Next in our series of Special Release small batch runs is a tribute to our friends in the East Bay. Batch A-02-MCM-16, or batch Curry-30, is a thank you to a community of die-hard agave fanatics that have had our backs since practically the beginning. This incredible mezcal was distilled by Aquilino García López at his palenque in Candelaria Yegolé, Oaxaca (16°29'41.36"N, 96°18'38.69"W). Curry-30 is a 162 liter batch produced from a 49%/51% ensamble of 493 KG of Madre Cuixe and 503 KG of Mexicano.
Only True Agave Nerds Need Concern Themselves With This Paragraph
The agave were harvested from the area surrounding the palenque as well as from the steep river canyons surrounding Candelaria Yegole and then roasted from January 6th - 9th. They were uncovered and allowed to rest for nine days before being crushed with a tahona and then open-fermented with ambient yeasts in Pine wood vats, without water, for three days between January 18th - January 21st. River water was then added and the tepache was allowed to ferment for an additional five days between January 21st - January 26th, producing 2,040 liters of mosto. Curry-30 was then distilled on 300 liter copper alembic stills. The first run produced 315 liters of ordinario at 27.7% ABV. This was then distilled a second time, producing 137 liters of mezcal at 60.5% ABV. We then mixed the first 10 liters of colas at 28.1% ABV with 25 liters of river water that was passed through our stills. Aquilino allowed this mixture and the mezcal to rest until March 2nd before blending 28 liters of the cola/water mixture to the mezcal to achieve a final volume of 162 liters of mezcal at 51.6% ABV. The use of a mixture of colas and water to bring his mezcal down to proof allows him to achieve an ABV that we believe really brings out the best notes of each agave varietal, while not producing a finish that can feel washed out, or watered down. This technique truly preserves the aromatic qualities of the mezcal as well as mouthfeel.
Agave Madre Cuixe
Agave Madre Cuixe is one of several varieties of the Agave Karwinskii family. These agave typically grow on stalks that can reach up to 4 feet tall with the rosette or pina 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. While Cuixe is the much more common sub-variety in the slopes surrounding Candelaria Yegole, every so often, Aquilino is able to procure enough Madre Cuixe to produce a special batch.
Between the different sub-varieties, there are different ratios of stalk to pina 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 Madre Cuixe that have more stalk in relation to the pina, 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. Madre Cuixe typically has a larger pina than Cuixe, resulting in mezcales that do have that starchy, grassy note often associated with Cuixe, but with a touch more sweetness and body.
The distribution of Agave Karwinskii can be seen in the map below.
*Map provided by CONABIO website.
There are several different varieties of Agave Mexicano and the name can often be used in different areas to describe agave in different families. For Aquilino, Agave Mexicano is used to describe a member of the Agave Rhodacantha family. Aquilino uses Agave Mexicano Penca Corta which has shorter, broader leaves than Agave Espadín At maturity it is about 30% smaller than an Espadín and takes 7-10 years to mature. These agave typically have less sugar content at the time of harvest than Espadín, producing lighter, dryer and more floral notes. Mezcales from Mexicano can often be very delicate with long finishes. The geographic distribution of A. Rhodacantha is represented in the map below by the brown coloration.
*Map provided by CONABIO website.
Producer: Aquilino García López
Location: Candelaria Yegolé, Oaxaca
The palenque is on Aquilino’s ranch where he lives full time. He and his father moved it to its current location 15 years ago. It has moved around from nearby locations over the years. He believes his family has been making Mezcal for at least five generations. Aquilino and his son Mateo do nearly all of the work themselves.
The fermentation vats are made of pine and hold up to 1200 liters. The cooked agave and water ferment from the natural airborne yeasts in the air. No additional ingredients are used to make the mezcal other than agave and water.
Each batch ferments for around a week. This varies depending on the ambient temperature at the time of fermentation as well as the sugar content of the agave being fermented. Aquilino distills his fermented mash before all of the sugar has fermented. This is sooner than other mezcalero’s’ techniques. He uses six fermentation vats. Aquilino has an three ale bid copper pot stills that have a 300-liter capacity. He makes all the separations (cuts) by smell and taste. All of Aquilino’s mezcals are twice distilled. Aquilino’s mezcals have a definite style. Bright, clean and bold without too much smoke. They have less bottom end (tails) than other mezcal lines, due in part to his “narrow” cuts on the still; in other words, what Aquilino takes out of his mezcal, other producers may leave in. This really lets the subtle notes of the agave shine through on the front end of the palate. All of Aquilino’s mezcal 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.
Colas - The last portion of the distillate, or tails. This contains your lower alcohols and heavier compounds, such as acetic acid and ethylactate. (Cedeño Cruz & Alvarez-Jacobs)
Ensamble- A blend of different agaves that are pit-roasted, crushed, fermented and distilled together as one single batch.
Mosto - A fermented blend of agave fiber, juice, and water.
Ordinario - First run distillate.
Palenque - A small production facility where mezcal is produced. Also referred to as a vinata or taverna in other parts of Mexico.
Tahona - A large stone wheel that weighs several tons used to crush agave in order to release the juice. Traditionally pulled by a mule, horse, or some other beast of burden, more modern techniques use a tractor or mechanized motor.
Tepache - Often used to refer to a fermented pineapple beverage, it is also used to refer to the mixture or agave and water that is fermenting in the palenque.
Cedeno Cruz & Alvarez-Jacobs. Production of Tequila From Agave: Historical Influences and Historical Processes. The Alcohol Textbook: A Reference for the Beverage, Fuel, and Industrial Alcohol Industries. Jacques, Lyons, and Kelsall. Nottingham University Press. 1995.
CONABIO. Agave, Mezcales, y Biodiversidad. a. Rhodacantha. http://www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/usos/mezcales/A_salmiana.html
CONABIO. Agave, Mezcales, y Biodiversidad. a. Karwinskii http://www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/usos/mezcales/A_karwinskii.html