Agave

Review: Del Maguey Pechuga Mezcal by Jason Hambrey

ABV
49%
Aging
None
Recipe
See below
Distiller Del Maguey (Santa Catarina Minas)

This is a limited production mezcal, made with both agave and also wild mountain plums and apples - distillation only occurs when these are in season. The process is quite intense: first, Santa Catarina Minas mezcal is made from Augustfolia Haw Agave, roasted for 4 to 5 days with mezquite, huamachil, and eucalytus wood. It is double distilled in a Clay still, and then, they go nuts. They place a hundred kilos of mezcal in the still with 100 kilos of wild mountain plums and apples, red plaintain bananas, pineapples, almonds, and uncooked rice. Next, a whole skinless, bony chicken breast is suspended in the still and a 24 hour distillation process takes place. The name, "pechuga" means chicken breast.

This has to be one of the world's craziest spirits.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Cucumber, soy sauce, fried tofu, pepper, mint – it reminds me much of the smells from Japanese ramen restaurants. Crispy Chinese duck made with 5-spice powder, and a bit of anise seed candy. The palate is quite big, which suits it well – with more of that crispy duck coming in. I am glad it is at 49%, it would be a bit watery otherwise. Finishes with 5 spice powder, some mint, licorice root, and green peppercorns. Not as complex as some other mezcal offerings, but it isn’t too hot at 49% and the body that gives to the vegetal pepperiness, fruit, and candy, makes it quite appealing.

Assessment: Recommended. How could I not? ….

Value: Low. This often comes in at a decent clip.


Review: Del Maguey Vida Mezcal by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
Augustofolia Haw Agave
Distiller Del Maguey (San Luis del Rio)

Del Maguey is a brand owned by Sazerac, and they, like many mezcal brands, try to highlight the characteristics of different mezcal regions creating a series of single village mezcals. This mezcal is made from agave roasted with mesquite, quebrachi, and huamuchil wood for 3-8 days and distilled in a copper pot still.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

The most reminiscent of smoky whisky of all the mezcals I’ve tasted, but, not gonna lie – a bit of a manure scent to this one, like manure drying in the sun. As a friend once said…”however, a very sterile manure”. Very sharp on the palate, and surprisingly clean, without any of those detracting notes on the nose. Chorizo sausage, and drying and smoky, like burning fall leaves, in the mouth too, but a bit light.  A long, integrated finish with some light fruit like starfruit, a bit of rubber, and lots of earthy notes. And a bit of saccharin. Interesting, and good to drink, but this is something I’d likely mix more than sip, and it would be fantastic for that.

Assessment: Recommended.

Value: Low. A bit on the high side for an unaged spirit, if you find it for $100 as I did in Ontario.


Review: Zacbe Mezcal Reposado by Jason Hambrey

ABV
39.6%
Aging
3 months
Recipe
Espadin Agave
Distiller N/A

This is quite the Mezcal - just a nose of it and you will see so! It is one of my best and most interesting mezcal experiences, though I know very little about the Mezcal itself. I suspect they may be distilling flavor components other than just agave, or else they are brilliant at creating flavour! A few whisky fanatics absolutely loved this when we tried it together. It is generally available in Ontario.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: LV02

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Fruity, exotic, and creamy – with a bit of a green mango smell to it. Mango sherbet, pineapple sherbet, peppery, and a bit sweet - but not super smoky. A bit of a rubber-factory type scent to it all. Big, smoky, and creamy on the palate with a huge load of fruit as well. I’m thinking this might work fabulously with a cigar…quite nice, really, it is. Very complex, but not super smoky. So interesting with the candy-creaminess….and the smoke. Lightly drying on the finish. One of the creamiest non-cream liquers I have tasted. This has been a huge winner at tastings – I’ve tasted this alongside whiskies I’ve scored in the 90s and it has still come out the majority winner among whisky enthusiasts and experts. If you see one, I’d get it. I’ve also tasted this one in flights of mezcals, and after tasting it, the others taste rather bland, to show you the power of flavour here. It does fairly well with air in the bottle as well.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: High. Nice stuff at a good price!


