Not long a ago this great documentary on distillation in Jalisco was released. It is really worth the watch if pre-hispanic distillation wet’s your pants! Support the agave community and download this one!
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!
So… It has been a while again. Every now and then it is important to come back to Mexico and recharge the batteries a bit. I arrived in Oaxaca late friday night with my compadre Max. Yesterday we spent most of the day in the historical center, a couple of markets and a few Mezcalerias. A lot of impressions in this beautifully colorful city.
The main reason we are here this time, part from the obvious love for Mezcal, is to research artesian Mezcal production. We are doing a presentation on mezcal at Berlin Bar Convent on the 8th of october. The week ahead of us is jam packed with palenque visits. I will try to do a few shorter post, but now it is time for comida!!
Buenos Tardes Amigos!
Last night I was going through some old video footage from when I was in Mexico and found that most of it was useless, first of all due to the poor quality and second of all, I did not film very interesting things, haha, the one thing I always bring but never use, my camera. So I thought I should put it to better use, and started fooling around with it a bit yesterday, the result is somewhat very average, and a bit pointless, but slightly more interesting to watch than a bunch of photos of my tequila selection. For the next minute and a half or so you get to enjoy a amature at work. Enjoy.
Moving on from this great presentation, I thought to also show how the professionals do it, maybe not in the making of video, but in the cooking of agaves. It is very easy to describe how to make a stone oven for cooking agave, in writing it sound like and simple and fairly romanticized ritual, but in reality it is very hard work getting the job with such simple tools and only manpower, well man, horse and donkey power. Here is a great video to show you how it is done, from the producers of the son to be available in Denmark, Real Minero. Salud!
It is very easy to forget what is happening behind the scenes some times. On the one hand I am very happy that the world gets to see more of Tequila and Mezcal, and especially in Europe. The more the merrier as long as the quality is good that is. Lately I have been working a lot with Mezcal, which is a bit of a new world for me, and I have yet to go to Mezcal country, yet there is a lot to find out on the internet. I stumbled over a blog post a while ago which I will post some bits and pieces of here. Just as I am falling in love with this beautiful spirit, I find reasons to get upset about it. I hope this will make sense for everybody.
” About half an hour from Oaxaca City on Cristobal Colón highway, is a fairly new distillery, Casa Armando Guillermo Prieto (casa AGP). When little Earl (Earl Fish, Mezcal enthusiast) entered Casa AGP, whose security little Earl describes as “tough as any airport”, they waived their metal detecting wand over him and discovered his digital camera. “No sir,” the security guard said. “It is the policy of Coca-Cola to not allow photographs.” Coca- Cola? Who knew? His cell phone in the other pocket suffered the same temporary confiscation. ”
Already here I feel that something is wrong. No Tequila distillery I have been to has ever had this type of security. Only a couple of times have I been asked not to take photos, but only in certain areas, which I think is fair enough. The vibe has however never been hostile, more likely to be the other way around, I find Mexicans to be very friendly and generous when I come to visit. However I will cut straight to the chase.
” S.A. de C.V. stands for “Sociedad Anónima de Capital Variable”. It describes a company whose capital partners are anonymous and of variable investment. Most foreign investments in Mexico are designated S.A. de C.V. CIMSA S.A. de C.V.-Coca Cola, a consortium of businesses “100% Mexican” produces Casa AGP Mezcal. I also saw it written in inverse order, as Coca-Cola-CIMSA.
CIMSA was founded in 1925 and currently operates through three self-described “Strategic Business Units”: Soft drinks; BEDLA (Bebidas de los Angeles) which sells purified water; and Casa AGP, the newest unit, oriented toward commercialization of Mezcal, to sell inside Mexico about 20% of product, with 80% destined for foreign consumption. To put the enterprise in perspective, the same Group that bottles Coke in Cuernavaca built the Mezcal plant in Oaxaca. It also built the international airport in Cuernavaca.
Casa AGP inaugurated its Oaxaca distillery in August, 2008 in a village named Lanacci. Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, Senator Adolfo Toledo Infanzón, Secretary of Tourism Beatriz Rodríguez Casasnovas, and Secretary of Economy Enrique Sada Fernández among other officials, all carefully pre-selected, attended. Head honcho Colombo Álvarez asserted then, that in five years Oaxaca Mezcal would be positioned in the international European and Asian markets. In the first year the product would arrive in Spain, the USA, China, Korea and Thailand. Subsequently, they would sell in Germany, Russia and Italy. He was right on. ”
This “mafia-like” setup might not sound as scary to the world of Mezcal as it might do to Mexico in general, but it gets worse. And this is a textbook example of capitalism. Coca-Cola is looking to produce 45.000 liters of Mezcal daily, while the artisan producers ar running max capacity at 2-3000 liters a week. What does this mean?
” A distillery producing thousands of liters of liquor uses water not only for cooking and distilling, but also for necessary wash-up and cleaning in a large industrial plant. Casa AGP claims it uses high-tech treatment of residual waste water. More than one contractor was contemplated, and the ultimate winner was IGR Ambiental. Their wastewater treatment facility for the distillery, finally certified as environmentally sound by the UN in 2010 (not in 2008 when the plant went into production), supposedly will handle 90,000 liters of waste-water per week, and recover methane gas to produce steam, cooking the Mezcal in something like a double boiler process. Selling back carbon credits offers Casa AGP a financial bonus; another international environmental fraud. Little Earl saw a very large wastewater storage tank on the property; there are photos, but thus far no indication that the water is being processed.
