This week we are ecstatic to announce the return to IN-STORE tastings at Drink PLG! We are kicking things off this week with Whiskey Del Bac, this Friday at 5pm! Whiskey Del Bac features 100% single malt barley whiskey, inspired by the Scottish methods, but uniquely influenced by the American Southwest.
To kickoff our blog, we are going to begin a little bit further southwest, aka Mexico. As things warm up and people begin gathering together again, it's impossible not to conjure the joy of mixing up margaritas with friends. The state of Jalisco in Mexico is home to many of the tequilas that made it famous. But tequila is only the beginning (or end in a way) of the history of distillation in this part of the country. Drink has been bringing in a variety of distillates from Mexico, especially from the abundance of Jalisco, highland and lowland tequilas, raicillas (the mezcal of this state) and sotol, we are so excited to share with you!
Tequila Ocho Plata ($59) comes from the highlands of Jalisco (Jalisco, being the only state allowed to produce agave distillate called "Tequila"). Ocho is the first tequila to designate both the year it was produced and the precise field from which the family grown agaves were sourced; a step beyond even typical "estate" tequila.
Fortaleza Reposado Tequila ($64) has a family history that extends deeply, including one of the ancestors being a part of the push to get a geographical indication or G.I. (this is like a trademark for foods, wine and spirits) for Tequila to protect it. The current distillery (also highland) was restarted by a great-grandson Don Guillermo, making tequila in the same way it was made over 100 years ago, “with a small brick oven to cook the agave, a tahona to squeeze the juices out of the agave, wood tanks for fermentation, and the 2 original copper pots for distillation."
Raicilla (pronounced "rye-see-uh") is an agave distillate in a similar vein as mezcal, it's lineage dates back to the 16th century with the arrival of distillation technology in Mexico and indigenous peoples began using them with their traditional fermented agave beverage (pulque). The ruling Spanish ended up illegalizing the distillate, which didn't eliminate it, but pushed it to the outskirts of modern day Jalisco. Why not call it Mezcal? Because there isn't a NOM (think of this as an G.I.) for Mezcal in Jalisco, so they use the indigenous local name for the distillate instead.
Estancia Distillery ($55) claims to make their distillate in the same way it began 400 years ago. This is an awesome option for those who want to try something else from Jalisco besides Tequila, and is made from agave maximiliana, not espadin!
If you want to dive in to even more terroir driven expressions, La Venenosa 200ml Raicillas are exactly what you’re looking for. Raicillas from specific villages with unique methodology and agave varietals at price points that are more approachable than the full bottles offer.
- Tabernas, $29 - Made from cultivated agave Maximiliana. The agave is roasted in an adobe clay oven fueled by black oak. It is then fermented in oak vats with natural yeast, then distilled once in a stainless steel alembic Arabic-Filipino hybrid still. The nose has citrus peals and herbs. The palate is dry with notes of cooked agave.
- Sierra Occidental, $31 - Made from cultivated agave Maximiliana. The agave is roasted in a wood fired adobe oven, with wild yeasts fermentation. The distillation is performed in an Arabic-Philippino still and bottled after only one pass. This Raicilla has a fruity palate of unsweetened lemon and lime juice. As the fruitiness fades, minerality and deep spice emerge.
- Costa del Jalisco, $34 - Made from cultivated agave Rhodacantha. Roasted in Roast – adobe oven, fueled by black oak. Distilled 2 times in a Filipino style still that is made from the trunk of a Higuera Blanca tree. La Venenosa Costa has notes of cedar and pine.
- Sierra Volcanes, $36 - Made from cultivated agave Angustifolia. The agave are roasted in a pit oven with black oak, and double-distilled in a ceramic still. Notes of tropical fruit, earthy funk, and green pepper.
- Sierra del Tigre, $39 - Made from wild foraged agave 'Bruto'. Roasted in an earthen oven, fueled by black oak. Distillation is 1 time in a ceramic Filipino still. Sierra del Tigre Is very rare. Production is limited to 700L per year. The nose has a striking cheese-like quality (probably due to malolactic fermentation) and tastes like chocolate covered cherries.
- Puntas, $47, 63 proof - From Sierra Occidental, cultivated agave Maximiliana, adobe oven, black oak fuel. Distilled 2 times in a stainless steel alembic. This is the high proof "heads" of the distillate, just like the mezcaleros drink. Stone fruit, herbs and burn.
And lastly, Sotol: Think mezcal made not from agave but from a cactus! Sotol is a wild spirit produced mostly in Chihuahua. It’s not quite a mezcal or a tequila but something more unique. This spirit is not made from the agave plant, but from a cactus called a Dessert Spoon.
La Higuera, Wheeleri ($38) roasts the cactus in an earthen oven for roughly 24-36 hours and chops off most of the charred bits (which is why it isn't very smokey). The roasted hearts of the cactus are then milled and fermented in open air wooden vats. From there they are distilled into small copper pots. In my opinion, sotols always taste very bright green like a fresh bell pepper or English snap peas. They have a fair amount of earthiness to them as well. This bottling carries those distinct markers with them, but I also find a lot of Asian pear notes on the nose and a caramel on the finish.
DRINK GM & Spirit Specialist
Wine Buyer & Lead Sales Associate