Because we’re living in Mexico City during a huge mezcal revival, we’ve tried very hard to like this traditional Mexican spirit. Not only are there three mezcalerias within a stone’s throw of our house, but there’s also something very interesting going on culturally with mezcal. Simply put – it is everywhere, while tequila is not.
Unfortunately, our trail of tears with mezcal (and mezcal lovers’ anger and disbelief) has been amply recorded on the site. What can we say? It’s just too smoky for us.
I was talking about this conundrum with my friend John Hecht, a veteran Mexico City reporter and mezcal lover himself who has watched the spirit gain steam in the city over the last five years.
“Maybe you should try a mezcal that’s just not that smoky,” he said. And then he said he might have the perfect one.
So, Grover and I went over to John’s house the other night to sample this special not-so-smoky mezcal. John got it from a well-known producer in Oaxaca.
The bottle had no label or name on it, because apparently you can go to most small mezcal producers in Oaxaca with an empty bottle and ask them to fill it with their special juice. Ahh, Mexico!
The mezcal in question was un-aged of a type called “tobaciche”, which means it is made from wild agaves. Some think that wild agaves produce a stronger agave flavor compared to cultured agaves.
(Still, we were concerned that even this highly recommended mezcal might be too smoky for us, so we brought a flask filled with Fortaleza blanco in case we found ourselves in a drinking emergency.)
John poured us each a shot (you can see the first taste, and my honest reaction on the video, above) and I had to admit that the smell was not as smoky as usual. Underneath I could detect some minerals and faint mint.
On the first sip I discovered it had a nice mouth feel with a tingly finish of mint.
Grover, who was busy behind the camera during the initial tasting, tried the mezcal when we finished filming. His opinion was similar to mine in that it was better than any other mezcal we’ve tried thus far, and did have something more to offer than just a high octane proof point and smoke. There were some agave flavors still detectable in this one.
“Tequila is like a nice clear and pleasant conversation where you can hear every word being said by the other person,” Grover said. “On the other hand, mezcal is like a trying to have a conversation in a loud and crowded party where there is a ton of activity going on, and it’s hard to hear any single voice.”
“Some say that mezcal is ‘more complex’, but I find it to be more confusing,” he said.
Would we rather sip on a nice tequila? The truthful answer is yes, but while out with friends drinking mezcal at least we found something we could appreciate, and that’s progress.
(And for the record: We’ve tried dozens of different mezcals since we’ve been living in Mexico. We’ve sought out the opinions of mezcal experts and have tasted what many mezcal fans considered “the best,” and in the end, we prefer tequila. It’s a personal choice, so mezcal lovers, don’t be offended. We just don’t like the smoke, and that’s why we don’t drink smoky whiskey either. Our experiment with mezcal has now reached its end, and (hopefully) you won’t see any more stories about mezcal on this blog. Viva tequila!)