Thursday, February 11, 2016

Return of Jake's Mezcal Column! Nuestra Soledad: La Compania Ejutla

Well since it's negative ten degrees out, let's live vicariously through the temperate winters of Mexico with another of Jake's awesome mezcal reviews. 



Nuestra Soledad: La Compania Ejutla
2013 Edition 4
Bottle # 326/1120
47% abv 
100% Espadin 
Distillery (Palenque): Los Bigatones
Master distiller: Gonzalo Hernandez

Nuestra Soledad is another wonderful brand that is delivering us with a true slice of Mexican tradition via its wonderful artisanal mezcals. They are working hand in hand with traditional mezcal distilleries (Palenque) throughout various villages within Oaxaca. The four different villages these bottlings come from are San Luis del Rio, San Baltazar Guelavila, Santiago Matalan and La Comania Ejutla. Their goal with this brand, aside from providing us with some damn fine mezcal, is to showcase the versatility of mezcals made solely from the Espadin variety of agave. As mentioned in an earlier post, Espadin is the most commonly cultivated agave for mezcal production thus responsible for most of the mezcals on American Market today. 

By working solely with Espadin for their bottlings, what other factors could possibly change the way a mezcal smells and tastes? Well, if you have been reading the blog so far you will know this is a silly question because there are so many influences on the final profile of a mezcal. Remember there are no stupid questions. Just really silly ones. Age of the cultivated agave, the different soils and elevations of each village, the method and duration of smoking the Pina, the water source used during production and during proofing, the fermentation method and length and the distillation method are really just a few of the factors that can affect the final profile of a mezcal. This becomes way more apparent when you are fortunate enough to taste mezcals side by side. Even if not side by side, the more often you drink mezcal in general you will notice differences and nuances from bottle to bottle. What I am saying is that you need to start drinking more…Slackers.

And that’s why I think the Nuestra Soledad line up is going to be very important to the development of mezcal in the states. I believe that you should taste all of their bottlings (really not to hard at 40-50 dollars a bottle) and see for yourself the stylistic differences between each village’s mezcal. Or find a really great Mezcal bar and ask them to pour you a flight so you can do the side by side without committing to a full bottle of each. Make it a competition. Taste them all, then pick which one you like the most. My favorite spots (aside from my own living room) to go enjoy a mezcal right now are Mayahuel in NYC and Leyenda in Brooklyn. This particular bottle was enjoyed at Leyenda BK last week. A Wonderful cocktail bar with a pan Latin influence and one of the best (and well priced) little mezcal lists around. The spirits list is literally a leather bound book. Ron Burgundy would approve.  



This Bottle is the Latest release of the La Compania Ejutla. Grown and Distilled by brothers Gonzalo and Gregorio Hernandez, it was roasted in traditional pits using mesquite and oak and double distilled in copper stills. Together these brothers run a Palenque called Los Bigatones. It is named such because both Gonzalo and Gregorio have mustaches of biblical proportion that would put even the most outlandish of Williamsburg hipsters to shame. 

Gonzalo Hernandez (Master Distiller) with Asis Cortes at Los Bigatones distillery
(Photo by Justin Briggs of Skurnik WIines)


Their Palenque is beautiful and hand worked by them and their family who have been doing this for generations. At about 5,000 feet above sea level, the agave sees a wonderful view as it matures and awaits their masterful hands to unearth them and create a beautiful spirit for us to savor and enjoy. I mean really, they make it for themselves and their loved ones and for people of the local area. We, are just a few fortunate foreigners that get to taste their liquid piece of art. And at only 1120 bottles for this batch, it truly is a limited piece of art. So go find a bottle. And share it with friends and family as it was intended by the masterful hands that crafted it.

Gregorio Hernandez with his own personal brand (not in production anymore) Mr. Mustache!

Tasting Notes

Nose: Nice melding of smoke and fresh fruit. Green Apple and Bell Pepper creep past the burnt out campfire smoke. A quick flash of black pepper almost enough to make you sneeze. Vanilla bean and graham cracker find its way in there and a nice pinch of roasted ginger.

Palate: The fruit dances around first only to give heed to the mesquite that finally makes a guest appearance. The smoke is really pleasing and balanced out wonderfully by the other elements. Rosemary and Dried Juniper berries. Charcuterie like speck. An oven roasted asparagus wrapped in prosciutto! Salinity and mineral toward the end but trumped by a sweet vanilla.

Finish: As the Mineral and Fruit taper off, the vanilla starts to come back a bit accompanied by the black pepper and green apple. Spicy ginger and that burnt out campfire leave the last impression as it slowly fades. Good thing my glass is ful….Empty!!! Heavy Sigh
Verdict: Very nicely balanced and wonderfully expressive for an affordable mezcal. Made with love and mastery which really is quite evident right away but even more so as you spend some time with this. Cant wait to explore the whole line and see what batches keep coming our way.



Cheers and Dixebee!!   /Jake


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Vegas Baby!

Some fun facts: The Venetian hotel contains over 1.8 million square feet of stone and marble.  Classy.  The sheer scale of the place is astounding.  You hike what seems like miles of ersatz piazzas and canal-lined malls complete with accordion players and gondoliers. Each restaurant you enter is the largest indoor space you've ever seen. And of course somehow every destination requires navigation through the hotel's two casinos.

"Should I play a round of blackjack on my way to the bathroom?" you find yourself asking.  Wait what?? Would you ever consider throwing away a hundred bucks on your way to take a leak in New York?  Hell no. There's something about this place that shreds all logic and rational thinking in your brain and replaces it with a Britney Spears / Cirque Du Soleil mashup.

I Need a Drink

There is only one thing you can do in Vegas that is inherently logical: drink. And luckily they seem to have no shortage of top quality whiskey bars. We started Monday night at Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse. Then Tuesday moved on to Wolfgang Puck's Cut. Both claim to have the best whiskey list in Sin City. Neither disappointed.


First up this wax-top Willett 7-year, barrel 4141.  Super rich and wonderful, this one was all molasses and brown butter, baking spices, and pipe tobacco.  I'm guessing it had been open in the bottle for a while since it was completely opened up and tasting amazing for such a young expression.


Delmonico's does half-pours, so we paired one ounce of the 7-year Willett with an ounce of her older sister the blue wax top 10-year barrel 373.  This one was great too, drier than the 7 and crispier. A treat, but not quite as mind-blowing as the 7.


Moving on to Cut, we tried another 1 ounce pair tasting. This time a Willet 10-Year barrel #799, alongside a gold-wax 21 year.


The 10-year was very big.  Sweet, tons of rye goodness, vanilla and spice.


Have to be honest here, I think I still preferred the 7-year to the 21.  Is that possible?  I guess it's true that age is just a state of mind. The 7-year, followed by the 21, followed by the 799 10-year and then the 373 10-year is how I'd have to rank these.  I wouldn't kick any of them out of bed though.

Ok time for a nightcap.


My drinking buddy Jason is giddily gripping my arm and pointing at a bottle on the shelf. "They have it again.  How is that even possible???"  Incredulous, we feel obligated to each order an ounce of the Lagavulin 21 year sherry cask. It's every bit as good as we remember. Without a doubt it holds a place in my top three malts of all time.

So long Vegas. Thanks for the memories.  Cheers/SB