AGAVE VARIETAL: AGAVE ESPADÍN
Big Boys Going All In
The growth in popularity for mezcal in recent years hasn’t gone unnoticed as some of the biggest names in the liquor business continue to make significant mezcal investments. According to International Wine & Spirits Research, US volume of mezcal sales grew 279% in the years between 2005 and 2015. This growth spurred the world’s largest independent spirits producer, Bacardi, to enter into a distribution agreement with Casa AGP, makers of Zignum Mezcal, Mezcal El Recuerdo de Oaxaca, and Mezcal El Señorio in 2013. At the time, the move made Bacardi the first global spirits company to have a complete mezcal portfolio. The investment floodgates opened soon after and players like William Grant & Sons, Diageo, and Proximo Spirits all joined the party. In mid-2017 global wine and spirits giant Pernod-Ricard announced that they would be taking a majority stake in Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, one of the leading premium, artisanal mezcal producers. A month later news and social media networks were abuzz with the announcement of Diageo’s acquisition of Casamigos in a deal that could be worth up to $1 billion. Casamigos, of course, is known for being George Clooney, Rande Gerber, and Mike Meldman’s little tequila project turned global sensation. In 2018, well after the Diageo acquisition, the company added their first mezcal to the portfolio, a joven mezcal made of 100 percent Espadín agave in Oaxaca.
Under The Volcano
George Clooney’s attraction to agave spirits isn’t the first time that mezcal and tequila have had their brush with stardom. In fact, Under The Volcano —Malcolm Lowry’s mezcal-soaked masterpiece about the utterly self-destructive final hours of a British consul living in Cuernavaca, Mexico —inspired the 1984 adaptation directed by John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Moby Dick among others). The story depicts the tragic and inescapable demise of Geoffrey Firmin, played by Academy Award nominated Albert Finney (Big Fish, The Gathering Storm, and Erin Brockovich) in the film, on the day that his estranged wife returns to rekindle their relationship alongside Geoffrey’s younger half-brother. Spoiler alert: it all goes spectacularly sideways in ways that are sad, predictable, at times comical, but as is the case in all tragedies, absolutely inevitable. The prose is swollen with Faustian and biblical symbolism as well as numerology but all of it with so much drinking that I struggle to think of any other book that even comes close in that regard. Throughout the story, mezcal plays such a profound role that some have argued that the book has at least in small part been responsible for the spirit’s recent surge in popularity.
Casamigos Mezcal Joven is very much a beginner’s mezcal in that everything it has is toned down one or two clicks. So while it is unbelievably smooth and easy to drink, it lacks the intensity of flavor and smokiness that some seek in a mezcal joven. The flavors and aromas that it does have are extremely pleasant. On the nose you will find vegetal, fruit, and mineral notes while on the palate there are flavors of vanilla, lemon, subtle pepper, and sweet agave.
Cigar Pairing – Balmoral Añejo XO Connecticut
The Balmoral Añejo XO Connecticut delivers a mild to medium strength profile of wood, pepper, coffee, cream, and subtlenuts before the mezcal is introduced. Take a sip of the Casamigos and let it coat your palate before you swallow it. On subsequent puffs you’ll notice the pepper and wood from the cigar dive deep into the background while the vanilla and nut become much more prominent than before.