If you happen to be in Copenhagen right now, you happen to be in a very good place for Mezcal! Since 2012 when we got the first mezcal in to the country it has gone pretty fast. Unfortunately not the same for this blog. But a lot has happened the last few years. As this blog has been decreasing in activity, Scandinavian Agave Project (link below) has found it’s roots in Copenhagen. Recently we (The Barking Dog) opened a liquor store & tasting room(Shoppen), in the same area as the bar. This has become the head quarters for Scandinavian Agave Project. It also offers the most interesting selection of mezcal in Denmark. The tasting room is being used to spread the love for agave spirits, but more important than that to let people now what is going on in the world of agave right now. It is a very fragile business and it is important that we (preachers of mezcal) know who we are supporting and what they stand for. There is no reason not to support producers that think about the future of agave, and do something about it. With such a great demand for artisanal mezcal it is even more important that we know what our producers are up to, how do they treat waste from production? Are they replanting agaves for the future? And are they getting paid what they are supposed? If you do not have the possibility of visiting the producers themselves, at least demand to get all the information from your local mezcal dealer. We still have the power in he mezcal world, but how long will it be before major companies bring out the big guns?
Viva Mezcal! Salud!
I have been whining the last few times about Tequila not doing it for me anymore, and why is there “no one” making tequila the way “it should” be made according to my own taste bla bla bla. The explanation I have given myself for not appreciating Tequila the way i used to is quite simple. A few years back now I started experiencing Mezcal, which has been a great ride, and i find true happiness in drinking it. It gives me what Tequila used to give me, a full on tasting experience ending in a big smile.
Mezcal is usually at a higher proof than Tequila, so it made sense for me to start the evening by drinking Tequila and finishing off with Mezcal, but after a while, the Tequila started feeling blunt and too smooth, and it is not only the taste that differs, it is the whole experience, which left me very puzzled in the beginning. But it is really quite simple. To some extent it comes down to the proof of the distillate, higher proof gives more concentration of taste, we all know this so that is nothing new. But for a while that was it, though I was never really happy with that story. So one day I took one of my favorite Mezcals to see what happens if I diluted it. I started to add a few drops of pure water to see if the reaction was similar to that of whiskey. The Mezcal in this case should try to push the water away and open up for aromas, and the experience should become richer. with the first few drops and nothing much happened, I added a few more and a few more after that, the end result should be a decrease of approximately 4%. The only result I got out of this was that the Mezcal I had in my glass was now diluted and the alcohol burn got stronger. Bummer, not what i expected. Though I had a good idea about it. I got similar result with Tequila and could not understand why. Eventually i went the long way around and did the same experiment with other spirits, and the conclusion was that spirits made from all kinds of starch converted to sugar, seemed to give an reaction, dramatic aroma changes, smoother fuller flavors etc, while the agave which does not contain starch but instead fructose and glucose felt more harsh, more diluted and not as fresh and enriching as before. So simple as, agave does not mix well with water, at least not if what you are after is a rich, full-bodied, yet smooth agave distillate. To go further with this idea, I had to get a bad Tequila and see what happened if i separated the water from the alcohol. So me and Lorry fired up the still to get some high proof Tequila and what we got was somewhere around 70% (which by law is not a tequila anymore, a maximum of 55% abc is allowed). Starting with a very poor product the end result was surprisingly good. The agave got full on, very sweet, straight from the oven kind of flavors, very strong though.
The conclusion of this must be that agave distillates and water should not mix. Agave should always de distilled to proof in my humble opinion, based entirely on my own conclusions, experiments, common sense and no what so ever scientific proof. As i found out over the years there are a few distilleries that do distill to proof even if that is 40% and you can clearly taste difference. that said, one producer could be better than the other. There is however two people that to some extent do agree with me, Tomas Estes and Carlos Camarena who together just released hands down the best Tequila I have tried since I can remember, Ocho Cask Strength Single Barrel Anejo at 54.5% abv. On top of that Carlos is releasing a Tapatio Blanco at a full 55% abv, Look forward to that, a liter of liquid smile!
Thats all for this time. Salud!
Amigos y Amigas,
For a long time now i have lost the faith a little bit in the world of agave. for some reason I had a feeling that everything was working against my beliefs and that the industry was turning evil. For that reason I have been particularly active on this blog. The inspiration have been on a record low and all my energy I have spent at The Barking Dog. Which is fair enough, I expected it to be a lot of work opening a bar, but not to drown in it, but luckily I escaped just as my nose was going under the surface. I felt that I got stuck again, not sure where this leads me, what my role in all of this was, it even got to the point where I could spend a whole day without having a little Mezcal. Mental I know. I felt it was time to leave. Last time I was on holidays was in Mexico two and a half years ago and with all the hard work this industry brings with it, newly acquired knowledge taught me that it is needed more often than that. So the last three weeks I have spent on the beach with my girlfriend and a lot of Mezcal. Drinking Mezcal on the beach many days in a row made it much easier for me to put things in to perspective, and I came back a more relaxed man than before.
