Bottle 321/500. Whoa! Gen X nostalgia bomb here! Not only is there movie theater cheese on the nose – the kind you put on tortilla chips and pretzel bites – but it also smells like a freakin’ Blockbuster! Once I climb back out of the 1990s wormhole that’s opened up in my copita, I also get aromas of canned hatch peppers, pepperoni grease, caramelized garlic, honey, and…grape jelly?! The palate is light and surprisingly buoyant with notes of salami, oregano, fresh jalapeño peppers, and whipped cream. On the finish I get white pepper, parmesan rind, and chocolate milk (excellent call there, Rakhal!). I absolutely love this and, as a former mall rat, give it an extra half star for the happy flashbacks.
Batch RAM-TEQ-001. Bottle 156.
Despite all the fanfare around this one, I actually didn’t like it at first. Returning to it after several weeks of air-time, though, I can clearly see the error of my ways. It’s so vibrant and fresh with aromas of lemon verbena, lilac, honeysuckle, fresh tarragon, marzipan, banana chips, cremini mushrooms, and black pepper. The palate dazzles with biting citrus (yuzu, citron), spearmint, pine, tobacco, and papaya. It’s nearly effervescent! Earthier flavors come through on a drying finish: cigar wrapper, whipped butter, baltic birch wood, and just a hint of Yoo-hoo chocolate drink toward the very end. I plan to hoard the second half of my bottle for quite some time!
Lot 0414TG. Breath-taking! Yet another sublime mezcal out of Guerrero. Each pour brings new flavors to the palate, and every sip is more profound than those that came before it. Aromas of chocolate Ovaltine, roasted strawberries, prunes, urfa biber, prosciutto, and gorgonzola dolce. The palate is dripping wet. I’m catching all sorts of fun flavors: Cadbury chocolate, canned peaches, charred scallions, strawberry shrub, the white rind on brie, hay, leather, and mint. A somewhat spicy finish with pink peppercorn, basil, cassia bark, allspice, and summer flowers. I can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s gorgeous!
Batch 2 from 2019.
Bold minerality throughout. Heavy limestone on the nose (reminds me of Midwestern cave systems) with complementary aromas of crystallized honey, Necco Wafers, artificial vanilla extract, and just a hint of butterscotch. The palate is super-earthy: potting soil, sawdust, pencil shavings, petrichor, okra, mature kale, and caper brine. A drying finish brings flint, ozone, white pepper, and lime zest into focus.
This is a great weekday sipper if you’re a fan of sotol. I’m tempted to give it 4 stars for the value/money.
Lot 04 from 2019.
Major pâtisserie vibes on the nose with aromas of turbinado sugar, sour pie cherries, vanilla custard, pâte à choux, and candied lime. The mouthfeel is viscous, silky, and so so so smooth; there’s no burn on this one. Darker, more sophisticated flavors come through on the palate: blueberries, brown sugar, marscarpone, and kirsch. It tingles on the back end, finishing with New York cheesecake, ripe Damson plums, Italian pizzelles, raw walnuts, and an echo of cappuccino on the sides of my tongue.
This is one seriously refined spirit! So luxurious and sexy. Worthy of little black dress occasions.
Batch: ISR-SAC-001. Bottle 194.
I’m loving all the mezcal coming out of Guerrero recently. Every bottle I’ve come across has been sweet, viscous, and darkly caramelized – although this one leans more toward the savory side. Aromas of freshly poured asphalt, scallions, bubblegum, lemon balm, turmeric, and cumin. A lush palate brims with uncommon and exciting flavors: roasted strawberries, ripe mango dredged through chili powder, crème fraîche, Indian lime pickle, and lemon peel. The finish literally goes on for hours, beginning with black pepper, wood smoke, and coastal sweetgrass before evolving into something more metallic – like old pennies or copper pipes. Incredible juice!
60% Espadin, 36% Coyote, 4% Mexicano. 50.4% ABV.
The nose is murky, but I did manage to pick out some fresh nectarine and green papaya aromas under all the wet clay funk and fall leaf decay. It’s got a mean mouthfeel, too. I swear I hear it hiss as it hits my tongue. The palate is like licking a potter’s wheel, and it takes several sips before other notes emerge: red apples, sawdust, vanilla, toffee, and orange peel. Happily, the finish is better; it’s long and warming, full of peat, golden raisins, peppercorns, allspice, and wildflower honey. If only it had been so palatable from the beginning!
