December 22, 2015

Vida San Luis Del Rio (Mezcal Vida) - La Bestia Ahumado

A few weeks ago we introduced Jake Cahill our new Mezcal reviewer.  Here's Jake's first post and our first official segue into reviewing a brand new type of smoky beast, La Bestia Ahumado if you will :_)...

The Ramble

Now this is where everyone’s mezcal life should start! Mezcal Vida is made by the incredible folks over at Del Maguey. This is where my mezcal journey started a couple years back and if you haven’t had the pleasure of mezcal entering your life yet, then you should certainly find a bottle of this and make it your first experience. This mezcal is a staple at any home bar. Well, really it’s a staple for anywhere mezcal here in the states is respected. Any bar with a great cocktail program just knows that Vida is the jam and if a retail store has only one mezcal, chances are, it’s Vida. And there is good reason for that. This is the most versatile bottle of mezcal I have come across to date. It is a beautiful showcase ingredient in any well crafted cocktail (Replace tequila with mezcal in your favorite margarita recipe to see just what I’m talkin' about) or the perfect little sipper for any time of year. Hell even any time of day. We won’t judge!

Vida has all the citrus and fruitiness you want in the summertime, but the smoke and oily texture to warm you on a chilly evening. All of this quality comes at no surprise given Del Maguey’s pedigree since hitting the states in 1995. But here is the best part! Mezcal Vida wasn’t introduced by Del Maguey until around 2010. For 15 years before its “Entry Level” label of mezcal was released, Del Maguey were specialists in importing Single Village mezcals. We are talking extremely limited and premium bottlings of mezcals made in tiny villages by extremely small distilleries (Palenque) the way they have been made for hundreds and hundreds of years. Then, after 15 years of providing us with some of the best mezcal around, they decided to mix up a mezcal that would be more accessible and readily available. Not to mention, much more affordable (most of their single village bottles start around $65 and can easily go for over $100 depending on the bottling). It’s like if Ferrari were to now, after years of building some of the most raw and masterful cars, decide to build an entry level sports car to sell at $40,000 so more of us could have a greater experience for our price restricted lifestyles. But that wont happen anytime soon, so VIDA it is! (Discloser, Do not drive your Ferrari after drinking mezcal. Unless it’s to go buy more mezcal. But even then probably don’t do it)

The Specs

Vida is made from the Espadin species of maguey that is all organic. In the traditional way, it is hand harvested (No easy task as the shaved Pinas alone can weigh around 150 pounds each when harvested for this species). The Pinas are split and roasted with hot stones in a pit dug into the ground. The Pinas and stones are covered with dirt and earth to roast for 2-4 days usually (This is where mezcal picks up its smoky characteristic), then stone ground by a giant wheel usually being pulled by a donkey(or distillers mother in law) to pulverize the pinas into a fermentable mash. After fermentation occurs (2-4 weeks), which is usually sparked using native yeasts in open top clay or wood fermentors, the wash is distilled twice on these extremely small and traditional clay or copper pot stills!

The Revelation

We are talking small operation here. You think American craft distilleries are small sometimes but comparatively; these mezcal guys are the truest of artisans in the spirits world. Not only do they have to wait a minimum of 8 years for the Maguey to mature, they then have to do everything by hand. Computers? Most of these guys don’t even have a landline let alone automated equipment. Plus they are truly dedicated to the preservation of traditions and techniques. They know that good things are worth waiting for and working hard at. 

Jake's Tasting Notes

Nose: Wonderfully aromatic with soft and inviting hints fresh cut stone fruit, spice and roasted agave. Honey and wildflowers. The smoke is subtle like a burnt out campfire from the night before.

Palate: Smoke and Fruit out of the gate. Extremely well balanced texture that coats your tongue with a coconut oil like feel. Fresh ginger and ripe peach with these great hints of chorizo wrapped melon. Graham cracker and slight hints of chocolate and orange zest.

Finish: Little hints of pipe tobacco and baking spice really shine as the fruitiness tapers off. The smoke lingers but in a soft sweet way. 

Steve's (Mr. Beast's) Tasting Notes

Nose:  At first pass you could have fooled me into thinking this was some super smoky Laphroaig moonshine.  It's definitely a beast-lover's dream.  But no, the smoke is different - way more in the fruity direction, like fermenting pineapples.  Given time to open up in the glass, the smoke fades into the background and the floral / vegetal notes come to the front.  Super heavy lavender nose with some olive oil, aloe, and honey. 

Palate:  Wow considering the strong smoky on the nose, it's a very delicate palate and finish.  Tastes very sweet, definitely getting the coconut and peach that Jake picked out.  Also some little hints of hot peppers mingling with the sweetness of the agave.  

Finish:  Considering what you get upfront, the finish is barely even there. A malt with this much smoke would linger in the throat for a few minutes, pleasantly smoldering up your hard palate and ending up in your nose.  This is a short and balanced finish of sweet fruit and flowers with only a hint of smoke remaining on the tongue.

This is seriously some bang for your buck experience here. At an average of $36 this is the cheapest one way ticket to Oaxaca you will ever buy. It is so representative of the agave plant and true to the traditions of the wonderful people who create it. Unbelievably easy to sip and truly stands out in so many ways. I can’t stress enough how much I recommend this being your first experience with mezcal if you have never had the pleasure. Mezcal Vida will always have a spot on my shelf and I am sure it will be a standard for you as well.

Cheers and Dixeebe!!  /Jake


  1. I love this mezcal, especially perfect for cocktails. If you can find Alip├║s you should check them out as well, their San Andres is incredible.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Kristopher! I agree, Alipus is a great purveyor of Mezcals. They will certainly get mentioned here in the future. The San Andres was the first one of theirs I ever got to have. Great spirit. Cheers man.