Upon my arrival back home a little bird had told me there was a surprise or two waiting for me in the bar and for the first time in a long while I was actually truly excited about trying a new product, butterflies in the belly kind of feeling, you know what I mean. The main attraction was the latest addition to the Ocho portfolio, but there was also a new Mezcal on the Danish market, Illegal. I have heard and read a lot about this, but never gotten around to try it sober, which is the first thing I will do after finishing this post. The basic range of Don Fulano is now available and Herencia Mexicana is if not right now in the basement of Juuls, it will be very soon. So much more about this later. The thing I have missed in Tequila lately is the power of the agave when it is un diluted. My favourite Tequilas have always been from the more traditional distilleries, and now I know why. They do not dilute the Tequila after distillation. It gives the Tequila a completely different character and power in flavour. Almost like the alcohol disappears and what is exposed is purely the flavour of the Tequila. However after drinking a lot of Mezcal which is usually at a higher abv, it is a little bit hard to go back to the 40% Tequilas. The become almost too delicate. Then I found Don Fulano 50% which has much more power in its flavour, richer notes of cooked agave, wild green plants and dusty roads. Before that the only one I knew was Herradura Blanco 46% which was far better that the export strength. And now the christmas present of the year, Ocho Anejo Cask Strength. Aged 18 months and 24 days and served at 54.4% abv this goddess of Anejo Tequilas explodes in your mouth and gives you the full expression of the agaves. This time from Rancho Los Corrales. This fills me with new hope and belief that the true agave industry will survive. The Tequila boom will most likely explode at some point and sales and promotion will go down. But we will see more and more aficionados within the category of agave.
This blog post was sponsored by a decent sized Del Maguey Minero. Salud!
A little while ago I wrote about Toby Keith‘s recent involvement in the world of Mezcal, I also mentioned that Carlos Santana signed up with Casa Noble and somewhere in there I also mentioned Sammy Hagar and Cabo Wabo Tequila. While a lot of aficionados don’t take this involvement all to serious, some do. What are the benefits of getting a celebrity face associated with your product? Lately we have seen Bruce Willis together with Sobieski vodka and so on. How does this benefit a brand? And which crowd comes with it? If one wants a serious marketing, focusing on the quality of the product, heritage and so on, why put a famous face on it instead of the founder of the company for example, doesn’t that bring with the wrong crowd? All of a sudden people drink Justin Tiberlake’s new Tequila because it is Justin, they don’t give a flying crap about what is in the bottle, as long as it is, stylish, trendy and expensive. Is this going in the right direction? Well we might sell a bit more Tequila, but to what price? Cabo Wabo used to be great, and now… Here is a recent rating of a few Tequila’s with famous partners. At least the only involved Mexican got a good palate, and is indeed a well worthy winner of this test.
Amigos y Amigas you are in for a treat, I found this great picture minding my own business. This I guess really shows how Tequila is different in Denmark and USA, the cost of making this picture is far more than the total marketing budget for Tequila in Denmark. How about that?
Lately there have been a lot of focus on tastings and master classes about Tequila and Mezcal here in Denmark. Which of course is very positive from my point of wiev. It is how ever very easy when promoting alcohol that taste that good, by itself, to forget to mix it, and a mixed drink is actually most people’s rediscovery of this beautiful spirits. As a result of this conclusion, I got invited to Juuls Vinhandel to do a cocktail follow-up session of the recent Tequila events. I thought to mix a few very simple drinks that anyone can recreate at home. First up was variations of the Paloma, probably the most mixed Tequila drink in Mexico. My first introduction to this drink was while working in Green & Red, where we used Reposado Tequila, fresh pink grapefruit, dash of sugar and sparkling water with a squeezed lime wedge on top, served in a highball glass with a salted rim, while on my first trip to Mexico I found out that it was simply Tequila with a grapefruit soda called Squirt, served with a pinch of salt inside the drink. Yet an other twist on this great drink is the Batanga, which is Tequila with coke and half a lime squeezed in, served in a highball with a salted rim. One of my favourite drinks for the moment is Tequila and Tonic, so I added a bit of fresh pink grapefruit juice to it, a squeeze of lime, added a salt rim and ended up with Paloma No 19. Showcasing these four drinks in the shop was great fun, and the customers found it interesting to try such simple twists on the same drink, with a very big difference in taste. The last drink on the menu for the day is one I am very proud of, it is called Bienvenidos and is a mix(4:2:2) of Del Maguey’s Vida, Kahlua and fresh lime juice, served straight up with a lime zest, which apparently appeals a lot to scotch drinkers. It was really a good experience standing in the middle of a busy liquor store on a friday afternoon talking about the booze that I love and mixing good drinks with it. Thanks to everybody who came down and supported, karma will credit you for that, I am sure.
If you want more detailed recipies drop me a line, Buen Domingo!