NTSS Mezcal Tasting

imbericoproductNTSS gathered for their first Mezcal tasting with the following lineup:

Mezcal “Fenix” de Oaxaca Con su Gusano (1970’s) – fruity, earthy and  herbal with a note freshwater lake air and a notably good mouthfeel for a low-proof bottom-shelf spirit… this is pretty good

Forever OAX ($40) – vegetal with underripe fruit, mild pepper, mild smoke and green pepper… this is okay, but not worth exploring

Tres Papalote ($63) – cucumber, agave, grass, white pepper, black pepper, green pepper, green apple and a good mouthfeel… not an exciting spirit, but good

Del Maguey Vida ($31) – vegetal with light smoke, green pepper, brine, green apple and spearmint… very good stuff at a great price

Del Maguey Chichicapa ($64) – apple, pear, pineapple, green pepper, black pepper, green papaya, light smoke, slightly metallic… not as great as I remember, but this is a newer batch and still good

Del Maguey San Luis del Rio Special Cask – 20 Year Old Van Winkel Stitzel Weller Barrel ($120) – green pepper, vanilla, pear, grass, apple, nutmeg… very good, well-balanced with good character

Del Maguey Iberia ($200) – salty and sweet with anise, meat, apple, grapefruit, nectarine and grass… excellent!

Mezcal Vago Espadín ($51) – roasted corn, light smoke, black pepper, corn starch, pineapple… very good and I especially appreciated the roasted corn aspect

Mezca Vago Eloté ($58) – burnt candy corn, corn syrup, honey, candies ginger, vanilla cream … too much corn flavor

Pierde Almas Joven Tequilana Weber (Lote 02TW-SJR, 51.6%, $68) – green pepper, white pepper, guava, agave syrup, straw with a good mouthfeel… this is a really solid mezcal!

Pierde Almas Pechuga (Lote 02-P, 50.1%, $120) – coconut and meat with a nice oily texture and notes of grass and grilled pineapple… excellent!

Wahaka Tobala ($84) – butter, agave, white pepper, meat, plantains… not as good as I was expecting, but still very good

Marca Negra Arroqueño ($130) – astringent with green pepper, vanilla and agave … disappointing

Marca Negra Espadín ($55) – meat, light smoke, green pepper, nectarine and pear … good

My winner for the night was the Del Maguey Iberico (~$200) with Pierde Almas Mezcal de Pechuga (~$120) as the runner-up.  Both of these are a pechuga-style mescal – using ham for Ibérico and the traditional chicken breast for Mezcal de Pechuga.  I really like the contrast of meat and fruit against the smoky agave base. Honorable mention goes to another offering from Pierde Almas, Tequilana – a discontinued offering that is still available for about $60 (I found this bottle for $6 on a clearance rack!).

My Own Custom Whiskey Advent Calendar

Last year I was introduced to the concept of a whisky advent calendar by my friend, Gene, and the folks at Master of Malt. Today, I decided to build my own custom version using samples that I’ve collected over the past year. I’ve come up a bit short, so I’ll supplement a few from my open bottles that haven’t been formally tasted yet. The collection includes, Scotch from most regions, bourbon, rye, rum, brandy, grappa and mezcal. I know that this ventures a bit beyond whiskey, but that just makes the journey more interesting. I’m using a somewhat arbitrary order while saving a few of the premium offerings for last. I’m looking forward to it and I hope you enjoy it, too.

Kirkland Añejo Tequila

Anejo Tequila, NAS, 40% ABV, $27 (liter)

Smells of mild smoke, green pepper, black pepper, toffee, straw, overripe plum, dark cocoa. There’s quite a collection here.

The taste is briny apple, lemon drop, honey, ginger, green pepper, turnip. It’s a blend of sweetness, vegetal flavors and spice that works quite well.

The finish is more of the same bit with mild charred wood character: black pepper, ginger, green pepper, turnip. The finish goes on for a while.

I didn’t enjoy this when I first opened it. Initially, I drank it cold and complained of a strong wood character. I’ve learned to give aged distillates some time to open up and this one definitely benefited from this as well as my room temperature sampling. It’s much better now than I initially thought. Still, I prefer the Toro de Lidia Extra Añejo, which is a bit more complex and still available at a reasonable price. This Costco product is not available where I live, so its not really an option anyway.

El Tesoro Platinum Tequila

Tequila (NOM 1139), Blanco, 40% ABV, $30

I’ve been drinking El Tesoro Añejo Tequila for a while and enjoying it quite a bit… mostly in margaritas. Recently, I opened a bottle of their Platinum offering and am comparing it to Fina Estampa Blanco tonight.

The aroma is spicy, woody and vegetal with little sweetness. I still detect straw, olive and a bit of toffee, but the sweetness is very mild in comparison to the notable spice. There’s no hint of smoke or wood. The taste is somewhat briny, vegetal, tangy and spicy. The sweetness is most notable as it balances out the tart flavors. Up front, there’s lemon, sweet pepper, ginger, plum, pear, black pepper and tart cherry. The finish is leathery and spicy with a bitter wood that persists for a good while as the spice gently fades long after the fruits are gone. This is an easy  tequila to drink with more of the vegetal flavors of agave, while avoiding the typical agave “bite” that is prominent in cheap tequila.  It does all of this while offering a good amount of spice, which I like. The additional fruits and mildly sweet flavors blend well resulting in a well balanced tequila. It’s easy to see why people like this one. I highly recommend this one too along with the Añejo offering as well (I’ll get around to tasting notes for that one eventually).

