Situated along the banks of the Rio Atoyac River in the tiny village of Candelaria Yegolé (est. population 254), Aquilino Garcia Lopez is hard at work examining the Espadin agave maturing on his estate. His farm, which is situated over 3,500 feet above sea level, is surrounded by the Sierra Sur mountains and enjoys an intensely warm, dry climate along with a nutrient-rich soil, making it perfect for the maturation and cultivation of flavorful Espadin agave. The estate was constructed fifteen years ago, says Aquilino, by "my grandfather, father and me"(Aquilino is a third-generation mezcalero).
After the natural spring waters of the Rio Atoyac River have nourished his agave for nearly a decade, Aquilino searches for the most ripe and flavorful agave growing on his plantation. Then, he harvests the agave by hand and removes their hearts, or piñas, which he takes back to his distillery (the distillery doubles as his home). The piñas are then cooked in an earthen oven that was built into the ground and is completely exposed to the elements. The heat from the oven caramelizes the piñas' natural sugars and gives the piñas a slightly smoky aroma and flavor profile. Once the piñas have been roasted, they are crushed under the weight of a traditional stone wheel that is pulled by a mule (a full oven of agave will take the mule approximately four or five days to crush). The remaining agave pulp and juices are placed into tanks made of pine wood and fermented using natural, airborne yeasts for approximately one week — the actual length varies depending on the temperature at the time.
In order to craft Mezcal Vago Espadin, Aquilino distills the fermented mash twice through a 200-liter copper-pot still. The mezcal is then allowed to rest for two to three months in stainless steel tanks before it is triple filtered and bottled by hand. Each bottle of Mezcal Vago Espadin takes roughly 16.5 pounds of agave to make and each batch produces fewer than 1000 bottles. Mezcal Vago Espadin has a light aroma of sweet potatoes, citrus and flint. The aroma opens up to notes of anise, bananas and plantains, and ends with a caramel, woody finish.
In order to craft Mezcal Vago Elote, Aquilino distills the fermented mash twice before infusing it with roasted corn using a secret method that has been passed down in his family for generations. The corn, which Aquilino also sources from his own farm, adds a touch of sweet roasted nuts and doughy bread to the mezcal. After the mezcal has been infused with the corn, Aquilino distills it a third time and then allows the mezcal to rest in stainless steel tanks for sixty to ninety days. Mezcal Vago Elote has an aroma of smoky corn and minerals. The aroma opens up to notes of woody spices, honey, green tropical fruits and smoky oak, which lead to a minty finish that has a touch of papaya fruit and roasted nuts.
In order to craft Mezcal Vago Mexicano, Aquilino harvests mature Mexicano agave, which grow naturally in the village of Candelaria Yegolé. Aquilino finds the agave by hiking through the mountains of the Sierra Sur and identifying the agave growing in the valleys and forests of the region. Once he harvests the wild agave, he hand-selects each piña used to create Mezcal Vago Mexicano based on its maturity and flavor profile. The piñas from the Mexicano agave are mixed with the piñas from the Espadin agave, and are then roasted together. Much like Mezcal Vago Elote, Mezcal Vago Mexicano is made by fermenting the juices of the piñas using natural yeast and distilling them twice through Aquilino's 200-liter copper-pot still. Mezcal Vago Mexicano has an aroma of peaches and cinnamon, that lead to hints of tang, toasted vanilla and caramel. Each batch of Mezcal Vago Mexicano yields as few as 150 bottles, and Aquilino produces only three to four batches each year.
In order to craft Mezcal Vago Cuixe, Aquilino harvests wild Cuixe agave. Cuixe agave are known for their height, shape and flavor profile — they grow up to 10 feet fall and resemble long tree trunks with narrow piñas situated at the top of the agave. In addition, the piñas have sugar levels around 25%, making them incredibly sweet and flavorful. Once the agave have matured for 13 to 15 years, Aquilino roasts the trunk of the plant together with the piña for approximately four days. The agave pulp from the Cuixe agave is mixed together with a small portion of the agave pulp from the Espadin agave, and fermented using natural yeasts. Then, the wash is twice distilled before each batch is bottled by hand. Mezcal Vago Cuixe has an aroma of bananas, coconuts and tropical fruits. The aroma gives way to notes of smoke and pine on the palate, and leads to a dry, slightly sweet finish.
Each Mezcal Vago represents a unique expression of Mexico's terrior, and is made in a time-honored, traditional fashion by a single distiller who has studied the craft since childhood. Pick up a bottle of each today!
~102 (51% ABV), may vary
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Espadin: Light aroma of sweet potatoes, citrus and flint. Notes of anise, bananas and plantains with a caramel, woody finish.