oak tree|
|5 vote||5 votes||1 vote|
Kind of Blue
Theme: Mezcals produced using “Blue Agave”
Blue agave or maguey azul (Agave tequiliana) is the only type of agave that can be used in tequila. The agave can be found commonly in states like Jalisco and Michoacan, where you can legally produce tequila, but there are also some mezcal producers in states like Zacatecas and Oaxaca who are improvising with this agave varietal. Their mezcal is great – delicate, flavorful… and all that jazz.
11 overall votes
|Del Maguey San Luis del Rio Azul||Pierde Almas Tequilana Weber||Derrumbes Zacatecas|
|Marcos Cruz Mendez & Paciano Cruz Nolasco||Alfonso Sanchez||Jaime Bañuelos|
|San Luis del Rio, Oaxaca||San Baltazar Chichicapam, Oaxaca||Huitzila, Zacatecas|
|3 votes||5 votes||3 votes|
Check out our recent blog about visiting the Bañuelos family vinata in Zacatecas.
Theme: Spirits distilled from Sotol (Dasylirion)
Sotol has been a hot topic lately. Also known as “desert spoon,” Sotol is the name of both the plant and the spirit. Distilled from the Dasylirion plant, it’s in the same asparagus (Asparagaceae) family as agave. Unlike mezcal and tequila, the sotol denomination of origin (DO) is not fully recognized by the US; you may have seen “Texas sotol” in Austin. The sotols in this flight were produced in Mexico. The Mexican DO for sotol includes the states of Durango, Chihuahua, and Coahuila. Spirits produced from Dasylirion in other states may be called Cucharillo or Palmilla.
13 overall votes
|Sotolito Pal’alma||Sotomayor Ensamble||Yoowe Palmilla|
|Dasylirion wheeleri||Dasylirion cedrosanum, Leiophyllum, and texanum||Dasylirion wheeleri|
|5 votes||1 vote||7 votes|
Clay All Day
Theme: Espadin (Agave angustifolia) distilled in clay pots
No doubt you have had your share of Espadin mezcals. Chances are it was distilled in a copper still. Copper stills are modern, efficient, and produce excellent mezcals. But the ancestral style of mezcal utilizes small clay pots. While inefficient in terms of yield and prone to breaking, clay pots produce some of the most graceful spirits and are revered by mezcal enthusiasts. Time to remold your perception of mezcal!
18 overall votes
|5 Sentidos Espadin||Real Minero Espadin||Vago Espadin en Barro|
|Alberto Martinez||Don Lorenzo Angeles (RIP/DEP)||Tío Rey|
|Santa Catarina Albarradas, Oaxaca||Santa Catarina Minas, Oaxaca||Sola de Vega, Oaxaca|
|4 votes||9 votes||5 votes|
- Cinco Sentidos and El Destilado
- Mezcal Real Minero: Distillery Tour and Tasting
- The Mezcal Vago Tasting Room in Oaxaca
Theme: Dixeebe Mezcal from Maestro Mezcalero Don Valentín Cortes
Asis Cortes is a mezcal legend, having grown up in one of the most prolific agave spirits producing families in all of Oaxaca. He was the face of his family’s brands like Nuestra Soledad and El Jolgorio for many years. This new brand, Dixeebe, is a project from him and his father Don Valentín Cortes. Fun Fact: the term dixeebe (pronounced dee-shee-bay) is Zapotec for “our deepest gratitude,” and it can be used in place of cheers when sipping.
19 overall votes
|Dixeebe Espadin||Dixeebe Madrecuishe||Dixeebe Tobala|
|Maguey Espadin||Maguey Madrecuixe||Maguey Tobala|
|49% ABV||48% ABV||51% ABV|
|8 votes||4 votes||7 votes|
6th Anniversary takeaways
The Dixeebe flight had a lot of interest. Full disclosure: we encouraged folks to try it because we were eager to hear their feedback. Learn more about our relationship with Dixeebe
Overall, folks tended to concentrate on tastings on the perimeter of the large living room instead of the table with four flights. The location of the Sotol and clay Espadin flights had a bit more room to sip and chat. Going forward we will track this “interior design” element of flight participation.
What new and surprising things did we learn from the voting system?:
- It was interesting to see an Espadin win over Tobala by 1 vote in the Dixeebe flight.. we’re biased but it is a heck of a good Espadin
- Cruz de Fuego was an overwhelming favorite in the Tepeztate flight
- The pechugas were all quite different and the winner was probably the most unique: Agave inaequidens fermented with pulque and distilled with lemongrass
- The old and quite funky Almamezcalera Durango Sotol did surprisingly well with 5 votes in 2nd place
- Clay distilled Espadin was a favorite flight and the 2012 Real Minero won out with 9 votes
Onwards and upwards
We owe a huge thanks to our generous hosts. Their remodeled home is like a photograph from a modern decor catalog. The casa is über classy and the perfect setting to sip mezcal with friends. It was great to finally restart this annual tradition.
At the same time, mezcal has become so popular since we started doing annual tastings in 2016 that some of the novelty of mezcal has worn off.. especially within our group of friends. Going forward, we might explore doing tasting events open to the public or host a private event for mezcal newbies. Our ongoing goal is to make Mezcal Reviews an inviting source of information and feedback about mezcal bottles on shelves around the world. We will be exploring ways to expand that vision at future anniversary tastings. If you have ideas or want to collaborate, reach out via email or social media.
If you enjoyed this post, check out the 2019 blog: Mezcal Tasting: 3rd Anniversary Party. What other flights should we do in the future? Let us know on social media or join the newsletter to find out.