Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mezcal (Joven) Side X Side Blind Spring 2016 Taste-Off

With mezcal in sort of a holding pattern at the moment - with both new proposals NOM-070 and NOM-199 literally hovering over Mexico - I felt such a review was long over-due. If you have no clue what I am writing about just click over to my last post. It explains just some of the tactical maneuvering and politicking taking place behind the agave based alcohol spirits 'scene' in Mexico. We will not attempt to use the new categories suggested in NOM-070 to tag the particular brands after the tasting: 1). mezcal (industrial); 2). mezcal artesanal; and 3). mezcal ancestral. It's safe to say that most of these brands fall into 2 or 3 - or somewhere in-between artesanal and ancestral. If a brand or anyone disagrees with our assessment it can and will be corrected. Clay copitas, jicaras and Glencairn whisky glasses were used. Before sipping a dab of each mezcal was placed on the dorsum part of our hands for a quick initial first impression. 

Group 1:

Brand "B" - Dorsum: earthy - musty herbal (ginger?) - pipe tobacco - salty ocean spray? Aroma: roasted agave, very earthy, old leather, spicy nuttiness (cardamom?), subtle sweetness, flinty, briny, smoky tobacco, faint citrus note (orange rind?) Flavour: fresh cooked agave, some minerality, there's that spicy nuttiness (cardamom?), faint tobacco, hint of smoke, salty-caramelized sugar? Very oily upon entry that nicely coats the mouth accompanied with mild a numbness. A citrus herbal note lingers in the back - hard to peg. Finish: long - sort of grabs on for a bit then softens - with faint traces of flavours mentioned above but that cooked agave lingers on. Definitely worthy.

Brand "L" - Dorsum: perfumy - floral (rose?) - herbaceous. Aroma: earthy, faint roasted agave, hay?, wet clay, plaster?, faint fruit (pear?), some fennel or anise, traces of smoke, floral (rose again?), some spiciness. Flavour: cooked agave, very earthy (dirt), green apple?, herbal (more anise), rose hips?, spice (cinnamon), hint of ash. Semi-oily upon entry - that transitions from sweet agave to a slight alcohol sting to dry tart (cherry?) snap at the back of the mouth. Some lip, gum and mouth numbness - some of the flavour nuances rolled up to the nasal passage. Finish: long - faint smokiness, a dry spicy sweetness returns toward the back of the mouth and throat. The lingering burn is actually nice and soft. There is a lot of complexity going on with this one.

Brand "G" - Dorsum: deep earthiness - worn old leather - briny. Aroma: fresh roasted agave, grassy, mushroom? (dried morel?), some herbal, citrus, wet slate?, hint of scorched peat? subtle alcohol. Flavour: soft roasted agave, very earthy, black olives, mushroom?, overripe fruit(s) (banana and apricot?), a soft smoky wood (cedar?) note. Very viscous upon entry with mild lip, gum and mouth numbness - get a spicy nutty thing and some alcohol in the back. Finish: medium long, mild sweetness, fruity (banana and apricot?), subtle ash hint, notice that spicy nutty thing more, while maintains that earthiness. Where did the olive, mushroom, nutty notes come from?  Definitely enjoyable while many flavours keeps you guessing. 

Brand "E" - Dorsum: herbaceous - beef-jerky? - hints of fruit (melon?) - musky pipe tobacco? Aroma: loads of fresh cooked agave, cheese (parmesan?), lemongrass, spicy cinnamon hard candy (think Hot Tamales), buried under all of that is subtle scorched mesquite (reminiscent of carne asada bbq?) Flavour: roasted agave, minerality (wet rocks?), mild beef-jerky?, spicy cinnamon. Semi-oily upon entry - pleasant numbness on the lips, gums and mouth - all flavours  mentioned act in unison fairly well - the beef-jerky note lingers somewhere in the back? Finish: long - dry - soft roasted agave - tobacco again? and can't help but notice that beef-jerky component. This definitely could be a meal substitute. Hats off to the master distiller and palenque. 

Group 2:

Brand "I" - Dorsum: herbal (pine?) - flinty. Aroma: strong roasted agave, burnt caramel?, wet rocks, herbal (rosemary or pine?), floral (daffodil?). tobacco (lit cigar?), incense (burnt sandalwood?) Flavour: loads of roasted agave, sweet (raw honey), some spiciness (black pepper), orange rind, caramelized brown sugar. Semi-oily upon entry - sharp numbness in the mouth - lips tingle, that softens out with some sweetness. Notice a smoky citrus spicy component at the back of the mouth and down the throat. Finish: medium - somewhat dry with some saltiness - maintains some earthiness, almost find a smoky menthol component. Would make a great dessert spirit or maybe an apéritif. Pleasing.

Brand "D" - Dorsum: ripe fruit (mango?) - floral. Aroma: cooked agave, butter & honey, mild smoke - hint of sulphur, winter rye seed?, minty, vanilla?, sugared mango, yellow dandelion? Flavour: loads of roasted agave, scorched earth, fruitiness (there's that mango again), herbal-mint (marjoram?), cinnamon? Viscous upon entry with a smoky sweet tangy thing going on - roll a sip around the mouth - with mild numbness on lips. gums and mouth rooftop - notice a tug of cinnamon-mango in the back area. Finish: long and pleasant, oily, almost chewy with some lingering cinnamon notes? Nicely done.