Review: Mezcales de Leyenda Oaxaca by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% Augustfolia Agave
Distiller N/A (San Juan del Rio, Mexico)

This is one of the most easily available Mezcals in Ontario, and a higher quality one of those available. This bottle is actually what attracted me to Mezcal / not only on its own but also as a fantastic mixer.

This is produced by the Mezcales de Leyenda brand, who produce different mezcals from different areas of Mexico to highlight the characteristics of each. This comes from Oaxaca, from San Juan del Rio where the mezcal is both distilled and where the agave to produce the mezcal is grown. It is made from 100% Espadin agave, after being cooked 3 days in a lava rock pit, being crushed by a horse drawn stone tahona, and being fermented in open air fermenters for 72 hours. Double distilled, certified organic and fair trade. Good stuff!


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

This was the first mezcal that really fascinated me. Creamy, smoky, fruity – if you haven’t had mezcal it is definitely worth the experience. An absolutely top-rate mixer. Smoke, agave, vegetal, with a fantastic pepper to it. Vegetal, earthy, smoky, and yet very clean.  Castrol oil, pepper, cucumber, mac and cheese with leeks and bacon…clean, long, and delicious…and a bit dry on the finish. A light, vegetal and smoky finish. I wish many whiskies would come off this complex at the still. It does, however, lose smokiness with time and air in the bottle – beware.

Highly Recommended. I find this stuff quite clean and smoky, in a way that is quite appealing.

Value: Average to high. It’s my pick for what I can usually get in Ontario.


Review: Los Sieste Misterios Doba-Yej Mezcal by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% Doba-Yej Agave
Distiller Sieste Misterios (Santiago Matatlán, Mexico)

Mezcal is a very interesting spirit - it is made in Mexico from Agave, but has fewer restrictions than Tequila (Tequila is actually a subset of Mexcal). A big difference is that Mezcals can be quite smoky because the agave hearts are roasted in ovens before being fermented and distilled, supplying rich, smoky, vegetal notes. Mezcal quality is widely varied - some of them are absolutely terrible. This Mezcal is double distilled in a copper pot still.

Los Sieste makes mezcals from different agaves to highlight their differences. This is made from Doba-Yej Agave.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Lot DBY 08/15; bottle 280/1213

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

Creamy, with a sharp, slightly raw side to it. As often with mezcals, this has a bright, very creamy fruity side to it which really enhances complexity. Roasted malt, celery, roasted tomatos, durian (taste, not smell), roasted black pepper. Sweet and spicy on the palate, with celery seed, dry, crisp grass, and a compelling dryness.  Quite decent, and on the more affordable side of Mezcals that come through Ontario, but not as put together as many of the mezcals I encounter.

Assessment: Recommended. There are better mezcals out there, but this one is quite decent and I do like my mezcal…

Value: Average. Not a bad price for this, and mezcal is hard to find in Canada.


Review: Cazadores Tequila Reposado by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Reposado (2 - 12 months)
Recipe
100% Blue Agave
Distiller Bacardi Y Cia (Arandas, Mexico)

One thing I do really like about Mexico is that the distillery has to be written on the bottle - with Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) codes. (See here.) I wish whisky had the same...it might cut out quite a bit of misleading or illegitimate marketing, which is everywhere in the whisky world.

The stag on the bottle comes from the deer which grazed among the blue agave plants outside the house of Jose Maria, who founded the brand. The tequila is double distilled, and double fermented (like wine).


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Quite candied on the nose, with some creamy and spicy notes as well.  Dry and spicy, with cilantro, and rising woody spice through to the peppery, methol, fresh orange, toffee, and creamy finish. Fairly clean, and also a bit sweet (too much perhaps). The finish also has some dried berries. Overall, again, no bad off notes – but lacking complexity I search for.

A decent tequila.

Value: Average. This sits in the mid-range of tequila prices, and is a decent buy.


