2018 Lot 1, 400 liters
Nose: Savory and herbal – fresh queso, tzatziki sauce and banana peppers, with a hearty sprinkling of oregano, cilantro, chopped sweet onion and pancetta. A little fruit shows with time in the form of lightly smoky roasted pineapple.
Palate: Still savory and pungent, with a big spoonful of yogurt seasoned with sautéed onions, mixed green herbs, bacon and citrus zest. Sweet baked agave peeks through here and there. Medium, silky body.
Finish: Savory herbed yogurt and bacon notes continue, complemented by sweet and sour sauce and a little blackberry. Medium-long length.
Thoughts: Consistent profile from start to finish, but really impressive. The funky yogurt and bacon notes are far more in balance than other raicillas I’ve tried, and the rich herbal bouquet provides a great deal of depth. If you like your agave savory, this is a must try.
Nose: Plantain on first whiff morphs into savory honey ham and smoked cheese over sweet potato, garnished by celery, roasted corn and ancho chile. Mild clay influence contributes a hint of fresh rubber.
Palate: Plantain, sweet potato and glazed carrots, seasoned with mint, fennel, cinnamon and bacon. A green core of baked agave. Damp clay beneath it all. Medium-full body.
Finish: More candied starches, returning to the smoked mild cheese from the nose, then ends on damp forest floor, cocoa, and mesquite-smoked bacon. Medium-long length.
Thoughts: Savory smoked proteins meet banana, cocoa and candied vegetables – all makes for a quality Arroqueno in my book. It carries the clay influence very well.
Nose: Starchy vegetables – caramelized squash, sweet potato, and sweet pea soup with a crumble of peanut. Some roasted green chile and parsley. A polystyrene note oxidizes into toasted marshmallows and sandstone.
Palate: Vegetal and earthy, with roasted squash, blackened mild chiles, and Kung Pao sauce. Baked agave and forest floor underpin it all. Medium-full, velvety body.
Finish: Sweeter, with toasted marshmallow and lemongrass, then turns towards peanut brittle and toasted bread, trailing off with damp funky mulch. Medium-long finish.
Thoughts: The roasted vegetables are an excellent match for the Karwinskii earthiness, which sees greatest development in the finish. Unusual charred/blackened notes on the palate and finish.
Nose: Aggressively funky at first – sweaty feet and vomit. After a long while it subsides into stanky Swiss cheese over roasted pineapple and caramelized onions. Bittersweet herbs/spices as well, including sage, fresh cut grass, red pepper flakes and orange pith.
Palate: Sweet candied agave develops into musty fruit candies out of an old purse, ripe Swiss cheese, herbs from the nose and silty soil. Medium-full, syrupy body.
Finish: Sage and musty smoke, then turns back to Swiss cheese with honey. Winds up in baked agave and minty herbs. Medium length.
Thoughts: When I first poured this, the sweaty funk was pretty alarming – but eventually it settled down into a somewhat less off-putting ripe cheesy odor. Other than that flaw, it has a mustier, honeyed profile than the vernal baked agave I usually get from Espadin.
Nose: Loads of wet clay, rubber and earthy ashes up front. Eases to reveal a dark, spicy core of clove, cinnamon and peppercorn, which seasons grilled pineapple in crème fraiche. Graphite-like minerals.
Palate: Fleeting baked agave, then rubber turning quickly to rawhide and bitter gourd, with echoes of the pineapple and clove from the nose. Grows spicier, adding roasted chile and bay leaf. Medium body.
Finish: Spices peak with curry, tamarind and kaffir lime. Then heads for citrus pith and baked agave, ending on white chocolate, dried leaves and clay. Medium-long finish.
Thoughts: Murky and earthy to the max. While the clay is a tad overwhelming on the nose, the Mexicano spices and surprising creaminess make for a rich palate and finish.
Nose: Fruity and candied, with cherry Jolly Rancher and strawberry taffy. Whiffs of mint and violet. Deeper in the glass there’s a vegetal core of roasted broccoli, beets and baked agave, plus a nice seawater-like minerality.