Admittedly, it feels terribly unfair to base my review on this particular ensamble. It’s not at all the best I’ve had from Tio Rey, but it’s the first I’ve kept notes for. I look forward to better batches in the future!
Batch: ROS-ARR-01. Bottle 85.
Oof. I love this. And it’s just as funky as the others say. Zack nailed it on the sour rice pudding aroma, and I can pick out all the individual ingredients: coconut milk, vanilla, Ceylon cinnamon, and slightly fermented rice. I also get fried egg, rubber cement, and powdered donuts on the nose. The palate is delightful! Flavors of raw brownie dough, molasses, salty-sweet hickory barbecue chicken, unfired clay, black pepper, and chalk. The finish is intensely chocolatey at first, reminding me of boxed chocolate milk from grade school, before it mellows into allspice, 7UP, orange pith, and white wood ash.
Batch: LID-ESP-001. Bottle 689.
Sweet, lightly grassy, and delicate floral aromas. Like holding a bouquet of lilac under my nose. The palate is a little more complex with notes of citrus, lemongrass, longan fruit, cardamom, and something slightly dark and vegetal underneath. Steamed artichokes? Nothing too exciting, but I do enjoy the finish. It’s brisk, salty, and invigorating – like a Pacific Ocean breeze – but rounded out with notes of makrut lime leaves, spearmint, graphite, and cedar-based men’s cologne.
Overall, it’s a very clean and cohesive espadin, but I agree with t8ke regarding its fading presence throughout the tasting. It’s like the flavor surreptitiously vanishes from my cup.
Vol. 4, January 2018, Lot 2. Bottle 190/343.
The nose is complex and thought-provoking. Lemon drops, chamomile, dried mission figs, and smoked whitefish. I get a subtle hit of chocolate milk while pulling in the first sip before deeper umami flavors race across the palate: prosciutto, mirin, bonito flakes, and black pepper. The finish takes me back to childhood when my mother would make Martha Stewart’s “Ideal Sugar Cookies” at Christmas, and I would steal fat pinches of raw dough while she wasn’t looking. It’s all butter, granulated sugar, high-proof vanilla extract, and brandy (the extra-special ingredient). Many minutes later, the flavors fade into the unexpectedly happy combination of concord grape skins and chunky peanut butter.
This is some phenomenal juice. I could pull more tasting notes out it all night long.
Vol. 7, April 2020, Lot 001. Bottle 121 of 162.
Chacolo always hits it out of the park, but the Ixtero Verde is probably my favorite from their entire line. Sweet aromas of lemon curd and Cool Whip, along with the faint hint of peanut butter M&Ms. An ethereal palate opens up with Brach’s strawberry bon-bons, followed by increasingly savory flavors: barrel-aged balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika, turkey giblet gravy, and the char on the grates of a well-used grill. Lingering hard candy on the finish slowly gives way to the gentle minerality of well water and the dying embers of an overnight campfire. Magnificent!
Batch: RAM-COY-001. Bottle 31.
Sparkling aromatics! Raisins, dark muscovado sugar, champagne cognac, rolling tobacco, and roasted cantaloup. More raisins on the palate, along with apple mint, creamed dark brown sugar, and Pepsi. It finishes with caramel, slate, and teaberry (or the flavor of original Pepto Bismol for those not living on the Atlantic Seaboard). All-around delicious, but it’s that nostalgic blast of teaberry at the very end that really captures my Eastern Pennsylvanian heart.
Lot: ESPCAN1617. Bottle 391/1098.
This is one of the first bottles that turned me on to mezcal, and it has evolved into such a gem since drinking the neck. Aromas of crushed pineapple, new Converse sneakers, and various fruit drinks: Hawaiian Punch, Orange Julius, and limeade. The mouthfeel is silky and astringent at the same time. More pineapple on the palate, along with powdered sugar, cherries, and vanilla. The finish is pleasantly long with notes of green apple, petrichor, and traditional white birthday cake dressings (fellow reviewer “meserole” is spot-on with his comparison to Mezcalero No. 22.). This bottle spoiled me from the very beginning of my mezcal obsession.
Batch ART-ENS-001. 50% ABV. Bottle 228.
