Why do a lot of in the mezcal small business, the self-aggrandized professionals, and other folks supposedly in the know, shun the believed of drinking mezcal con gusano and any form of aged item be it reposado or añejo? Much more troubling is that a lot of counsel imbibers against even touching to their lips something but a blanco or joven (unaged) mezcal. This challenge is especially incomprehensive provided that corn whiskies, brandies, scotches and some wines are aged in oak barrels. And, each internationally renowned chefs and acclaimed regular Oaxacan cooks use the gusano del maguey or agave worm to flavor some of their culinary delights.
In prehistoric instances, that is prior to the mid 1990s, we have been drinking comparatively couple of forms of mezcal. With nary an exception our solutions have been basically restricted to unaged, reposado (aged in oak for at minimum a couple of months), añejo (aged in oak for no much less than a year), “with the worm,” and if we have been fortunate we could place our hands on the occasional bottle of tobalá. Choice solutions are quite various now, innumerable in truth. Lots of imbibers have either under no circumstances recognized or forgotten that top quality mezcal can come in numerous types, such as aged and infused.
Mezcal con Gusano
Mezcal con gusanso initially appeared in the marketplace decades earlier than the modern day era. It became preferred on college campuses as a low-priced way to get drunk speedy for the reason that of its comparatively higher alcohol content material, and of course the traditions and myths surrounding its imbibing carried its reputation forward. “The worm,” basically a moth larva which infests and attacks the root and heart of particular agave species [variously identified as Aegiale hesperiaris, Hypopta agavis and/or Comadia redtenbacheri] became a advertising and marketing tool for distillers, exporters, importers and distributors. But the infusion also changed the flavor of the mezcal into which it was inserted. Most gave brief shrift to thinking of how the character of the mezcal was becoming altered, and would under no circumstances think about this form of mezcal a fine sipping spirit. Maybe back then it wasn't.
But what if now you take pleasure in the nuance of mezcal which has been infused with a gusano? A couple of years ago I took a bottle of mezcal con gusano off a single of the shelves housing my collection of agave spirits. I gradually sipped it. The flavor shockingly reminded me of a couple of my favourite whiskies, peaty single malt scotches from Islay!
Now there are very good and negative mezcals with gusanos, with our assessments becoming primarily based on subjective criteria, just as there are very good and negative unaged mezcals. High quality could be impacted by, amongst other things, the form of gusano (though it is usually a single form employed to flavor mezcal), how the larva has been ready for infusion into the mezcal, the specie and sub specie of the agave employed to make the base mezcal, and the ability of the artisanal distiller. The point is, that yes this form of mezcal was probably initially marketed with a view to rising sales of the spirit for the reason that of its uniqueness, but we really should give it a likelihood, just as we would sampling various joven mezcals. Not all mezcals developed with madrecuixe, tepeztate, jabalí, tobalá and espadín are the exact same. Some we like and some we do not. You could discover the exact same issue with mezcal con gusano. And if you discover a couple of brands to your liking you could just cease spending $100 USD on a bottle of Lagavulin. So do not create off mezcal con gusano just for the reason that at this moment in history it is un-cool to like it, or your memory of it is clouded by what it meant to you years or decades ago.
Now the story of aged mezcal is completely various, given that extended ahead of the emergence of mezcal con gusano, añejos and to a lesser extent reposados have been deemed top quality sipping spirits. Fortunately in a lot of circles they nonetheless are, and certainly a lot of brands have been in a position to capitalize on the continuation of this perception. But given that the early 2000s a movement has emerged, and appears to be gathering steam, dissing aged agave spirits, mezcal in specific. The rationale goes some thing like this: they are not “regular” mezcals aging masks the all-natural flavors of mezcals which are derived from an agave specie and impacted by implies of production and tools of the trade, and microclimate and the list goes on. Therefore, we really should stay clear of drinking reposados and añejos at all expense. The proponents of these lines of believed lecture about it, disseminate their position on their internet websites, and market their “information” in print, all purporting to market the business.
What can be much more regular than a custom dating back hundreds of years? Based upon the version of history to which a single subscribes, the aging of agave spirits in oak barrels dates back to someplace among the 1500s and the 1700s, and definitely not much more lately. The oral histories I have personally taken are primarily based upon elderly palenqueros possessing recounting to me from their personal knowledge dating back to the 1940s. The present crop of brand owners and representatives have been not even born then.