Palate: Baked agave with peaches, red plums and strawberry. Some faint sweet broccoli, along with thyme and citrus zest which slowly build. Light smoke. Medium-thin body.
Finish: Leads off with baked agave and grapefruit soda, followed by more herbs (thyme, bay leaf, kaffir lime) and some chalky earth. Touch of peanuts and cocoa in the tail. Medium length.
Thoughts: The Espadin-driven candied nose is very inviting, but the complexity of the ensamble isn’t really evident until the finish. Still solid, and very drinkable all the way.
Lot 7 (June 2018), 48.8%
Nose: Delicately floral/vegetal, with Easter lily, dandelion, wildflower honey, carrot cake and cedar, all caked in chalky dust. Faint tamarind and chili flakes contribute a little heat. Some rougher fusel notes at first, which mellow into fruitier banana-pineapple scents with air time.
Palate: Sweet and vegetal – wildflower honey, spaghetti squash, green pepper, tamarind, cedarwood, lemon zest and saffron. Medium bodied, with some prickly alcohol heat.
Finish: Mildly astringent cedar and dust, followed by fresh pollen, lemon-poppyseed muffin, and saffron. Sour and bitter on the tail end, with endive, pickled cabbage and fusel alcohols. Medium-short length.
This was my first sotol, and although I found it to be a little rough around the edges, the combination of sweet vegetables with desert dust is refreshing and distinctive. Eager to discover more sotols after this.
Batch RML-07, 48.9%
Nose: Warm peanut brittle oozes out of the bottle from the second the cork is pulled, but once in the glass there’s a chorus of green, floral and tropical scents: guava, pineapple, green coconut, banana, lime, eucalyptus, sage, ponderosa, and lily. Also a few crumbles of dry chalk, and an underlying earthiness of autumn leaves, smoked turkey and camembert which builds with time. A lot going on!
Palate: Rustically earthy with a big pile of wet leaves, pine branches, thyme and mushroom; but simultaneously sweet and floral with agave syrup, kiwi and elderflower. Crumbled peanut and hazelnut contribute to the medium-full, creamy mouthfeel.
Finish: At first turns bittersweet vegetal, with thyme, tarragon, citrus rind, cocoa, and clay. Some wisps of smoke then precede a sweet, earthy palette of peanut brittle, acorn squash, pinecone, sage and fallen leaves. Long length.
A fusion of earthy and verdant flavors can be found in many a thoughtfully made karwinskii distillate, but this one commands your full attention with its seductive twists and contrasts. The finesse with which this mezcal evolves from one balanced harmony of notes to the next pushes it into the top tier of all spirits for me.
Lot A-08-M-17 (August 2017), 51.9%
Nose: Smoky sweet – a bushel of fresh peaches drizzled in cream and peppery mesquite barbecue sauce. Aromatic herbs swirl above, including paprika, pine needles, bay leaf, eucalyptus, juniper berries and olive. Mulch and hot sand lend some earthiness. Quite alcoholic as well.
Palate: More barbecued peaches, now with an earthy roasted agave undertone and a surprising dollop of cream. Tangy-sweet pickled chiles then lead into lavender, paprika and pine needle. Medium-thin body.
Finish: Peach skins, sweet cream and smoke. Mesquite barbecue sauce returns in a bit, then comes an intensely herbaceous tail of bay leaf, cedar, pine, rosemary, anise and paprika. Medium-long length.
Never had a mezcal as powerfully herbaceous as this one. The profile brings to mind a bouquet garni or herbal barbecue rub more than a medicinal digestif, and the peaches and cream so dominant on the nose are more like sweeter counterpoints on the palate. Lacks a bit in development, but it makes up for that with staying power on the finish.
