Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Mezcal Union Uno & Killer Bee Cocktail

Mezcal comes from Nahuatl - the language spoken by the Aztecs - and translates to "oven-cooked agave".

Whereas Mesoamerican priests and elites cooked and fermented the juices of agave plants for a fermented beverage and recent archaeology points to a possible pre-Spanish distillation for religious ceremonies, the widespread distillation of  "oven-cooked agave" didn't occur until the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the 16th century.

Over the ensuing centuries, the distillation of agave was codified into the production of Mezcal and its subset Tequila.  There are nearly 200 types of agave plants and Mezcal can be made from more than 40 of these - with the most popular being Espadín -- representing 90% of these spirits. In contrast, Tequila can only be made from the Blue Agave plant. Mezcal can be produced in nine different areas of Mexico with Oaxaca accounting for 85-90% of production. In contrast, Tequila can be produced in only five areas with Jalisco at its core. Finally, to produce Mezcal, the agave plants are cooked inside earthen pits that are lined with lava rocks and filled with wood and charcoal before being distilled in clay pots. In contrast, Tequila is typically produced by steaming the agave above ground and distilling multiple times in copper pots. 

My 2021 New Years Resolution included making an effort to drink more Mezcal and thus am starting the year with the Mezcal Union Uno ($37). This is a cooperative of local artisan families in Oaxaca and courtesy of Mezcal Reviews:

Their story says that when starting the company, an old man told them that the future of mezcal would be based on a UNIÓN. That's how they named the company, and that's how they decided to make a mezcal that featured different producer families. Though Pedro Hernandez is their master mezcalero, each bottle is produced by a union of Oaxacan families. There may be slight variations of flavor from batch to batch, but not much, as they are now using a Solera process to ensure better consistency. In February of 2017, Mezcal Union signed a distribution agreement with Diageo. The agreement keeps the ownership of Union in the hands of its founders, while opening the doors to a wider distribution network.

I purchased a bottle labeled with Lot No. HKU124 that's produced from farm-grown Espadin and wild Cirial agave.  The spirit is an unaged mezcal or joven where a campfire smoke character is prevalent on the nose but partially gives way to pine, white pepper, and vanilla.  As for a cocktail, the Killer Bee is a good option where the honey and lemon dampen the smoke and allow a little floral character to arise.

Killer Bee

  • 1 1⁄2 ounces honey
  • 2 ounces mezcal, such as Del Maguey Vida brand
  • 1 1⁄2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

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