05 May 2011
I thought about titling this post, “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” or “Mas Tequila.” There was even a little snicker as I thought about Pee Wee Herman dancing to “Tequila” in a biker bar in the movie Pee Wee Herman’s Great Adventure. Alas, none of that either happened or made sense for this post. The reason…we’re not talking about Tequila, we’re talking about Mezcal.
As a wine blogger, no one was more surprised than me when I received three trade samples of Ilegal Mezcal. My level of agave experience is limited to tequila shots, margaritas, the occasional smooth Patron and mostly memories of sickness and hangovers. Before beginning my research, I had no idea the difference between mezcal and tequila. With people consuming the agave nectar in mass for Cinco de Mayo, I was eager to do my duty to uncover the world of mezcal for wine lovers everywhere.
Mezcal vs Tequila
From what I can tell here are the basics differences between Mezcal and Tequila
- Both come from the Agave plant, but from different species
- Tequila is from Jalisco and mezcal is from Oaxaca
- Tequila is made from the crushed fermented juice of the agave plant; mezcal is made from steamed condensation of the process and then distilled.
- Tequila contains no worm, mezcal contains a worm.
- Tequila cannot be called mezcal but mezcal can be called tequila
There may be more differences but they become less important as the shots flowed.
With 3 bottles of Ilegal Mezcal and Cinco de Mayo around the corner, I decided the only way to do this review was with some authentic Mexican cuisine. I stopped by a tiny Mexican restaurant and picked up a variety of tacos (steak, beef, fish) and set out to discover the world of mezcal. Due to my lack of experience with tequila and mezcal, I won’t be giving scores to the following but will only offer my consumer based opinion.
The “low end” mezcal isn’t aged for any length of time but is double and triple distilled. The color is like water, completely clear. On the nose the wine is very pungent. At first sniff there is an overwhelming aroma of burnt plastic (like when a piece of Tupperware gets burned in the dishwasher), cheap perfume and sweet fruit. Let this mezcal sit for a few minutes and most of that offensive aroma dissipates. In the mouth I get strong smoke, pepper, and a sweet fruit that I just can’t pinpoint along with a HUGE amount of heat.
SHIVER FACTOR: (this is the score of how smooth the mezcal is – the higher the score the more smooth) – At first sip, the Joven is very tough to swallow and earns a shiver score of 3-/5
Overall, I’m not sure I could enjoy this mezcal without a mixer. The aroma off plastic was overwhelming and the hot finish left me shuddering and even coughing a little.
Reposado is aged for 4 months in new and recharged whiskey barrels. The mescal is slightly darker than the first but still a very pale yellow color. The sniff boasts a soft cedar and butterscotch aroma followed by hints of vanilla. This reminds me of a well aged scotch. Hints of burnt plastic still accompany the other aromas. The front palate is very soft with caramel undertones but immediately lead to a long strong hot finish (that’s what she said). This Reposado is much more balanced than the Joven.
SHIVER FACTOR: Much more balanced of flavor and alcohol heat with a nice sweetness 3+/5
Nicely done and full of unique flavors. The Reposado was immensely more drinkable than the Joven.
So, I started this tasting by sipping along with my tacos not knowing the price points of each mezcal. The Anejo quickly stood tall above the others for aroma, taste and finish. On the swirl the Anejo is about the same color as a corn tortilla (pictured). Since I’d already tasted a little bit, I’ll rely on my notes for memory, “oh my gosh, so buttery with deep undercurrents of smoked cedar and sweet fruit.” The Anejo spends 14 months in new and recharged whisky barrels. The mouth feel of this mezcal is very enjoyable with a ton of earthy flavors, tobacco, butterscotch, and more. There is a sweet fruit / candy flavor to the very tip of the flavor that quickly gets overtaken by the smoke, butterscotch and alcohol. DO NOT MIX THIS MEZCAL, just sip it neat or over ice.
SHIVER FACTOR: Nice and smooth with a kick of smoked hickory and heat. 4/5
Very intrigued by the complexity of aroma and flavor. As someone new to the drink, I found myself just enjoying the aromas before sipping on a glass with ice. The finish was balanced and lacked the typical hot chest burning fire.
This Cinco de Mayo enjoy a glass of mezcal. The intense smoky butterscotch may be a little overpowering for a margarita but try sipping on a shot with a few cubes of ice. Who knows, you may be singing “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” or dancing like Pee Wee Herman. Here are a few videos for inspiration.
PEE WEE HERMAN “Tequila” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BodXwAYeTfM