Saturday, March 25, 2017

A short guide to Del Maguey for whisky drinkers

Today I am moving into a subject I don't know a lot about. I went to a Del Maguey event organised by the danish importer, Juul's Engros, and tried to learn a bit. The event was a promotion for mainly local cocktail bartenders. It was hosted at the Mikkeller bar in Aarhus, and I managed to get an invitation from the boss of the Mikkeller bar. Drinking a lot of beers sometimes pays off 😈

The Mikkeller Bar has a limited (very) selection of spirits, but there is 2 bottles of Del Maguey on the shelf there, which is about a fifth or sixth of the total selection of spirits. It is a beer bar after all.

I have always been a big fan of the Del Maguey mezcals I have tried.

Del Mageys is one of the top, if not the top bottler of Mezcal.

The line-up

Mezcal is a mexican spirit made from agave . Agave is a plant that looks like a mix of artichokes and cactus. Like the artichoke, it's the heart of the plant that is used.

The best known version of mezcal is tequila, which is often mass produced and not very good. That said, quite a lot of excellent tequilas do exist. Tequila is made from blue agave, while mezcal can be made from any agave. Tequila is sometimes barrel aged, which mezcal (normally) isn't.

After harvesting the agave is roasted in a  small earth pit by hot stones for a period of days, which varies from producer to producer.  Beside some geographical restrictments (which overlap), this is the main difference between tequila and other mezcals. Tequila is often just pressure cooked.

I guess the cooking/roasting breaks down the starch to sugars. The roasting will give mezcal a slight (sometimes more than slight) smoky flavor.

The agave is then milled and fermented, with wild airborne yeast. At this point of production the only other ingredient is added, which is water. After fermentation the mash is distilled. The stilltype can vary, Clay and copper potstills is the normal, and as I understand it, it's a double destillation (normally). Hybrid stills do exist, so single destillation mezcal dom exist and I taste one further down this post. No water is added to Del Maguey after destillation, so the ABV is controlled by running a relative longer tail than compared to normal whiskyproduction.

Del Maguey (maguey means agave) is a range of mezcals produced by small family owned producers in the Oaxaca state in Mexico. This is basically farm distillers. The difference between the different mezcals comes from a range of parameters, here is some of them:

Agave variety
Roasting time
Fermentation time
Still type

At the event I tasted the following:


Chichicapa had a distinct smoky flavor and would appeal to whisky drinkers who like Ardbeg


Minero is made on clay potstills and I guess the abscence of copper is why Minero is a bit rougher, sulphury (vegetaby) and has intense flavour. This Mezcal will appeal to whisky drinkers who like Ben Nevis and Glen Scotia. One of the other participants, the cheese maker from Arla Unika, bought a bottle of this to use as ingredient in a cheese. Because it was the most intense mezcal we had that day. He was right. And it makes sense to choose this as a flavour ingredient

San Luis del Rio - Azul
A lot of sources says Mezcal's isn't made from blue agaves. They are wrong as this is. The Azul is sweeter and nice and will to whisky drinkers who like sweeter highlanders/speysiders. Think Glencadam (I did)

A dry (but also kind of sweet) mezcal. Earthy, citrusy and smoky. This and the Chicicapa were the two I found most smoky. Chicicapa was a tad bit sweeter. This will appeal to whisky drinkers who like Longrow
San Pablo Ameyaltepez
The lighest of the bunch. I found this a bit synthetic tasting, but still nice. I wonder if I thought so, becasue I was told this mezcal was single distilled on a hybrid still 😀
This will appeal to whisky drinkers who like grain whisky.


Pechuga is a rare speciality version of Minero. Pechuga means chicken. The Minero is distilled a third time. 100 liters of Minero is mixed with 100 kilograms mix of wild mountain apples and plums, plantain red bananas and pineapples, almonds and uncooked white rice. In the neck of the still the vapour of the 24 hour destillation will pass through skinless chickenbreast with bones

The result is a spicy and very complex spirit. This will appeal to whisky drinkers who like really old and delicate whiskies. Who doesn't ?

As with old and delicate whisky, this is not cheap.

Barrel aged - Santo Domingo Albarradas

This is Santo Domingo Albarradas aged for 1 year and 7 months in a Stitzel-Weller Barrell that held bourbon for 20 years. Labeled as Stitzel-Weller but presented as Pappy van Winkle. Probably because noone know what Stitzel-Weller is, and everyone knows Pappy. Except you and me off-course.

This particular cask was bottled for Maison du Whisky.

This was simply delicious. I need to source out and try the non barrel-aged Santo Domingo Albarradas to see what flavours this barrel gave to this mezcal. It has a distinct medicinal flavour I associate with pre-prohibition bourbon and ryes. I guess this will appeal to whisky drinkers who likes pre-prohibition bourbon and ryes.

100% Tobala
For some odd reason this is one of my favourite labels ever

Made from wild Tobala agave. Intense and very flavourful and the perfect finish to tasting 9 mezcals. This will appeal to whisky drinkers who like single cask, cask strength whiskies.

Big thanks to Lukas from Mikkeller for edging me in on this, and thanks to Del Maguey and Juul's Engros for hosting this.

On purpose I didn't litter this post with a lot of technical details, but the geeky reader can benefit a lot from the official website of Del Maguey

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