Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Gift Of The Agave



Recently, I attended a tasting during the week of Cinco de Mayo where agave-based spirits were featured – these of course included both tequila and mezcal. The tasting featured eight types of mezcals from two different manufacturers and a total of ten types of tequila from three manufacturers. Try as I might, I was unable to taste every single one due to a shortage of both time and sobriety. As a result, this review will focus on sharing with you some of the ones I thought were among the best. These will include two mezcals from different manufacturers and several offerings from one tequila manufacturer.



Fidencio Joven Mezcal was the first mezcal I tasted on this day. An 80 proof spirit from Oaxaca, Mexico (as were all the mezcals), this is somewhat less smoky than a typical mezcal because of the difference in its preparation. While mezcal production is typically made by roasting the agave with mesquite, Fidencio instead uses radiant steam heat to cook the agave plant without the inclusion of mesquite. The result is a less intense and more accessible mezcal which might be a good choice for someone to try as an introduction to the spirit. We tried it in a cocktail called The Mule Variations, which had the following recipe:

  • 2 oz. Fidencio Mezcal Sin Humo
  • ½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • Topper of Ginger Beer

Combine all of the above ingredients (except for the ginger beer) in a mixing glass with ice, then shake to chill. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice, then top it off with the ginger beer. If you prefer a sweeter taste to the cocktail, then substitute the ginger beer with ginger ale; this was used in the version of the cocktail we tried because they couldn’t find any ginger beer.


Del Maguey

Next up was Del Maguey, arguably the best mezcal – and they’ve won enough awards at various spirits championships over the years that they could probably take that argument handily. They presented seven different types of mezcals to the tasting, ranging from 80 proof to a whopping 98 proof. Despite the fact that I wanted to sample them all because of their reputation, I restrained myself to only a couple in order to remain vertical for the remainder of the day. Without a doubt, these are all very much sipping mezcals (the company strongly recommends you do not use them as shots), however, their first one – the 84 proof Del Maguey Mezcal Vida – is the type they say could best be used for mixing cocktails because it doesn’t have a taste that will overwhelm the drink.

My own personal favorite, however, was the Del Maguey Chichicapa Single Village Mezcal. At 92 proof, this one immediately caught my attention because the company representative described it to me as The Laphroaig of Mezcals. Seeing as how Laphroaig is my favorite scotch, I had to give it a try and I was far from disappointed. Although served in small clay cups for the tasting, you’d easily want to sip this from a nosing glass because of its fragrant aroma. Its strong smoky taste is particularly apparent on the finish. I highly recommend this one.



Siete Leguas

If you are a fan of Patron, I can almost guarantee you that you will immediately switch to Siete Leguas once you have given it a try. It is so flavorful that you might almost consider Patron to be bland after you’ve tasted Siete Leguas. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this particular tequila, please allow me to share with you a rather colorful story about its background – which will help to clarify exactly why I made the Patron comparison at the outset.

Let’s begin with the name: Siete Leguas means “Seven Leagues”. The reason why it is called Siete Leguas is because that was said to be the name of Pancho Villa’s horse; Villa supposedly named the horse Siete Leguas because it ran an impressive 21 miles (7 leagues) during a conquest. Siete Leguas has earned the nickname of “The Original Patron” because for many years, they made the tequila that was sold by Patron in the United States; they did that because Siete Leguas was not sold here and Patron wanted to market themselves in this country. Over 20 years ago, the two companies had a falling out which resulted in Siete Leguas no longer providing the tequila for Patron – but now that Siete Leguas is sold here in America, they are in direct competition with Patron.

The distributor let us sample the blanco, resposado and añejo, all of which were 80 proof. The cocktail that was mixed with the reposado tequila was something called The Natural Margarita because of its ingredients:


  • ½ oz. of agave nectar
  • ¾ oz. water
  • 2 oz. Siete Leguas Reposado Tequila
  • 1 fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. Gran Gala

The last ingredient, Gran Gala, is an orange flavored liqueur similar to Grand Marnier. All of the above are shaken then strained into the glass (with or without ice, depending on your preference). In trying this version, we found that the other ingredients somewhat masked the flavor of the tequila, so the recipe was changed to instead use 3 oz. of the tequila, which made the cocktail both better and stronger.


Have you tried any of these? If so, please leave a comment and let us know what your experience was like.



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