Aureliano Hernandez Martinez
Series 3, distilled in 2018, 46%
Nose: Tightly wound at first, with salty sea breeze, cracked pepper and cedar smoke. There’s also a meaty undercurrent which reminds me of honey ham. Some citrus zest and orange blossom emerge as it sits, and then the fruits start to build. I pick out dried cranberry, blood orange and canned peach, plus a bit of jalapeno heat.
Palate: Orange creamsicle, peaches, mango and cotton candy – sweet, but softly so. The candy is then tempered by a wave of tart grapefruit, green peppers and a saline minerality. Soft, medium body.
Finish: Pithy citrus and that honey ham again. Then it turns more veggie, with glazed carrots, peas, fennel, soy sauce, and a bit of latex. Light cedar smoke returns late, coating buttery roasted nuts. Medium length.
This one is quite shy to open up, so the candied palate and green finish came as a surprise. Even the smoke on this feels fresh, so there’s plenty of room for the layered sweet tobala profile to flourish.
Lot 17, Bottle 20, 44.95%
Nose: Hot and metallic at first, but after 10-15 minutes turns lush vegetal – grilled carrots, broccoli, roasted corn and creamy pea soup, seasoned with coriander, basil and cumin. Papaya and honey lend some sweetness, and there’s a wonderful petrichor and sandstone minerality in the background. Light Parmesan funk emerges the longer it sits.
Palate: Sweet leafy greens, plus roasted broccoli and carrots, tart pineapple, clementine and dandelion. Steely minerals, a few drops of motor oil and faint smoke contribute to the overall balance. Medium-thin body.
Finish: Burst of fresh rain and ozone, followed by citrus and dry Chardonnay. Veggies then return with big hits of asparagus, broccoli, cucumber, rosemary and basil, drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in filo dough. Long finish.
This is marvelous mezcal – complex, balanced and evolving, with clear typicity and tremendous staying power in the finish. My only real knock on this is the somewhat thin body. One for the veggie lovers.
Lot S-01/08-ECBB-17 (October 2017), 51.8%
84% Espadin, 9% Coyote, 5% Blanco, 2% Barril
Nose: Wet clay, potting soil, musty old books, tarry smoke, old tire swing. In other words, very earthy and dank, but as the glass sits there emerge a few brighter tones of Granny Smith apple, artichoke hearts, and wildflower.
Palate: Damp earth and rubbery smoke dominate again, but there’s also some sour apple, roasted Brussels sprouts, and mild soft cheese funk. Quite hot, with a medium body.
Finish: Cooked agave with green peppercorn, old rubber, graphite and a dusty astringency. Some roasted nuts late. Medium length.
A bit disappointed with this batch of the Ensamble, even several months after opening. The nose is dark and distinctive, but the overwhelming clay and rubber make for a muted development. Those who prefer their mezcal especially dank might love this one, but I’ll try again with a different lot.
Lot A-09-EL-18 (March 2018), 50.5%
Nose: A plate of freshly made tortillas with grilled sweet vegetables, plus touches of vanilla sugar glaze, mango, raspberry lemonade, leafy greens and light ash. Lots of alcohol too.
Palate: Grapefruit, citrus pith, cornbread, apricot, roasted pepper, light ashy smoke. Medium-full body.
Finish: A hit of alcohol heat, then more savory with grilled corn salsa, lime, roasted peppers, and wood smoke. Medium-short length.
Not much in the way of complexity, but the corn is a nice counterpoint to the sweet espadin, and at over 50% it has that Aquilino kick and thick body.
Lot CHI-177, 46%
Nose: A formal garden in the summer – green hedges, juniper trees, gravel, chalky earth, and burning brush in the distance. There’s also fruity pineapple and meringue, plus a bit of cocktail onion and sour pickle.
Palate: Smoke is more potent, and it’s sweeter than the nose, with cooked agave, sugarcane syrup, lychee, apricot, citrus peel and roasted green bell peppers. Mouthfeel is creamy and full.
Finish: Grapefruit, cooked agave, rosewater, sparkling minerality and a late resurgence of ash and smoke. Medium-short length.
