Cuixe de Emigdio Jarquín Ramírez - Batch E-02-C-16
We’ve been talking about Don Emigdio Jarquín Ramírez for quite some time now and we are so honored to be able to continue to showcase his incredible style with the release of his first batch of Cuixe for Mezcal Vago.
This extremely limited 92 liter, 51.2% ABV batch of wild Cuixe was produced in the winter/spring of 2016 at Emigdio’s palenque in the Nanche district of Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz (16°39'78.7"N, 96°55'07.5"W). The harvest consisted of 149 piñas weighing 1,420 kilograms that were collected on January 26th. They were only allowed to sit for two days before being buried in an earthen oven to roast from January 28th to February 4th. The cooked agave had a Brix level of 24°. They were allowed to rest for seven days before being crushed with a stone tahona on February 11th. The crushed agave were allowed to ferment dry for four days before adding 120 liters of distilled water on February 15th, to produce a total volume of 1,558 liters of tepache. Wet fermentation was allowed to continue for five days before undergoing first distillation on a copper refrescador still. Because the initial sugar levels were slightly lower than what Emigdio usually uses, this batch had to undergo two distillation runs. The first distillation took place on February 20th and produced 200 liters of ordinario at 30% ABV. This is a yield of only 13%! This ordinario was then distilled a second time the same day, producing only 72 liters (a final yield of only 4.5%!) at 60.1% ABV. On March 4th, Emigdio blended 4 liters of colas with 20 liters of distilled water to an ABV of 41.2%. The mezcal and cola/water mixture were then both allowed to rest for another four weeks before blending 23 liters of colas/water with the mezcal to produce a final batch of 92 liters at 51.2% ABV.
What we have called Cuixe (pronounced cuishe) in the past is referred to as Bicuixe in the region surrounding Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz. When speaking with our mezcaleros, we typically refer to the agave using whatever regional term they are accustomed to, but to avoid confusion among consumers, we have tried to remain consistent when it comes to bottling. As such, although this label says Cuixe, Emigdio knows it as Bicuixe. Regardless of what it is called, it is a member of the Agave Karwinskii family. Karwinskiis are quite unique in that across the several sub-varities that exist, they all grow on stalks that can reach up to 4 feet tall with the rosette or piña growing on top of the stalk, resulting in a plant that can reach heights of up to 7 feet. Agave in the Karwinskii family can often take between 15 and 18 years to mature.
Between the different sub-varieties, there are different ratios of stalk to piña which can affect the final flavor. The starches in the stalk are structured differently, such that they do not always break down during the roasting process. As a result, in sub-varieties like Cuixe and Madrecuixe that have more stalk in relation to the piña, this can result in mezcales that do have a core of agave sweetness that most are used to, but there is an overall dry and starchy quality to the mezcales that can linger on the palate. Madrecuixe typically has a larger piña than Cuixe, resulting in mezcales that do have that starchy, grassy note often associated with Cuixe, but with a touch more sweetness and body. One reason that Madrecuixe is so named is because they often grow as solitary plants surrounded by several Cuixe, as though they are protecting, or a “mother” (madre) plant. However, the Cuixe are not part of the Madrecuixe.
The distribution of Agave Karwinskii can be seen in the map below.
*Map provided by CONABIO website
Producer: Emigdio Jarquín Ramírez
Mezcal goes back in his family at least three generations, Emigdio having learned it from his grandfather. Their horno is a conical pit dug into the earth, which can hold up to 7 tons of Espadin. Emigdio usually roasts his agave for 5-7 days, which is on the longer end of an average roast. He then lets it rest in the sun to cool for one to two weeks.
They use a cement tahona lined with rocks and pulled by mule to crush their agave. Once crushed, they use four Ocote wood fermentation vats with volumes of 1,470, 1,600, 1,600, and 1,700 liters, which usually take around three days to ferment to completion.
Refrescador Still Exterior
Refrescador Still Condensor
Distillation is done in a 300 l. copper refrescador still. Refrescador is a technique that is common to the area surrounding Miahuatlan, but Vago has never used before. The still looks similar to a copper alembique still with a stainless steel cylinder surrounding it. This cylinder is then filled with water, allowing it to cool the upper part of the still. This upper chamber now acts as a condenser and sends the alcohol vapor back down into the boiler before being heated again and passing out of the still and into the condensing coil. This method essentially allows for two distillations during a single pass through the still. Cuts are made using a carizzo to test for ABV as well as taste and smell. A full capacity 300 l. still will produce, on average, 100 l. of mezcal in roughly 14 hours.
A full roast of 700 tons will produce up to 700 l. of mezcal depending upon the which agave is being used. ABV is then adjusted by using colas that have been rested with distilled water in order to preserve taste and mouthfeel. Like all Vago mezcal, Emigdio’s goes through a simple sediment filtration through a tubular cellulose filter before bottling. The bottling is done by hand in Oaxaca City. The very light filtration is the only way the mezcal is affected between when it was made on the palenque and how it ends up in the bottle.
Location: Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz
Emigdio distills outside of Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz. We are very proud and excited to have finally found a mezcalero from this area we can put in a Vago bottle. Miahuatlán is a historically important town in mezcal production as well as where both Aquilino and Tío Rey’s families emigrated from. By adding Emigdio to the family, we are able to extend the conversation of our history and tradition even further back in time.
Emigdio’s land is in the Nanche district of Miahuatlán de Porfirio Diaz, about 2 ½ hours directly South of Oaxaca City. The palenque sits at around 4,970 ft., among gently rolling hills and shallow arroyos in a semi-arid climate. In the surrounding area grows Agave Espadín, Mexicano Verde, Tobalá, Tepeztate, Arroqueño, Pulquero, Madre Cuixe, and Bicuixe (Cuixe).
Brix - Brix is a scale of sugar content measured in grams/solution, where one degree Brix equals 1 gram of sugar per 100 grams of solution.
Ordinario - The regional term for first-run distillate. It usually has an ABV between 20 - 30% ABV. Sometimes called xixe.
Rectifiicación- The refining of xixe or ordinario through a second distillation.
Tepache - A low-alcohol mixture of agave juice, fiber and water. Tepache typically has an ABV of ~4-8%. Often referred to as mosto.
CONABIO. Agave, Mezcales, y Biodiversidad. A. Karwinskii http://www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/usos/mezcales/A_karwinskii.html
Gentry. Agave of Continental North America. The University of Arizona Press. Tucson. 2004