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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: Mysterious Mezcal

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we head to Oaxaca, Mexico, to taste some mezcal.

Mezcal has a reputation. The college campus rumor back in my day was that it contained mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug. The reputation for being a bit wild was not helped when at least one brand decided to add a worm to each bottle in what has to be one of the strangest marketing ploys in drinks industry history. Mezcal, like Tequila, is made from the blue agave plant, which takes up to 12 years to produce a 75 to 200 pound pina ready for harvesting. Mezcal makers cannot use the Tequila name because they are not located in Jalisco. The reality is that mezcal is a much more complex drink than most give it credit for being.

Recently I had the chance to taste a group of four mezcals, each in two pairs that started in the same raw form. The blancos were fine drinks on their own that were then finished in different oaks to create a second, more refined mezcal.

Los Danzantes Blanco ($60): Clear color, yet with a smoky nose and bits of roasted pepper in the taste. A sweet grass fire of a drink.

Los Danzantes Reposado ($65): A golden color from six months in French oak this mezcal has mellow vanilla tones with hints of smoke and grass in its aftertaste. A pleasant earthiness comes through in the aging of this spirit.

Del Maguey 1995 Chichicapa Blanco ($70): Aged for 11.5 years in glass, this mezcal has a grassy, orange peel flavor profile with hints of smoke and spice.

Del Maguey 1995 Chichicapa Reposado ($300): This pours with a copper hue that is slightly pink around the edges. Aged for 11.5 years in glass and then finished for 150 days in a Cabernet Sauvignon barrel from Napa Valley’s Stag’s Leap appellation, it has a caramel and toffee nose that gives way to a slightly burnt pepper flavor.

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