The history of aging mezcal in wood basically starts with the Spanish arriving in The New Planet with brandy transported in oak casks. Lots of barrels remained in what is now Mexico. Even applying the most current dateline of the 1500s for the birth of distillation in Mexico, we discover aging. Here's why. At some point soon after distillers started generating agave spirits and storing and transporting them in clay pots, they realized that the capacity for transporting was restricted to about 70 – 80 liters for the reason that of the size of the receptacles. And given that the pots have been fragile they have been prone to breakage. Oak barrels from initially Spain became readily available for the exact same purposes, that is, storing and transporting the spirit. They became preferred for the reason that they have been bigger and much more break-resistant than the clay “cántaros.”So, if not by design and style then by default, palenqueros have been aging their spirits in oak, extended, extended ago, and shoppers have been enjoying it. Aged mezcal is regular. Query the purists who state that mezcal really should only be stored in glass. Is glass regular? No, clay is, dating earlier than oak. Clay also modifications the notes of the agave spirit. Maybe we really should distinguish traditionalists from purists.
But some of these exact same “professionals,” the purist class, drink, sell and market mezcal de pechuga. Commonly this form of mezcal has been distilled a third time, for the duration of which there is frequently a meat protein (chicken or turkey breast, rabbit or deer meat, and so forth) dangling in the upper chamber of the copper alembic or clay pot, more than which the steam passes thereby imparting a subtle alter in the spirit's nuance. Most modern distillers insert a variety of fruit, herbs and spices into the bottom pot although continuing to use the protein in the procedure. There are umpteen variations on the theme. In any occasion, the totality of these added goods substantially alters, and yes to a particular extent masks the all-natural flavor imparted by the specific agave specie, implies of production and tools of the trade. Exactly where aged agave spirit is not acceptable, mezcal de pechuga is, and is sold at handsome costs. Is there a disconnect?
There are other rationale some use for urging spirits drinkers to not drink aged mezcal:
1) “I do not sell añejo at our mezcalería for the reason that I have not identified any very good ones.” Seriously? I confident have identified some. I will not mention brand names, but there are lots of very good añejos out there developed by master distillers who take their aging seriously, resting in a single type of barrel for six months, then in an additional form for a year or two, and so forth. Of course there are palenqueros who just stick some of their joven espadín in any old whisky or wine barrel and do not take their aging seriously. But there are other folks who treat resting their mezcal in oak as an art, a accurate ability substantially the exact same as Scottish scientists employed at, for instance, Glenmorangie, with its various forms of casks and variability in quantity of years barrelling. Some of our Oaxacan palenqueros go so far as to age not only espadín, but also subspecies of much less frequent agaves such as karwinskii (i.e. barril and madrecuishe), potatorum (tobalá), and much more.
2) “There is fraud at play, with some producers placing a drop or two of caramel coloring in their supposedly aged mezcals and as a result deceiving the public into acquiring what is not actually an añejo.” Yes, this does take place. But when some thing is added to a mezcal, regulation dictates that the label indicate this, by designating the item as an abocado. And yes, often producers do not comply with the guidelines. The quick option is to taste the mezcal, and if it has an oaky or charred or whisky or some other nuance to it that is agreeable to you, and in truth you like it, then obtain it and take pleasure in it.
The current promotion of mezcal primarily based on specie and sub-specie of agave rather than the couple of categories noted at the outset, as effectively as on the specific village or district exactly where the agave was grown and processed into mezcal, has helped the business get to exactly where it is now. But the downside has been that añejos have been left behind in the wake, and a lot of who have turn into mezcal aficionados have not even had a likelihood to attempt aged item. And they would not even assume of attempting a mezcal con gusano. It just is not cool or acceptable in substantially of today's planet.
It is time we commence to embrace diversity which involves gusanos, reposados and añejos, and either ignore the naysayers or superior but inform them that their opinions are no much more valid than ours. If we, the imbibing public, attempt a mezcal with some thing in the bottle or a item that is not completely clear, and do not like it, we could not attempt it once again, or we could sample from a various brand or batch. But do not even recommend that it is not regular or of very good top quality. Let us be the arbiters. Retailers, mezcalerías and tasting rooms, really should think about carrying initially at least a bit of these goods so we can make our personal choices. Otherwise they are carrying out a disservice to these producers who are continually operating tough to attempting to make much more pleasantly palatable and diverse mezcals, and just as importantly they are restricting the solutions of their personal clientele, with out valid explanation.