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Pierde Almas Espadín
Pierde Almas can also make intense, almost oily jovens in the traditional manner — each from a different agave — in such small batches that tasting notes are nearly pointless. Espadín is woody and aromatic and smoke comes through on the nose and palate alike.
Illegal Mezcal gets its name from brand owner John Rexer’s days of mule-ing high quality, and rare, booze back to his Guatemala bar. Now perfectly legal, the spirit comes in three expressions. Joven gives a hard, fiery kick, but the añejo’s spice comes on the tail end, with upfront honey, orange, and vegetal notes.
Alipus has several bottles on the market from its small production. Santa Ana del Rio (pictured) is the newest and one of the most interesting. Unlike the others in the portfolio, it has a revolving door of heat, smoke, and viscosity, with each profile hitting the palate a few times before the dance is over.
El Buho has found a nice balance of smoke and citrus flavors. It’s tropical but roasted, like a grilled pineapple with a viscous, agave nectar glaze. Great for sipping, as the long finish would be lost in a cocktail.
An award winner with a rounded, middle-of the road flavor profile, Montelobos is neither particularly light nor particularly smoky. Upfront anise spice notes end with that common smokiness, and the in-between is sweet and smooth.
Mezcal Vago produces several mezcal expressions, mostly joven. Each one comes from a separate distiller from a separate region, and while they may have very different ways of producing their final spirit, the partnership’s labeling system makes it easy to compare two and understand the spirit better.
Del Maguey Single Village
Del Maguey’s Ron Cooper coined the term “single village mezcal,” an ingenious bit of marketing considering any traditionally-produced mezcal is produced in and for its village. A favorite of Oaxacan chef Susana Trilling, Cooper’s complex, endless Chichicapa goes from citrus to meat to herbs — and back again.
Pierde Almas DoBaDaan
Pierde Almas has one of the larger portfolios in the mezcal world, including a notable flavored blend that qualifies as gin. As such the variety of flavors is wide, like that of DoBaDaan, which has developed and sweet apple and floral notes before a relatively short finish.
Mezcales de Leyenda
Mezcales De Leyenda export mezcals from Oaxaca as well as the states of Durango and Guerrero. Their full-bodied Guerrero, made from the wild cupreata agave, boasts aromas of green chile and celery, but with a fresh, fruity, smoky taste.
The distiller of Fidencio Sin Humo devised a wood-free, slow-roasting method that offers a pure, smoke-free expression of agave. Fidencio also has a more traditional Clásico that is tasty and affordable.
Sombra plays to mezcal’s frat-boy past with its heavy-metal bottle graphics and aggressively smoky flavor, but with subtle citrus and black pepper notes.
Métl has a delicious, full-proof joven, but their reposado is particularly impressive. It’s aged six months in American oak, which lends just a hint of vanilla and sweet spices without obscuring the agave.
Los Amantes Joven is a pungent, classic mezcal, featuring true agave flavor with sweet tobacco notes and a long finish.
Los Nahuales Joven
Los Nahuales Joven is meaty and herby on the nose, with flavors of cooked banana and the mesquite used to roast hearts of agave.
El Tinieblo Joven
El Tinieblo Joven is a fascinating, delectable mezcal made with cimarrón, serrano, and espadín agaves from the northern state of Tamaulipas. Tasters might recognize caraway, rosemary, olive, and even marijuana in the nose and palate.
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