Brand "H" - Dorsum: spicy - herbal - leather - fruit (apricot?). Aroma: roasted agave, earthy (wet clay?), layered herbal notes (clove and sage?), citrus (ripe orange), heather honey, varnish?, mild almost soft smokiness, fruity. Flavour: roasted agave, earthy (wet clay?), briny, vegetal (spinach?), adhesive (Elmer's glue-stick?), nice clove note and hint of smoke and alcohol in the back. Really viscous upon entry - with a not to subtle stinginess and numbing of the lips, gums and mouth that eventually mellows out nicely with sweet citrus notes (sort of reminds me of biting into a raw serrano chile then eating a slice of orange dabbed in yellow honey?) - then out of nowhere notice some epazote? Finish: long - mild alcohol bite - spicy and herbal. Really impressed with the intensity and some odd flavours. Very challenging.

Brand "A" - Dorsum: earthy - very herbacious - mild fruit (citrus). Aroma: earthy (wet clay?), mild sweetness (raw honey), herbal (fennel?), fruit (almost acetone?). Flavour: roasted agave, spicy (pepper), smoky, flinty, mango with ripe citrus tones (lime and orange peel?), and a subtle smokiness. Semi-oily upon entry - roll a sip around the mouth - and get a nice unison of above mentioned flavours accompanied with a lingering numbness in the whole mouth. Noticed some black licorice at the back-end of the mouth. Finish: long - dry with an earthy bite. Very pleasing. 

Group 3:

Brand "F" - Dorsum: briny - spicy - grassy - leather. Aroma: roasted agave, vegetal (radish?), floral (chamomile?), barbecued jalapeno, herbal (chamomile tea?), slight ash, burnt cedar?, mild sweetness, Flavour: roasted agave, earthy, spicy (jalapeno?), citrus (orange?), nutty espresso (salty toasted almond with vanilla?), Semi-oily upon entry - mild numbness in the mouth - with a spicy herbal, smoky ash, burnt wood thing lingering in the back. Finish: medium, soft alcohol bite - somewhat tart - fruity - nutty. Not overtly complex but pleasant. 

Brand "J" - Dorsum: herbal ( thyme?) - butter - peppermint tea. Aroma: mild roasted agave, earthy (wet rocks?), cotton candy?, green apple, fig newton?, minty tobacco?, Flavour: fresh cooked agave, buttery, slight brininess, Semi-oily upon entry - sharp numbness in the mouth that mellows out with some sweetness. Notice a smoky herbal (pine?) note at the back of the mouth and down the throat. Finish: medium - somewhat dry - maintains some earthiness, almost find a smoky menthol component. Would make a great dessert spirit or maybe an apéritif. Pleasing.

Brand "K" - Dorsum: earthy - smoky (slightly burnt cedar wood?) - medicinal/floral (eucalyptus). Aroma: roasted agave, earthy, slightly herbal (oregano?), aloe vera sap?, mild alcohol. Flavour: lots of roasted agave, fresh rich earthiness, some sweetness, anise, ripe pear, Semi-oily upon entry - flinty - soft numbness on the lips, gums and mouth - accompanied with a warm, aromatic, slightly bitter, and camphoraceous taste (eucalyptus?) in the back of the mouth and throat. Finish: medium to long - dry - salty, tangy, smoky (kind of like old style barbecue potato chips?), hint of alcohol. It was a symphony of congenial flavors.

Brand "C" - Dorsum: musky - old leather - sweet dry hay - herbal - smoky homemade barbecue sauce? Aroma: cooked ripe agave, herbal, (dried lavender?), earthy (hint of scorched peat?), honeysuckle nectar?, subtle alcohol. Flavour: nice roasted agave, slight grassiness, spicy (serrano chile?), minty, hint of rosemary, white pepper, mild sweetness, citrus (orange peel?). Semi-oily upon entry - mild tingling on the lips and in the nasal passage, some numbness on the gums and mouth - peppery spiciness and mild smokiness drifts away when a sweet honey like taste comes from nowhere (honeysuckle nectar?). Finish: medium - dry - hint of alcohol while maintaining some fresh earthiness. Could gently sip this all night with tacos, salchichas and papas.

Having enjoyed these mezcals for some time and accumulated so so many tasting notes, decided to randomly select and break them down into three groups to revisit. Decided that one group per day was plenty to avoid any palate fatigue. It was a joy to revisit some that we forgot about and surprised that some aromas and flavours had changed somewhat, but all in all these are some solid offerings. It definitely reminds you that mezcal is kicking tequila's ass in the complexity department. Some of these are available outside of Mexico.

The particular brands are: Guelaxu cuishe 48% Abv. (A), La Orden Del Sol espadin 45% Abv. (B), Lagrimas de Delores durangensis 45% Abv. (C), La Medida tobala 47% Abv. (D),  Augurio tobala 47% Abv. (E), Bosscal durangensis 42% Abv. (F), Don Esther papalome 54% Abv. (G), La Porfiria papalote 52% Abv. (H), Rio Revuelto ensamble (50% espadín & 50% madrecuixe) 47% Abv. (I), Barro de Cobre espadin 43% Abv. (J), Casa Crespo madrecuixe 50% Abv. (K), El Rey de Matatlán madrecuixe 50% Abv. (L). 

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