Can spirits express terroir? In the case of mezcal, the answer is yes. Ron Cooper, the founder of Del Maguey single-village mezcals, explains to the Los Angeles Times that “the vocabulary of mezcal is more like the vocabulary of wine than spirits,” considering they convey place, climate and tradition. This is why his single-village designations are an important detail in the delineation of mezcal bottlings—each village produces a different mezcal indicative of its environment.
Artisanal mezcal differs from its cousin tequila in that it is made in small batches, often in remote villages at high elevation and can be made from 28 different varieties of agave. (Tequila is made strictly from blue agave.) To aficionados, mezcal’s ancient heritage and flavor complexity—family recipes passed down through generations, its particular smokiness—put it in a category of its own amongst spirits.
Mezcal has gained popularity over the past twenty years, especially in Los Angeles thanks to Cooper and mezcal-minded bars like Las Perlas, but remains on the fringe of American beverage lists. Perhaps wine lovers will become the new champions for the terroir-driven spirit, but no need to push it; as the saying goes, “You don’t find mezcal; mezcal finds you.” [The Los Angeles Times] [Photo: Flickr/John Loo]