Review: 4 Mezcals from Craft Distillers – Mezcalero #18 and #19, Mezcalero Special #3, and Los Nahaules Metodo Antiguo
A full quartet of special mezcals from our friends at Craft Distillers, each with its own special provenance. We’ll discuss the particulars of each one in turn.
Mezcalero Release #18 – “Don Valente’s masterful blend of Espadin with three wild/semi-wild agaves — Bicuishe, Madrecuishe, and Mexicano. This beauty spent 4 years in tank.” Savory, peppery, almost gamy at times, it’s very “wild” indeed. The nose is quite sharp and full of mushroom notes, with a palate heavy with notes of teriyaki beef jerky, more black pepper, and grilled portobellos. A moderate smoke pervades all of this, never quite integrating with the whole, and leading to a funky, vegetal-heavy finish. 94 proof. B- / $96
Mezcalero Release #19 – “Don Baltazar Cruz Gonzales in San Luis del Rio beautifully distills Cirial & wild Espadin, then spends 2+ years in tank.” This one’s quite a bit brighter, with more citrus on the nose and on the palate. Here the smoky notes are folded well into an experience that brings together ruddy spices, forest floor, and lemongrass into a playful whole. Sunny and fresh, it is lively on the tongue but soulful on a finish that offers notes of campfire smoke, toasted marshmallows, and a squeeze of citrus juice on top of it all. Well balanced and quite refreshing. 95.6 proof. A- / $96
Mezcalero Special Bottling Release #3 – “Genuinely special mezcal, hand-distilled in May 2015, by Rodolfo Juan Juarez in San Juan del Rio. Wild tobala (agave potatorum) is collected in the nearby mountains, whose soils contain limestone. Rested in tank for 2 years.” The nose is spicy and smoky, but the palate is gentle and fresh — absolutely full of fruit, running to apples and pears and bananas, plus a bit of cinnamon and toasty pie crust notes thrown in for good measure. On the finish, everything comes together in beautiful fashion, a celebration of sweet and smoky in perfect harmony, something like a fancy dessert at a five-star restaurant. Hard to put down, it’s the essence of what good mezcal should taste like. 97 proof. A / $135
Los Nahuales Metodo Antiguo – This is a different animal, commissioned to be produced in the fashion that was popular before regulations in 1994 changed things — namely, before ’94, the tails of a distillation run were used to bring mezcal to proof instead of water, which is now required. So here’s a throwback to those days, proofed with tails. Minimal smoke on the nose might have you wondering if this is mezcal or a standard tequila; particularly given its pungent, herbal agave notes and punches of black pepper. The smoky character is more evident on the palate, though it’s balanced by lots of sugarcane sweetness, juicy citrus, and touches of savory thyme. There’s lots going on here, which makes it all the more engaging. Though the body is slightly gummy, it’s a small ding on an otherwise well-balanced, vibrant mezcal. 104.8 proof. A- / $72