Review: Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
>1 year
Recipe
100% Blue Agave
Distiller Tequila Sauza (Tequila, Mexico)

I picked this one up in the Mexico duty free in Mexico city after tasting a bunch of different tequilas. It is aged to be quite woody - four months in deep charred oak barrels, then an additional two months in specially toasted barrels. And there might be a whisky barrel in their too, but I can't get a clear story. Maybe I liked this one because I like whisky more than tequila though....definitely has some parallels. I like to taste this one blind in whisky tastings to see if I can trick people.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

This is very oaky – oak, peppermint, light bourbon aromas, vanilla, pickled jalapeno, grilled pepper….the palate is creamy and sweet, full of vanilla and asparagus before leading into a wave of oak and classic tequila flavours underneath. If you like whisky and want a tequila to start with, this is terrific – though very oak driven which squashes some of the agave’s impact. But, I really like it…the finish is dry, spicy, and oaky. I like to throw this one in at whisky tastings for fun…all you “smooth” word lovers would throw it in here.

Assessment: Highly Recommended. On a taste basis, this is a “recommended” but I find it so unique and it appeals to many non-tequila drinkers because of the oak - so I recommend.

Value: High. A buy that I recommend.


Review: El Jimador Tequila Reposado by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Reposado (2 - 12 months)
Recipe
100% Blue Agave
Distiller Brown Forman Tequila Mexico (Amatitan, Mexico)

At the Mexico airport duty free, I tasted countless tequilas, and the bottle I chose to go away with was this El Jimador – one of the cheapest offerings, but a nice clean distillate. A jimador is a type of Mexican farmer who harvests agave plants. Like many tequilas, it is made from 100% blue agave - known as the best type of agave for making tequila. El Jimador is a Brown Forman brand (they also own Jack Daniels and Canadian Mist).


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

Beef jerky, citrusy, and some brilliant oranges, agave, fresh fennel, cumin, and menthol. I do love the vegetal and spicy character of tequila. Jalapeno juice, peppermint, green cardamom…The palate has lots of pepper notes, mustard, full of agave and more black pepper and beef jerky.  Finishes with some black pepper, more agave, and arugula and spinach.  It’s not brimming with complexity, but it is extremely clean and there aren’t any negative notes which I often find with cheaper tequilas. My choice mixer for a soft tequila in cocktails.

Value: Average. One of the better cheaper tequilas.


Review: Casamigos Reposado Tequila by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
American Oak; 7 months
Recipe
100% Blue Agave
Distiller Productos Finos De Agave (Jesus Maria, Mexico)

Exploring different spirits is something I always enjoy, and throwing in good Tequilas to tastings is always interesting (though lots of folk have had too much experience with bad tequila to appreciate it...). I bought this one before even hearing about it thanks to a medal from the New York International Spirits Competition - a rare spirits competition which doesn't give out awards like candy - only about 50% of entries are awarded a medal (most competitions give out medals for nearly all of the entries).

The brand was founded by Clooney and a business partner, and the tequila is made at the same distillery as the well known Clase Azul, Avion, and others. The reposado ("rested") designation means that the tequila was aged between 2 months and a year - this one, apparently, for 7 months.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Sour, vegetal and spicy on the nose – pickled jalapenos, cilantro’s soapiness, dill, black pepper, vanilla, and freshly charred white oak – and some fresh, creamy tropical fruits emerge – like guanabanas. The palate has white pepper, agave, celery, and a bit more cilantro – a very nice vegetal and spicy balance with a bit of a buttery feel to it. Quite restrained, and balanced. Slightly sweet.

Finishes in a vegetal fashion with some dryness, and a bit of white pepper, with some tropical fruits emerging after the initial fade.  Slight saccharin. The tropical fruit notes bring in quite a lot of diversity and balance to the tequila, and make it quite interesting. I quite enjoy sipping this. Very complex.

Assessment: Recommended. One of the better tequilas in the Canadian market, and it’s quite decent stuff. I like it more than the “highly recommended” hornitos black barrel, but that got a higher recommendation because of uniqueness, not necessarily quality.

Value: Average.