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Mezcal from Oaxaca Project: Five Mezcals

Each of the five mezcals included in this feature is sourced from a different village in Oaxaca's Central Valley and represents a unique expression of the village's terrior.

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Distilled from the heart of the agave plant, or piña, mezcals are known for their signature sweet and smoky flavor. In Mexico, mezcals are distilled in an entirely natural and unhurried process, often utilizing family recipes that have been passed down for generations.

The lone ingredient in mezcal — the agave plant — requires seven to twenty years to mature before being harvested. While a few varieties of agave have been domesticated, others must be harvested from the wild, rugged terrains of Mexico's tiny villages. A single batch of mezcal, which can produce as little as 1,000 bottles, begins with the harvesting of 10 tons (or 20,000 pounds) of piñas.

The piñas are cooked for several days in large, earthen pits lined with hot stones, and then crushed under the weight of a massive stone wheel, usually drawn by a horse or burro. After the piñas are crushed, the pulp is placed in a large wooden vat, together with ambient yeast, in order to begin fermentation. After several days, expert mezcaleros determine by taste, smell and sight when the wash is ready for distillation.

When the wash is ready, the mezcaleros distill it through traditional copper or clay stills that are heated over wood fires. The journey from the farm, or hacienda, to bottle is long and arduous, but every step is conducted with the careful attention and pride necessary to produce a complex yet smooth mezcal.

Mezcal From Oaxaca is a project created to support a group of independent mezcaleros bound by a common love for the land. Each mezcal is sourced from a unique region in Oaxaca's Central Valley and represents a singularly exquisite expression of the village's terrior. We have carefully selected five different mezcals from the Mezcal From Oaxaca Project that best represent the region and its complex ethno-geographic spectrum.

Banhez Mezcal Tradicional Agave Type: BarrilRegion: San Agustín Amatengo and San Martín Lachiila, Ejutla de Crespo, Oaxaca Maestro Mezcalero: José Espinoza García Proof: 80 (40% ABV) Tasting Notes: Fresh fruits with hints of citrus, banana and a touch of raisins.

Koch El Mezcal Wild AgaveAgave Type: Blend of Crial, Tobasiche, Tobala and de Lumbre AgaveRegion: San Baltazar Guelavila and San Dionisio OcotepecMaestro Mezcalero: Don Cosme and Cirilo Hernandez Proof: 94 (47% ABV)Tasting Notes: Green herbs and citrus, with notes of cooked agave and a hint of smoke.

Mezcal Mano NegraAgave Type: Tobala Region: San Luis del Rio, OaxacaMaestro Mezcalero: Jorge Hernandez RameriezProof: 96 (48% ABV)Tasting Notes: Nose of cloves and cinnamon spice. Flavor has hints of exotic tropical fruits, particularly coconuts and pineapples, followed by a spicy, warm finish.

Mezcal Marca NegraAgave Type: Espadin Region: San Luis del Rio, OaxacaMaestro Mezcalero: Isaias Martinez JuanProof: 100 (50% ABV)Tasting Notes: Delicate notes of fresh fruit, herbs. Finishes sweet and smoky, with a touch of spice.

Yuu Baal Madrecuixe MezcalAgave Type: Madrecuixe (incredibly rare) Region: San Juan del Río, Tlacolula, OaxacaMaestro Mezcalero: Nemesio Martinez Proof: 96 (48% ABV)Tasting Notes: Dry and earthy, with notes of apple, quince, vanilla, caramel, maguey and violets. Body is slightly oily, with hints of hard candy and smoke.

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