Mezcal, tequila's smokier, more rustic cousin, is quickly becoming the new it spirit. What once could only be bought by the side of the road in Oaxaca now rivals tequila’s presence on liquor store shelves. But, with more and more bottlings arriving, it can be difficult to know which labels to buy and which to shy away from. We can help. After tasting our way through a slew of new mezcals making their way stateside, we picked five bottles that you should not only have on your radar, but also on your home bar.
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Hailing from the tiny village of San Miguel Ejutla in central Oaxaca, Banhez’s joven mezcal (which just won two gold medals at the World Spirits Competition) is a blend of spirits distilled from espadin agave and barril agave. Producers pit-roast the agave, then grind it the old school way: on donkey-pulled tahonas (stone-wheel mills). Fermented in open wood tanks with wild, indigenous yeast, the mezcal is distilled in a copper alembic still. Unlike other mezcals, which are traditionally owned or produced by one family or mezcalero, the Banhez mezcal is co-op-owned by 35 families that live within the village where it is made.
On the palate, the spirit has a mild, soft smokiness and an abundance of tropical fruit. As it opens up, white pepper heat mixes with wet stone and finishes with a custardy, almost key lime pie note. The subtle smoke and minimal vegetal notes from the agave make this spirit perfect for mixing in cocktails.
Tosba is the product of Elisandro Gonzalez-Molina and his cousin Edgar Gonzalez-Ramirez, two immigrant entrepreneurs who ditched their jobs at a Silicon Valley startup to return to their hometown in Oaxaca (the village of San Cristóbal Lachirioag) and make mezcal. Over the course of a decade, the two cousins taught themselves how to distill through trial and error—with some guidance from local mezcaleros. Unlike most mezcals on the American market, which are “found” by importers and taken stateside, Tosba is made and distributed by Gonzalez-Molina and Gonzalez-Ramirez. As affordable as it is delicious, Tosba’s initial U.S. offering, an espadín, has a layered complexity and vibrant acidity, with flavors of toasted almonds, white pepper, cinnamon and campfire. This is a delicious new mezcal that you should buy immediately if you see it. We’re looking forward to tasting anything and everything this company releases. Next up: a pechuga (distilled with fruits and a raw turkey or chicken breast) and a tobala (made with wild tobala agave).
If you haven't tasted any of the mezcals under the Derrumbes label—now's the time. This spirit is unlike anything we’ve tasted this year. Made in the Nombre de Dios region of Durango by maestro mezcalero Urial Simental, the Derrumbes Durango mezcal is distilled from the durangensis agave plant on a copper alembic still. It sings with bursts of tropical fruit—banana, coconut and bright pineapple acidity—and stone fruits. The finish is round, full bodied and dry, with a tannic minerality. Be ready to pick up every bottle your liquor store carries when this spirit hits shelves later this summer.
Yola Mezcal is a collaboration between Yola Jimenez, the woman behind one of Mexico City’s most famous mezcal bars La Clandestina Mezcaleria, Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li, and chef Gina Correll Aglietti. Not only is the business run entirely by women, but their bottling facility in Mitla, Oaxaca, is also entirely staffed by women. Their mission is to ensure that the women of Oaxaca have steady work. And it doesn’t hurt that their mezcal is easy drinking and delicious. It’s almost gin-like, with a floral, perfumy nose. It’s extremely balanced with a complex herbaceousness. There are notes of pink peppercorns, juniper, sagebrush and citrus oil, which mingle with bursts of tangy passion fruit. While the mezcal is a perfect substitution for gin in a Negroni, we find it flavorful and unique enough to savor it neat.
Distilled from 100-percent tobala agave by fourth generation mezcalero Don Aaron Valentín Alva Ibañez (his father, mezcalero Don Federico, oversees production), this unique bottling is one of just two mezcals from the Mexican state of Puebla (the other being Del Maguey). After the agave piñas are roasted and buried in a lava rock-lined pit, they are crushed and fermented with wild indigenous yeast in open wood tanks and double-distilled on a copper alembic still. The resulting spirit is ultra-refined with heavy, scotch-like smoke and earthy notes of wet dirt and lava rock. The rich minerality opens up to a soft, subtle fruitiness with hints of green apple and an almost medicinal, herbaceous finish. This is a spirit to drink neat with a meal. Look out for their next mezcal release later this summer, which will be from the Mexican state of Zacatecas.