Wastewater treatment does not explain where the clean water comes from in the first place, or how much must be consumed for a Mezcal production of 45,000 liters. According to the website oaxacalibre.com on September 11, 2007, Governor Ulises Ruiz made an agreement with Coca-Cola to exploit water in exchange for money for political PRI campaigns. Allegedly, Coke was given permission to drill wells in the Central Valley. Interviewing APPO activist Florentino Lopez, the site reported:
Interviewer: “On the internet you circulate statements in which you indicate an unhealthy relationship between the governor Ulises Ruiz and the soft drink business Coca-Cola. Are such assertions true?”
Lopez: – “It seems to us that Ulises has, in the first place, sought the backing of businesses and primarily the transnationals, because that has a basis in development of Plan Puebla Panama in Oaxaca, with development of diverse projects such as the urban megaproject, the tourist corridor, the trans-isthmus corridor, and the Dominican [tourist] route. Then, after that comes commercialization of all the state resources, including the cultural ones.
We have denounced the case of Coca Cola which established a series of agreements to exploit the hydraulic resources and which received several objections, for example the case of the neighbors of Viguera, when they were blocking the well located near the Juarez Monument. They informed us that the State Institute for Water and the National Water Commission had contracted with the Coca Cola company to drill wells in this zone of Viguera and in other places like Huitzo, Telixtlahuaca, and Etla, which have below-ground aquifers. And while the neighborhoods and districts have solicited drilling for the benefit of the communities they have not been given permission; Coca Cola has several wells drilled in this zone that have been granted by agreement with the government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.”
Interviewer: “Does the sale of these permissions to Coca Cola relate to the resources that will be in the electoral process this year?”
Lopez: “It has to do exactly with this situation, or it could be said the political accommodation being developed here in Oaxaca has to do directly with the relationship Ulises Ruiz Ortiz has with transnational corporations, not only Coca Cola, but a series of corporations which directly helps the Ulises Ruiz team to stay in power”
Interviewer: “Have you considered actions against this corporation?”
Lopez: “Up to now we have called for a boycott of Coca Cola products because they are doing damage and commercializing the natural resources of the people of Oaxaca transnationals are taking over the extraction and administration of water in Mexico. Apparently, one or more wells were drilled inside the Casa AGP complex. Purified water for distilling the fermented juices gets trucked in. Most likely the company trucking in purified water is the partner BEDLA, with water coming from parts unknown, but how far can one profitably truck water?“
So to take this topic very far, is the commercialisation of Mezcal killing off the art, craft and culture behind this magical spirit and forcing local producers to work for the big distilleries? Hopefully not, but how much can one make without water? Do yourself and the rest of us a big favour, only drink Mezcal and Tequila if you know where it comes from, stay true to the source and remember why we drink. It is going to cost you a little extra, but damn it tastes good.
Please visit the distilleries webpage: Here
It is sometimes hard to explain with words the process of making Mezcal. A lot of people have a hard time understanding how primitive it can actually be, and still produce some of the worlds best spirits. Here is a very nice little video, you do not have to speak spanish to kind of get the gist of what is going on. The fermentation tank is made from a cow hide! Now go be creative at home, and build yourself a pot-still. Enjoy the video, Salud!
It is a lot happening in Mezcal Denmark right now. About a month ago we received our first shipment of quality Mezcal, and a month later it is all sold out. Not really as I expected though, a few bars, but a lot of private enthusiasts were there early to pick up some of the best Mezcal known to man. The conclusion of this is that we will have to order a lot more! Great news for a dry Denmark.
Yesterday we thought it was about time to put all our brands to the test (Del Maguey, Alipus, Los Danzantes & Piedre Almas). Me and Max (from Juuls) invited a handful of the top bartenders from around town, a few interested waitresses and a couple of booze writers, to a down to earth tasting forum. We wanted to create conversation around the products, tasting back to back and most importantly, get people’s honest opinion about Mezcal. Everybody was welcomed with a cocktail I created especially for this event, a healthy measure of Alipus San Andres, squeeze of lemon, a touch of agave sirup and a sprig of mint, built in a snifter with a few ice cubes. A Mexican take on the classic Ti’Punch, let us call is Juulietta to suit the occasion. After a short introduction to Mezcal we moved down into the cellar where a tasting tabled had been prepared. Before we started tasting, we did a little warm-up exercise for the mouth to be ready for what was to come. This exersise is very simple. Pour yourself a glass of Mezcal / Tequila and follow theese steps. 1. Wet your lips and let them air dry and you will find a lot of flavour on your lips, which is one place we never really think of when it comes to tasting. 2. Take a small sip and rub it around your gums with your tounge, this will burn a little bit, but is well worth it afterwards. 3. Take a small sip and leave it under your tounge for 5-10 seconds. 4. Take a small sip and use your tounge to rub it around your palate. 5. The final step is where you start building your library of Agave spirits. On your tounge. Leave a small sip on top of your tounge and let is massage it for a bit. There will be a bit of burn, and for most people the burn will be in different places, this is how you remember each and every brand. If you are well-trained that is. To have some kind of reference we did the warm-up and first tasting with the most widely available Mezcal in Denmark, Lajita. Then it was onto the heavy artillery. It does not really make any sense for me to put everybody’s tasting notes and thoughts on here, so I wont. Just make sure you come to the next tasting hosted by Tres Mariachis!
Salud Amigos y Amigas, jajajaja!!