Agave Mixtape Volume 4 Library Release
Each box comes with 3x 200ml bottles: one each from Lalocura, Mal Bien and Neta. Originally released in March 2021.
The Agave Mixtape batch cuishe-espadin is Lalo’s favorite iteration of the mezcla so far. Produced during the COVID lockdown in Santa Catarina Minas, this batch may have gotten a little extra love since there were no visitors to distract the team, Lalo says.
The espadín used here were planted in 2007. Espadín in Minas taking 13 years to reach maturity - nearly double the time in many other parts of Oaxaca.
The cuishe used were cuishe verde pence large and cuishe verde penca corta, two of the 5 sub-varietals recognized in Minas. Grown between rows of corn, these cuishe took between 14 and 16 years to mature.
Mal Bien Madrecuixe Puntas
There’s a technical reference and cultural history to puntas, both of which are important to understanding this bottle. If you’re a “just the facts” type, please skip ahead.
There’s also the experience of drinking puntas. The “wow" part that can’t be captured by technical details, but somehow proves them. We all know the high school chemistry definition of distillation - to separate a liquid into its elemental parts. I don’t know what we would imagine distilled spirits to be like if all we knew was that definition, but probably something a lot like puntas.
Puntas are the platonic ideal that we imagine spirits to be. Agave, boiled down to its very essence, the plant stripped of everything but its soul. The most ethereal, intense but subtle spirits we’ve ever tasted. The flower breathing dragon. Magnús Ver Magnússon in a yoga pose. The daiginjo of the maguey.
A quick primer on the term puntas:
Translated as “points” or “tips,” puntas are the first drinkable part of the distillate to come off of the still followed by the corazones or “hearts,” and finally the colas or tails. Though the three categories are most often compared in terms of their percentages of alcohol (puntas > corazones > colas), they also have extremely different aromas, flavors, and textures.
A finished batch of agave spirits is composed of the corazones adjusted with some portion of the of the puntas and colas. Exactly how much of each to include is an art that balances the desire for, say, more aromatics against the desire not to make the batch overly bitter or low ABV. It’s the most personal part of the production process, as every mezcalero has his own palate.
Traditionally, puntas are not sold on their own or consumed for recreation, though they're a home remedy for everything from an upset stomach (drink a few ounces), to back aches and mosquito bites (applied as a topical ointment), to pneumonia (Vick’s Vapor Rub style). When visiting a mezcalero over 55, ask if he has any puntas, and 8 out of 10 times, you’ll be met with the same dad joke - "bee-agra" said with a wink and a flexed forearm.
This Batch of Puntas
It’s always a surprise to find a mezcalero sitting on more than a few liters of puntas that aren’t needed for some larger batch. In our experience, this usually means there’s a sad story about a jug of corazones that got spilled or a distillation that went wrong - something that prevented the puntas from getting mixed in with the rest of the distillate.
In this case, Felipe is a sharp old guy, and having seen how interested tourists and non-local visitors were when tasting the little bits of puntas he had around the palenque, he decided it might be worth reserving some to sell. He was correct.
Of course, keeping 60+ liters of 56.5% madrecuixe puntas on their own means there’s a much larger batch of 48% madrecuixe that didn’t get made. We asked him how he decides which batches he wants to be sell as puntas instead of 48% spirits. "Usually, if there is a small amount of a type of maguey or if I have a little extra that doesn’t go in the oven with the rest, I think about doing something special with it.” In this case, that special something was a few garrafones of puntas, and a couple of pechugas made with remaining corazones and colas."
Born in 1982 in Logoche, Eliazar is part a younger generation of farmers and palenqueros that came of age in the post-NAFTA era, shaped by their experiences as campesinos and migrants. Eliazar and his brothers grew up under the tutelage of their father, Don Tómas, and grandfather, Don Nicolás - a true mezcal patriarch and one of the founders of Logoche. As boys, they were tasked with shepherding the livestock and assisting in the fields of corn, beans, squash, and agave. As they grew stronger, they entered the palenque to learn the traditions of fermentation and distillation that they practice today.
The privatization of services and subsidization of inferior quality crops that came along with the new free-trade agreement in 1994 had disruptive effects on life in rural Mexico, furthering economic difficulties and forcing many of its sons and daughters to look for work in the cities, or across the U.S. border in search of new possibilities. Eliazar and his brothers left Oaxaca as teenagers; one brother stayed and the other three came back to Logoche after nearly a decade abroad. With money saved and new experiences under their belt, each brother returned with the desire to start a family and dedicate himself 100% to the production of mezcal. In their absence, their father, uncles, and aunt founded Grupo Logoche, a producer owned cooperative, and individually planted thousands of agave that would begin to ripen upon their return.
With the arrival of the full moon on March 2020, Eliazar, together with his brothers Nícolas and Juan, harvested enough ripe agave to fill a nearly 10-ton earthen oven at the family’s palenque. For the production of this Tepextate-forward ensamble, Eliazar selected the most mature capón magueyes from a red and mineral-rich, tierra colorada family parcel. Losing about 30% of their water weight in the oven, the five Tepextates cooked down to about 250kg, the 20 Bicuixe, around 200kg, and three large espadínes reduced to another 200kg of caramelized maguey. With enough maguey to nearly fill a single Montezuma cypress sabino wood fermentation vat, the dry fibers were left to rest and ferment for over 48 hours before around 500 liters of well water was added. The tepache was monitored over the course of 13 days before the flavors and aromas dictated their readiness for distillation. Carefully combining the hearts with bits of heads and tails, Eliazar composed 60 liters at 50.9% alc.
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