Mezcal

History of Mezcal
Mezcal (Mescal) is a distilled spirit made from the maguey plant. The maguey is a form of the Agave plant famous for the production of Tequila; the name Mezcal is a derivation of two central Mexican words. “Metl” and “Ixcalli” which together mean Oven cooked agave.

There is some evidence to suggest that the native population was distilling in Mexico before the arrival of the Spanish Conquest. However, the first concrete proof of Mezcal is from the Spanish. The Spaniards were introduced to pulque, an alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant, and soon began to distill this into the first mescals.

The native Mexicans held the maguey in high esteem as a sacred plant and used it in many religious ceremony. The myth was that a lightening bolt struck the plant, cooked it and released the juice. The liquid was known as the “elixir of the gods”. Cooking the heart of the plant (piña) and fermenting the juice became a common practice in many of the native rituals.

The Spanish continued to distill the fermented maguey juice and encouraged its production as a form of tax revenue, this led to many problems with drunkenness and disorder. Foreigners travelling in Mexico during the late 1700s and early 1800s often mention the high potency of the local mescal.

Production of Mezcal

Mezcal is the name for all spirits distilled from the agave plant and hence Tequila is itself a form of Mezcal, technically Mezcal de Tequila. Mezcal under new regulations can be made from different types of agave (Quishe, Pasmo, Tepestate, Tobala, Espadin, Largo, Pulque, Azul, Blanco, Ciereago, and Mexicano) and from only 7 different states (Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas). Tequila in contrast is made only from the Blue Agave, and only in the state of Jalisco and 4 neighboring states. This diversity of plant type and regions produces a wider range of flavors among Mezcals. Traditionally Mezcal is a hand-crafted spirit made by small family producers. The production begins with the harvesting of the agave plants. The plants are large “succulents” and can weigh up to 100 lbs, the thick pointed leaves and roots are cut off and the heart, or piña is extracted. Each plant requires at least 7 years of growing to mature fully. The piñas are then cooked in traditional ovens made in large pits covered with earth and rocks. The several days of roasting underground imparts the distinctive smoky flavor common to Mezcals. After roasting, the hearts are crushed and the mash is fermented in large vats. The fermented juice is then distilled once in a still, some traditional recipes call for a chicken breast to be hung in the still during distillation to help add flavor. The final spirit is then aged in barrel for up to four years, although young Mezcal, which is clear in color, will be hardly aged at all. The addition of a worm, or con gusano, is a marketing gimmick dating back to the 1940s. The poor invertebrate is actually the larvae of a moth which lives on the agave plant. The larvae is added during the bottling process and is not added to all mezcals.  

Types of Mezcal

    Styles of Mezcal vary from region to region and producer to producer. They all share an inherent smoky quality brought on by the production process. Some types of Mezcal have added fruits or herbs during fermentation or during distillation which add nuances of flavor to the final drink.
  • White Mezcal
    Clear spirit which has seen little aging.

  • Dorado Mezcal
    This is White Mezcal with a coloring added.

  • Reposado Mezcal
    This Mezcal will be aged in wood barrels for between 2 and 9 months.

  • Añejo Mezcal
    Aged a minimum of 12 months. However the best versions of these will generally be aged for 2 or 3 years.

Agave Producers

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About the Producer
Fidencio
Mezcal
Fidencio Mezcal embodies the tradition and creativity of Oaxaca. With four generations of knowledge and the finest estate grown agave, Fidencio is a unique mezcal that is pure agave.

The first release, Fidencio Sin Humo is a small batch, artisanal mezcal that is roasted with out wood. The flavor is a balance of fruit, agave and spice. The feeling is smooth and clean. In 2011 they released two more mezcals, Clásico and Pechuga. Clásico is a traditional, Oaxacan mezcal roasted in a wood-fired earthen oven. The flavor is a complex balance of fruit, spice and smoke. Pechuga is a seasonal, celebration mezcal that is produced in tiny batches. The Clásico is used as the base and distilled a third time with our mixture of fruit. Suspended inside the cap of the still is a chicken breast, which rounds out the flavors. The result is a delightful combination of tropical fruits and subtle smokiness.

The Fidencio story has two parts: the history of Fabrica de Amigo del Mezcal and Fidencio Spirits.
Fabrica de Amigo del Mezcal is the name of the distillery that produces Fidencio Mezcal. Fidencio Jiménez, the namesake for Fidencio Mezcal, started making mezcal over 100 years ago when he moved to Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca. He began to live the life of a Mezcalero, learning from peers and by trial-and-error. He worked closely with his son Enrique to perfect their craft and to pass down their knowledge to the next generation. In those days, even the equipment was from the land: clay pots for fermentation, distillation & storage and river reeds for tubing.

When Isaac Jiménez, Fidencio’s grandson, became the mezcalero, there were a number of technological improvements that were adopted. In the 1930’s the introduction of copper greatly improved the efficiency and safety of the still. In 1943 the Pan American Highway came through Oaxaca and left its mark on mezcal. The first major impact was on transportation which became faster and cheaper. Around this time oak barrels replaced clay pots for storage. This resulted in the second major impact of this time: aging. In those days, a batch of mezcal was loaded on a truck and sold, town by town, sometimes taking months to sell through a batch. As the mezcal spent time in the oak barrels, it took on additional characteristics, and it was good.

In the 1950’s business was good and profits were used to buy land and expand the agave fields. This allowed total control of quality and production. By the 1980’s The Jiménez family was aging, bottling and exporting mezcal. The torch was then passed to the fourth generation of Jiménez mezcaleros, brothers Octavio and Enrique. While learning the craft throughout his youth, Enrique left to attend university in Oaxaca. He graduated with a degree in Industrial Chemical Engineering. Enrique could not resist the call of his roots and returned to the family business, but not without many new ideas. In 1993 Octavio and Enrique began bottling under their brand Mezcal del Maestro.

Enrique, always the innovator, dreamed of a mezcal that was the purest expression of espadín. In 2006 Enrique branched out on his own and began construction of a new distillery and a dream. This new distillery was designed from top to bottom by Enrique and incorporates all the features found in traditional mezcal palenques along with some modern touches, notably, the radiant heat oven. This oven is the first of its kind in Oaxaca and is the defining force behind the creation of Fidencio Mezcal. Fidencio also has a traditional oven used throughout Oaxaca.

Fidencio Spirits founders, Amy Hardy and Arik Torren, met ten years ago tending the bar of one of NYC’s great restaurants. They shared a passion for wine and food and became fast friends. A few years later Amy was traveling through Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca and came across Villas Carrizalillo, a beachside hotel that was in disrepair. Since then Amy and her partner, Edward Mitchell, have transformed “The Villas” into one of the finest hotels on the Oaxacan Coast.

During the summer of 2007 Amy and Arik took a trip to Oaxaca City to taste and learn more about mezcal. During this incredible experience, they were bitten by the mezcal bug. Through friends of Amy, they had the good fortune to be introduced to Enrique, who was still building out his new distillery. Amy and Arik knew that this was the right fit and decided to pursue a partnership with Enrique before the first drop of Fidencio was made. Edward was on board as the angel investor. So, with a hunch and a handshake, Fidencio Spirits was born.