Toro de Lidia Extra Añejo Tequila


Tequila (NOM1531), Extra Añejo, 40% ABV, $32

My nose is greeted by buttery smoke, toffee, sweet peppers, black pepper, straw, plum and sweet ginger. My tongue is bathed in vegetal green peppers, mildly spicy black pepper, sweet ginger, straw, honey, tart cherry and lemon drop. The palate is light and the finish is sweet, mildly spicy and faintly bitter. The flavors are bold at first, but nicely balanced. The light spiciness that follows is a nice transition to the finish that highlights the smoky agave with a leathery sweetness and spice. The wood is very much under control for an extra aged tequila, but the mellowing influence is apparent. This is great stuff; however, I’d hesitate to use these flavors (or waste them) in a margarita. Instead, this is a great way to get to know agave distillate and an excellent tequila to prepare you for the flavors of non-Tequila Mezcal (distillate not from Weber Blue Agave grown in the Tequila region).

Fina Estampa Blanco Tequila

Tequila (NOM 1436), Blanco, 40% ABV, $29

This smells creamy and buttery, but there’s still the vegetal agave. There are notes of straw, smoke and toffee as well. The taste is sweet bell pepper, white pepper, lemon, persimmon, vanilla, light smoke, ginger and a hint of sulphur. On the palate its mildly chewy as it transitions to a peppery finish with a bit of leathery dry wood. I’m used to tequila having an agave “bite,” but this one avoids that with a somewhat creamy texture on the palate. The balance of vegetal, sweet and spicy flavors are great with an added dimension of wood and char, but its subtle. I highly recommend this one even along side El Tesoro Blanco as it offers a creamy profile as opposed to the salty, spicy profile of the El Tesoro.

The 2013 Spirit Journal World’s Top 120 Spirits

Spirit JournalF. Paul Pacult has published his Top 120 Spirits for 2013 and here’s how I fared with the list:

7. Parker’s Heritage Collection Master Distiller’s Blend of Mash bills Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA) 63.5% abv, $80.

I know of 4 batch releases of this sixth release from the Parker’s Heritage Collection, but this doesn’t match any of them.  Perhaps this was a pre-release batch that he reviewed, after all he is a special guy in the world of spirits.  My bottle is the most current release at a whopping 69.7% ABV and considered by many to be the best batch of the four.

32. Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (USA-2012) 66.2% abv, $70.

I have the 2011 edition of this limited annual release from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, but I’ve yet to open it.

56. Merlet Crème de Cassis de la Saintonge Boisée Liqueur (France) 20% abv, $25.

I have a bottle of this that a friend of mine picked up for me in Paris last year.  It’s quite good!

60. William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA) 61.7% abv, $70.

This is another one in my cabinet from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and I’m looking forward to opening it.  It’s a wheated bourbon and I don’t have any experience with this type, so I need to open it soon.

67. El Tesoro de Don Felipe Añejo 100% Agave Tequila (Mexico) 40% abv, $59.

This is my favorite tequila and I’ve still got another bottle of it left from a clearance deal I happened upon over a year ago.  I also have the blanco and reposado from El Tesoro and they’re quite good as well.

85. Laphroaig Cask Strength 10 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 55.3% abv, $60.

I’ve had a sample of this from a friend and it’s a bold Islay whisky.  I prefer Ardbeg Ten, but this one suits the preferences of many.  I spent too much time evaluating it at cask strength and my mouth was becoming numb by the time I had added enough water to bring it down to a realistic level.  I plan on giving this one another try.

86. Dos Maderas 5 + 3 Years Old Superior Reserve Rum (Guyana/Barbados) 40% abv, $38.

I finished my bottle of this one last year and it was pretty good, if not bit too sweet.  I like this much better than Dos Maderas PX (5+5), which is finished in Pedro Ximenes Oloroso Sherry casks, as that one is overly sweet for my taste.

87. Herradura Blanco 100% Agave Tequila (Mexico) 40% abv, $55.

Last year, I bought a sample pack of Herradura Blanco, Reposado and Anejo.  I liked the Anejo the best.

92. Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera (Venezuela) 40% abv, $39.

My brother introduced me to this Jamaican rum.  While it was good, I consider Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year Old Jamaican Rum to be better.

97. Rhum Barbancourt Réserve Spéciale 8 Year Old Rum (Haiti) 43% abv, $23.

I’m on my second bottle of this rhum agricole (i.e. cane juice rum) and it was a slow start for me with this one.  At first, I was totally unimpressed and considered it a bit over-aged, but as time wore on I came to appreciate it more and more.   It’s got a “reedy” flavor to it that takes a bit of getting used to.  Now, I don’t think I would be without it and plan to try other rums of this style.

99. WhiskeyPig Straight Rye Whiskey Aged 10 Years (Canada) 50% abv; $70.

This one is 100% rye (most rye whiskeys are around 90-95%) and is bottled in Vermont.  I found a bottle in Louisiana about a year ago, but now it’s readily available here in Texas.  I’ve not opened my bottle yet, but my friends tell me that I’m in for a real treat when I do.

114. Balcones 1 Texas Single Malt Whisky Special Release (USA) 52.7% abv, $68.

This local distillery in Waco, TX has won many awards with their Texas Single Malt.  Personally, I find it to be the best of the young or no age statement (NAS) malt whiskys that I’ve tasted.  It’s bursting with flavor and has a nice dry finish.

Del Maguey Chichicapa

Mezcal, 14 Years,
47.8% ABV, $67

From the first whiff, this smells like whiskey, then you start smelling the vegetal agave. The smells are caramel, mild smoke, grass, barley, green pepper, black pepper, bamboo, cedar, turpentine, white grape and sandalwood.

The taste is very green, smoky and hot. The flavors are vegetal and spicy… green pepper, ginger, black pepper, white pepper, dry grapefruit, cedar and oak. Of course, there’s the smokey flavor as well.

This is some great stuff! Much more interesting than any tequila that I’ve tasted. I highly recommend it, even at close to $70.