The second part of my great non-beer tasting week came courtesy of Sandy MacFadyen of Toronto’s leading tequila bar, Reposado, and Miguel Puga-Langle of the import firm Intercambi. My having missed the mezcal-promoting reception the previous Sunday, the pair generously invited me to a quieter tasting on Thursday.
I sampled six every different mezcals in total, plus one tequila, and having never done so before, it was a tremendous experience. I’ve tried several excellent mezcals in the past – like the extraordinary Del Maguey Tobalá – so I knew that this oft misunderstood spirit can be far superior to the stuff with the “worm” in the bottle, but the opportunity to taste this number of mezcals from different regions and distilled from different varieties of agave was an eye-opener.
In aroma alone, the six mezcals varied about as widely as I could imagine, with Maria Agave Karwinski – distilled from wild agaves and therefore very rare, Miguel told me – sporting a fragrant, orange blossom nose and the same company’s Triple Distillation Mezcal offering a very smoky scent that was more like soot than fire. Of the latter mezcal, Miguel said a friend of his commented that the aroma reminded him of the smell of a Mexican village, which rang true to me, too.
In contrast to the florals and smoke of the Marias, the Murcielago Organic Mezcal has a sweet and fruity nose, with notes of fresh papaya, white pepper and a hint of petrol. This translates into a fresh and vibrant flavour, with gentle sweetness, receding fruit and a compelling herbaceousness, ending with a note of something almost approaching mintiness.
More fruit was found in the Raicilla El Real Oro, a Puerto Vallarta-area spirit for which the makers are apparently seeking their own appellation (“raicilla” rather than mezcal). Its nose is peachy rather than papaya-like, with a faint note of fennel lurking in the background and a soft, round and caramelly body.
I had a feeling that the small, mysterious-looking bottle Miguel was saving for the finish would be something special and I wasn’t disappointed. Mistique Chromium Añejo is a fascinating spirit, with vanilla, almond, a faint smokiness and citrus peel on the nose and a sweetish, apricot pit-accented start. In the middle, the sweetness recedes while the smoke grows a bit, bringing it all to a spicy, vanilla-edged finish. In this, I recognized, I was tasting a dessert mezcal, a thought Miguel confirmed by offering alongside my glass a seed-square dessert – looking like a Rice Crispy Square made of sesame seeds – drizzled with a sweet syrup. The combination was compelling and delicious, and capped off the tasting very nicely.