I could spend an entire day talking to you about mezcal because the subject is so vast, almost inexhaustible, and above all more and more controversial with the arrival of celebrities in the tequila and mezcal business. So I'll try to make it as simple as possible!
I tasted mezcal for the first time 14 years ago, and since then, I have continued to seek, taste, explore and above all be interested in the vast culture that encompasses this ancestral Mexican drink.
What is mezcal ?
To put it simply, it is an alcohol produced from cooked, fermented and finally distilled agaves.
Yes, Tequila is also produced in the same way. Tequila is actually also a Mezcal. The word mezcal means in Nahuatl (the common language of the Aztecs): Cooked Agaves.
This drink is ancient and even today, there are many theories about the birth of this fascinating drink which is so diverse in its aromas and production methods.
How is mezcal produced?
Before you can make mezcal, you first need a raw material, agave. This plant emerged millions of years ago, and today there are more than 200 varieties endemic to Mexico, 38 of which are used for the production of mezcal.
Tequila is produced from a single variety of agave, the so-called Blue agave, Weber.
Agave can be cultivated, or collected in the wild. But above all it must be mature, and for this, the plant can take between 8 and 12 years, or sometimes even 20, 30 years!
Once mature, the plant is harvested. Growers cut the leaves to keep only the heart of the plant growing above the ground.
To make 1L of artisanal mezcal, you need between 50 and 80 kg of agaves.
The agave hearts are then taken to the "distillery" commonly called palenque (Pa-Lin-Ké), which is often a simple cabin not far from the family house, or sometimes hidden in the middle of the forest. I would like to point out that we are talking here about mezcal produced in an artisanal and ancestral way without industrial methods which also exist.
Naturally, the plant is not sweet, it is even solid like wood and very stinging. To obtain sugar, you absolutely must cook the plant.
To do this, producers use an age-old technique of cooking underground in conical ovens in which they place the agave hearts on fiery stones, and cover everything with earth for around 5 days.
Once cooked, the plants are left to rest for a few days, before being crushed to separate the deliciously sweet and slightly smoky pulp from the indestructible fibers of the plant.
This operation is done either with a mill powered by a horse, or by hand using bats weighing approximately 15 kg.
The extracted pulp as well as the now separated and crushed fibers are then put into fermentation vats made of wood, sometimes plastic, stone and even sometimes terracotta and other surprising materials.
The fermentation of sugars into alcohol is spontaneous, carried out by indigenous yeasts present in the air. They are what really give mezcal such a particular and varied identity. They are obviously accompanied by the mastery of the man known as maestro mezcalero having earned this title after several decades of work.
Once fermentation is complete, the must is around 5-7% alcohol. Now it will be time to distill.
The distillation is done in two stages. The first, the maestro puts all the fermentation in the pot of the still without filtering the fibers. It will extract the base of mezcal which we call ordinario. The second distillation consists of refining the ordinario in order to obtain Mezcal.
After that, it's time to taste. Some producers distill to the level of consumption, others use distillation tails (I will talk about this in a future article) more concentrated in water (and other compounds) in order to reduce between 45 and 49% alcohol.
Many purists and producers say that mezcal reduced to water is no longer mezcal despite the appellation's authorization to practice this technique which allows both a less strong alcohol and also more quantities to be obtained. bottle.
At Bibine, we only have mezcals representative of the appellation and respect for century-old traditions that we would not want to change for anything in the world to please our palates. It would be like modifying a great classic of French cuisine to please Americans ;).
I hope you are more comfortable already! Following the next number !
Don't forget that you can find all our mezcals here:
See you soon!