DM Chichicapa was my first experience with mezcal and this batch is still very appealing to me, particularly how the earthy, vegetal nose unfolds into a sweet, smoky and full-bodied palate. Doesn’t really pack any wow factors, but it’s benchmark espadin.
Lote ARQ05/15, 50%
Don Fernando Damian
Nose: The clay has a strong presence alongside sauerkraut, wet leaves, barbecued brisket, green pepper, tomatillo, and sea spray. Also quite pungent, with smoked gouda and bicycle inner tube in the mix.
Palate: Wet clay, leafy greens (spinach, butter lettuce), gun smoke, sauerkraut, clove and oregano. A bit of tangy sweetness somewhere between pineapple and a tart peach. Medium-full bodied.
Finish: Burning leaves, pineapple, green chile, cooked agave, and a touch of dill pickle, trailing off into baked apple and peanut. Astringent, with long length.
When I first opened this bottle, I wasn’t impressed – the clay influence and smoke were far too overpowering. But a few months on and with a good amount of air each time I pour (20+ minutes), it has opened up into an autumnal feast.
Lote 3, 47.1%
Nose: Mixed berry jam, pine wood, celery, brine, glazed carrot, peanut, prosciutto, light smoke.
Palate: Sweet and lightly floral, with raspberry, papaya, rosewater, sugarcane syrup, and a bit of chalk. Medium-thin body.
Finish: Cooked agave and alcoholic heat, with touches of ginger, spinach, smoked citrus, paper, and a mild grassy bitterness. Medium length.
Vernal and savory on the nose and finish, though the palate is fruity. Its freshness would pair well with food.
Lote 2, 46.15%
Blend of A. montana, A. funkiana, A. univittata, A. americana
Nose: Grappa-like: licorice, grape must, green stems, dill pickle, acetone.
Palate: More grape must, joined by kale, daikon, sweet peppers, kimchi, a bit of mango and other tropical fruit I can’t place. Medium body.
Finish: Muted at first, with more grape skins, tarragon, and carrot. Develops into roasted poblano, milk chocolate, cooked agave and light smoke. Medium-long length.
To me, this is the most unusual profile of the Derrumbes lineup, it reminds me of a well-made grappa.
Lote 14, 43.9%
Nose: Fresh pico de gallo, lime, sauerkraut, green chili, sharp gorgonzola – savory and funky.
Palate: Medium-full body. At first sweeter than the nose, with apple and lychee, but the fruits are quickly joined by salsa verde and blue cheese.
Finish: Fading cheese funk, sweet bell peppers, canary peppers, leafy greens, mixed herbs, and white pepper. Develops into latex and mint. Medium-long.
This is bold and savory, like drinking fresh salsa and queso. The flavor palette is a little unbalanced but not aggressively funky. An unusual profile, and impressive for the price.
Lote 7, 47.5%
Nose: Hot, with cedar, lemon meringue, band-aid, vaguely floral (magnolia?), some mild soapiness and ash
Palate: Alcoholic and a touch cloying, with sweet cooked agave, lemon-lime syrup, dandelion, wet slate. Medium-full bodied.
Finish: Lime peel, cucumber, pickle, pruned hedges; some bitter ash late. Short length.
A very middle of the road profile. It’s balanced but no element really shines and the alcohol isn’t as well integrated as other bottles in the Derrumbes line.
Lote 5, 49.3%
Nose: Spirity at first with pine tar and latex, then fresh mixed greens, lemon grass, and a fruity burst of lime, papaya, and pineapple, dusted with cumin and hot beach sand.
Palate: An interplay of fruity and savory: sweet and sour chicken, capers, thyme, guava, lemon-lime syrup, and lavender. Medium-full body.
Finish: Big hit of fresh rubber which tapers into sweetgrass, reed, clay, and a touch of pepper. Medium length.
The balance of herbal and fruity flavors is spot on – it feels like new notes emerge with every sniff and sip.