Each of the seven magueys has something to contribute here, without any single one overshadowing the others. The nose is perfumey and full of tropic fruit; you can smell it all the way across the room. Meanwhile, the first sip hits nearly every flavor zone on the tongue: sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and even bitter. All I get at first is butterscotch Dum Dums and mint, but there’s so much more if I search just a little deeper: green bell pepper, mango, vanilla, light treacle (golden syrup), hickory, rose, and tingly Szechuan peppercorns. It’s deceptively complex. The finish is long and slightly smokey with flavors of banana pudding, poached pears, and well-seasoned cast iron. I enjoyed this one!
Lot 1, Bottle 130/500.
Candy on the nose! Candy, candy, candy. Hubba Bubba bubble gum, banana Runts, salt water taffy, and blue raspberry SweeTarts. I also get aromas of violets, talc, and suede. A captivating palate reveals new flavors every time I open the bottle: ripe banana, brand new pool float, celery leaf, hay, Oreo cream, soft Ceylon cinnamon, and heavy florality (echinacea, lavender, chrysanthemum). The mouthfeel is smooth but astringent enough to numb the lips, and the finish is just as complex as the palate leads you to expect: perlite, worm castings, nickel, arugula, rose water, and crunchy honeycrisp apples.
I remember being only two sips into a 1 oz. sample before ordering a bottle, and I swear my eyes roll back in my head every time I give myself a pour. It’s that good.
Lot PV00-11042017, Bottle 233/702.
Aromas of damp forest floor, well-worn leather, and clay. There’s an abstract sweetness on the nose that doesn’t take shape till it’s on the palate. Honey’s not exactly it. But after rooting around a cabinet full of 50 different types of honeys, syrups, and other sweet things, I finally figured it out: mugolio (pinecone bud syrup). I also get oregano, sage, lemon zest, and the kind of heavy-handed incense you only find in head shops. The finish is meaty and floral and lingers on forever.
I can see why people like this one so much. It’s just a little too perfumy for my tastes.
Zack is spot on with the cherry notes. I also get aromas of green banana, oily poultry, and pencil eraser. Actually, I get the whole No. 2 pencil here. Eraser on the nose, cedar wood shaft on the palate, and graphite tip on the finish. Smoked chicken and grilled peaches on the palate as well, and the finish is somewhat medicinal (re: old school cherry Robitussin).
Edition 02 from 2018 by Ignacio Parada, Black Bottle 104/800.
The nose on this one is like sticking my head in a lush garden plot. I get well-tilled soil and big leafy green aromas: romaine hearts, carrot tops, and spearmint. The palate is savory and vegetal with such a high degree of minerality that I’m reduced to thinking in one-word adjectives. Fresh. Grassy. Stoney. Buttery. Incredibly, the finish is even more exquisite with notes of sweetened condensed milk and untoasted sesame oil. It lasts for several minutes before ending gently with a hint of alfalfa sprouts.
A sublime karwinskii. Indisputably stellar.
Reviewing two different batches here…
SEM-ARR-001 (2014), Bottle 178. Big time cream cheese frosting and vanilla on the nose. Perhaps a hint of chocolate, too. The palate is soft and gentle, comprised of river rocks, caramel, tropical fruit, and cultured butter. I really enjoy the finish; there’s that cream cheese icing again, along with bubblegum, minerals, and pine. So quaffable, so well-balanced. 4.5/5 stars.
SEM-ARR-002 (2019), Bottle 7. Unlike the 2014 batch, this one used younger, cultivated arroqueño and took less time to ferment. The aroma is gorgeous; dark, earthy, and heavier on the chocolate. I also catch an unexpected (yet enticing) whiff of smoked fish. The palate doesn’t live up to the nose, though; it’s more slippery and less complex than Ramos’ previous batch. The familiar sweet cheese funk is there only for a fleeting moment before the flavor is swallowed up by dryer sheets. Oak and dark fruits on a drying finish. 3.5/5 stars.
Overall, I much prefer the batch from 2014 and can’t help but wonder what the 2019 batch might have tasted like with more time rested in glass.
Lot A-04-C-20. One of the last few bottles from Don Aquilino in my collection. Light bananas foster on the nose along with mango, apple, and something slightly metallic. Wet screen door? The mouthfeel is creamy, but there’s a drying bitterness that nags at the sides of my tongue and begs me to take another sip; it numbs my lips. The palate is lush with mint, sweet green bell pepper, and banana leaf. Dried herbs and minerals dance in the finish: oregano, lavender, chalk, and gravel dust. Lovely.