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Small Batch Mezcal Is Having a Moment - Seize It

 
PUBLISHED IN mezcal, mexico, oaxaca, mezcalero, bar
In the Mezcal world gone are the days when it was a novelty to find one bottle at your local liquor store or some strange cocktail experiment at your local bar. You’d be hard done to find so little Mezcal in any watering hole these days which has been a boon to everyone: We drinkers get great choices, bartenders get all sorts of bottles to experiment with, and most importantly the people who make Mezcal get a sustainable industry.

But another great benefit is that all this interest in Mezcal has finally made the export market safe for the small batch Mezcals that you used to only be able to buy in person in Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and other Mezcal capitals.

Discovering those bottles will always be fun, that pleasure will never disappear because there are just so many Mezcals out there, but these new small batches allow you to travel the Mezcal world through your copita at home.

The OGs

One of the most fulfilling elements of this small batch moment is that the people who have been working in this space the longest are finally able to sell their bottles here in the US and realize some of their dreams.

Cuish

For years Cuish stood alone as a place and a label. Physically it was a small bar located in an out of the way neighborhood in Oaxaca. Its mission was to bring all the small batches that great local Mezcaleros created to the attention of everyone in town.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Shadows let us know it’s mezcal hour • • • • • #cuish #mezcal #oaxaca #liveoaxaca #oaxacacity #mexico #travelphotography #travelmoreoften #oaxacastyle #exploretheglobe #explore #tasteoflife #doorsofinstagram #100daysofdoorways #doorways #ihavethisthingwithdoors #doortraits #doorsworldwide #doorsonly #doorofdistinction

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Having a designer as a leader was a great asset because new labels, special limited edition boxed sets, and the amazing design at the bar made the whole project too beautiful to pass up.

Now Cuish can finally be enjoyed here in the US so look out for the first three bottles to get a taste of amazing Oaxaca Mezcal today.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Mezonte

Jalisco’s capital Guadalajara is far north and west from Oaxaca and nurtures an entirely different set of traditions. It seems pretty clear that distilling got its start in Mexico somewhere to the west of Jalisco. And, of course, Jalisco is home to Tequila so this is ground zero for a variety of Mezcals - the emphasis should be plural because there really are many and Tequila evolved from them to become what it is today.

Appropriately Guadalajara it features its own distinct Mezcal culture. Pedro Jimenez’s local bar, Pare de Sufrir (“end your suffering”) has been a sign post for Mezcal lovers for years. It is a very small place but full of Mezcal and an amazing devotion to expanding understanding about the spirit.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Just like Cuish, Pedro founded a special label named Mezonte to feature this variety and continue the diffusion of information about the local Mezcals. For a while it was a cult stop for the Mezcal obsessed but many a Tequila lover has entered Pare de Sufrir only to depart a Mezcal convert.

Now we get to sample three of the most notable bottles from these traditions in the US. Hopefully time will only bring more of them to us!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The new batches

5 Sentidos

5 Sentidos was a leader in the new batch movement. When Jason Cox co-founded the hip Oaxaca eatery El Destilado, he also sourced some amazing local Mezcal for the bar program. It didn’t take him long to turn those Mezcals into the 5 Sentidos brand which is named for the five senses, you need all of them to make Mezcal because it truly is a manual process.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Like most great Mezcals 5 Sentidos clearly lists their makers and gives ample details about their process on their bottles and web site. Seek out their Pechuga de Mole Poblano for a true treat because the second distillation contains chicken and, just like the label says, mole poblano for a real subtle and rare set of flavor sensations.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This is easily the best mezcal I’ve ever had in my life. The complex flavors going on in this are absolutely phenomenal. #5sentidos #pechugademolepoblano #agavespirits #mezcal #tomeseconrespeto

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Mal Bien

Other labels are moving in different directions by purchasing batches as they come available from Mezcaleros that they know. The way that the Mezcal world has worked for time immemorial (well, at least back to the arrival of the Spaniards, possibly earlier…) is that a Mezcalero will make a batch of Mezcal from whatever agaves were ripe.

That means that every batch was different reflecting whatever agaves were ripe at the moment and all the terroir that they brought with them. Things are still done this way throughout Mexico, it’s just that brands like to keep things as consistent as possible so the pendulum has swung that direction.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Meanwhile lots of Mezcaleros have kept producing the same old way, batch by batch. And that’s where labels like Mal Bien come in. It is a new label devoted to bringing these singular batches to light here in the US.

The current batch is by Don Lucio Morales Lopez and that’s the second one on the market. It’s priced very reasonably for this sort of product so definitely get your hands on some today.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Other labels like La Venenosa Raicilla Tabernas are doing the same thing, equally economical with an entirely different sort of Mezcal. We can only hope that this is only the beginning of a larger trend.

Customize it

The Mezcal world has always had something of an air of mystery about it. In many bars in Mexico you can get a house Mezcal that comes from bottles or a barrel without a label because the bar manager has a deal with a local producer. The cost is lower, the quality invariably high, the mystery just part of the deal.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Now that bartenders from the US have traveled extensively in Mexico the idea of bringing this sort of tradition north is finally coming into action. Bars like Washington, DC’s Espita pioneered the idea in the US but now Dallas’ Las Almas Rotes (“broken souls”) is doing them on better by commissioning a special batch of Mezcal just for their bar based on local traditions.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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You all know that a pechuga is a Mezcal distilled with something in it, usually chicken or turkey breasts (pechuga means breast in Spanish), right? Well, the Las Almas Rotas owners had spent time with Gracias a Dios Mezcalero Oscar Hernandez and and convinced him to create a special pechuga just for their bar that included Texas brisket instead. That just made its premiere this year so expect more like it!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Cover image: Alamo City Liquor




By Max Garrone

Max Garrone

Max is cofounder of Mezcalistas, a website and event company that covers the world of Mezcal. When he’s not writing about agave spirits he can be found drinking espresso, sampling the San Francisco dining scene, or helping his clients set their content strategies.

 

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