July 12, 2016

Mezcal Month Part 1: Rey Campero!

July is Mezcal Month!!  Here's the first installment from our resident Mezcal expert, Jake Cahill, a wonderful piece about Rey Campero mezcal, a traditional Palenque in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Enjoy!

A Word About The Importer

William Scanlan is a gem. A prophet sent to us from Mayahuel herself with a great responsibility, nay pleasure to spread the word to the world about the wonders, traditions and beauty of mezcal to all of us. He is not a distiller, however he is the reason that we get access to this wonderful brand of mezcals that have been made traditionally in Mexico for a very very long time.

Rey Campero

Rey Campero is one of the few mezcals sold here in the US under the original Mexican name. Most imports are rebranded and lose valuable information about the crop and location, or "terroir", which is so important in mezcal. Rey Campero translated means “King of the Countryside”. This family has a LONG history of producing mezcal. In 1870 the family moved to a little community named Candelaria Yegole (75 Miles from Oaxaca city) and established that communities first ever Palenque (distillery). That’s over 145 years of making mezcal!!

The Brand currently sells 7 different expressions in the states. Only 2 of those are made from cultivated agave. The other 5 are all made from wild "Silvestre" agave that grow in the countryside. Each different bottling represents the name of the species of agave that's used in the mezcal: Espadin, Madre Cuishe, Cuishe, Tobala, Mexicano, Jabali and Tepextate. The plants are hand-harvested at maturity after growing anywhere from seven to eighteen years.


The agave is roasted in a conical earthen pit for four to five days over a fire of fallen branches and wood found floating in the local river. It's then rested 5 days prior to milling. The milling is mule-powered (yup, mule-powered!) with the animal towing a traditional stone wheel called a Tahona around in a circle to grind out the pulp. The juice is then open-air fermented in pine vats with wild yeast. The process is completed with double distilled on hand-made copper stills and the product is bottled at full proof.


Rey Campero is committed to the conservation and care of wild and cultivated agaves. Due to its popularity in mezcal production, the Mexicano (Rodacantha) agave is teetering on the edge of extinction. In 2013, Rey Campero planted a nursery of approximately 8,000 bulbils of the Mexicano. These 8,000 agaves were transplanted during the first rains of 2014. In 2014 Sanchez planted 10,000 additional bulbils of the same agave to be transplanted during the first rains of 2015. Then they kicked off 2015 by expanding their nursery to facilitate the planting of 5,000 more bulbils of Mexicano, 3,000 seeds of Cuishe (Karwinkski), and 1,500 seeds of Tepextate (Marmorata). They will also study the reproduction of JabalĂ­ in order to begin planting these plants in 2017. Beginning in 2017, their goal is to increase the amount of agave planted by fifteen percent every year, for the next ten years. We, not just as lovers of Mezcal but also as decent human beings, need more people doing things like this. 

Tasting Notes

Rey Campero Espadin
Varietal: Espadin cultivated 6-7 years
ABV: 48%
Produced October 2014
Bottle 1435/1678

Nose: The Nose is charged. Really aromatic. Fruity and smoky. Pineapple and white flower with the most subdued and integrated smoke. It’s characteristically very similar to sticking your nose into a glass of Alsace Gewertztraminer for all my winos out there. Its bright and tropical. Flowery and spicy. But there is this unshakable acetic smell. Like nail polish remover. In a good way though. Like how we enjoy the smell of gasoline as we fill our cars up at the station.

Palate: On the palate, the weather is exactly how the nose predicted the forecast. Super ripe tropical fruits and flowers mingle nicely while the smoke intensifies to be a bit more charred than it was on the nose. A delightful addition as opposed to a distraction (as is the case will all the best mezcal, smoke is an additional flavor but not the only one). A green note finally slips in too. Cucumber and Green Pepper. The texture is also really appealing for me too, rich and oily but light on the palate because of that fruity and ginger spicy edge. Same slight acetone/nail polish-y thing here too.

Finish: The finish is long and absolutely delicious. That oil coats your tongue and rises to the top of it as if it were separating from vinegar. Grilled pineapple with ground ginger and a neighbor grilling in the summer all linger and slowly fade off leaving my mouth feeling lonely but satisfied. Time to refill my cup and start again!

Rey Campero Mexicano
Varietal: Mexicano (wild) harvested at 10-12 years old
ABV: 48.4%
Produced October 2014
Bottle 195/954

Nose: Hell yea this smells great. Slightly green upfront with beautiful vanilla and cinnamon peaking through. Lots of baking spice coming though actually. Clove and cracked pepper. Very floral as well. Can't pin down the exact botanicals but they are delicate and pretty. Hint of soft smoke covers everything ever so slightly.

Palate: The palate is round and supple yet really exciting. Its hard to focus on one thing at a time because there is so much happening. Its like a bunch of really great jazz musicians jamming but for very short bursts of time. A little trumpet, then you catch a second of the bass just before the sax lays into a roll but all the while you hear the drums laying down the beat in the background. It’s a pleasant chaos of lavender and rose pedal, campfire and chocolate. Green pepper and olive oil. The flavors AND texture of clove being ever present. It all swirls around in a confused but happy balance.

Finish: The finish is long and quite dry. The oiliness from the palate dissipates fast and the dryness really takes over. Spicy and woody. A great but abrupt halt from all the madness of flavors from the palate. Very interesting. Like an episode of LOST, it kinda leaves you hanging and wanting more. Really like this Mezcal. Quality and super interesting. 

Rey Campero Tobala
Varietal: Tobala 13yrs (Wild) harvested at 6,000 ft in San Pedro Martir
ABV: 48.5%
Bottle 61/893

Nose: Now we are talking about some aromatic robust goodness. The nose is filled with spices and tropical fruit. Mango and pineapple smash together with a burning campfire. Oh its like smelling Puerco Al Pastor down the street. When that roasted pineapple juice drip’s down the cooked meat. Dee-lish!

Palate: Big and complex. The leading force here is the tropical fruits again, but some baked apple pie comes in. Salted caramels and clove and paprika. Smoked paprika! Great balance of smoke and florals. White peach. Really beautiful and full bodied on the palate. Texture coats and helps add nuance to the flavors big time. That slight bit of acetone that I get from their Espadin creeps back in a bit towards the end here. But in a good way.

Finish: Oily and coating at first and then dries off leaving this lingering smoked fruit hanging around for quite some time. This is the more full bodied of the three which is funny because the Tobala agave is way smaller than either Espadin or Mexicano. All that concentration of flavors and power in such a small package. This is the one you want if you’re eating with your Mezcal. Damn good.


All of these Mezcals are bottles I would happily buy again. You can start with Espadin and work your way up from there, but I would rather spend the extra $40 dollars or so to get any of the wild agave expressions. When I get that soft elegant touch from the Mexicano or the bold and wild flavors from the Tobala, there's no doubt it was worth digging a touch further into my pocket.

Dixeebe and Cheers!  /Jake

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