Del Maguey Mezcals
Del Maguey Mezcal
Ron Cooper is the owner of Del Maguey Mezcals. He’s been producing and exporting Mezcal since about 1995. He has teamed up with artist Ken Price to draw all of his labels.
Mezcal must be bottled at the origin in where it is made. This is why you see “Chichicapa” on one of the bottles because this is the remote village area where it comes from. All of Del Maguey’s Mezcals come from Oaxaca.
Del Maguey (which is his brand name) means “from the plant” and is a Caribe Indian word. Where as “Agave” means “Noble” and comes from the Greeks. Mez-Cali itself means “cooked agave”.
The Espadin (the Mother of the Blue Agave) is one of the main types of Maguey that they use to produce Mezcal, is used for many other resources by the people who make it. It’s used to make ropes, mats, baskets, parchment, canvases for painting, soap, shampoo, cooking for flavor, food and of course: Mezcal. It’s apparently high in vitamins, carbohydrates and 2 beneficial steroids for the body.
Now the way that Del Maguey produces and harvests their Mezcal may be different from what people may know. Del Maguey harvests their Maguey by maturity and not by age. The Palanquero’s know by sight and feel if a Maguey is ready to be harvested.
The “palanquero” or Mezcal Maker, takes trunkwood and mounds about 1 meter sq. in the bottom of the roasting pit. Then he puts special stones that won’t pop or explode on top of the wood to get red-hot. Once the wood has burned down, Fibers from the previous production are put over the hot rocks. The hearts of the Espadin or whichever Maguey they are using are then laid down over the fibers and are then covered with more fiber and palm mats. It is then covered with one foot of earth and left to roast for 3-5 days.
Tobala Maguey will be buried for 30 days, this is the one exception.
The roasted hearts are then dug up and left to sit in the shade for a week. Then natural microbes in the air, land on the cooked Maguey and begin natural fermentation. At different elevations, there are different kinds of microbes. When you taste Mezcal from different villages in the Del Maguey series, you can actually taste the difference.
The fermented Maguey is then tossed into a circle and is ground down into juices and fibers by a Molino (heavy stone wheel weighing a ton or two). Next all the fiber, meat and juice are put into wooden vats.
The fermentation is done aerobically for 2 days and then 10% village water is added. You know the Mezcal is beginning to ferment when you see and hear bubbles on the top of the vat. Then the Palanquero punches down the fermenting cap after another 2 days. After this the rest of the fermentation process will take anywhere from 7-30 days. This is all dependent on the weather. Hotter weather ferments faster and colder weather takes longer to ferment.
After fermentation, distillation will begin. Not all distillation is the same for Del Maguey. Some use copper pot stills, some use clay pots with bamboo tubing. It is distilled twice and in some cases, it can be distilled a third time. Del Maguey never adds water to dilute their spirits. If needed the heads or tails may be added back into the spirit to alter the proof. It is then bottled at the source and sent out to the world.
Here are some of the Mezcal’s that Del Maguey produces:
Chichicapa – 46%ABV (92 Proof)
This was Ron Cooper’s first released Mezcal. It is made in the village of Chichicapa at about 6,000 feet above sea level. It is a low valley with open, rolling hills. It comes from the Espadin (sword in Spanish).
Chichicapa is harvested organically and fermented naturally. Copper pot stills will be used to distill the Mezcal
Nose: Smoky, spicy, green bell pepper, butter cream
Palate: Vanilla, grassy, tropical fruit, citrus peels
Finish: Creamy, rich, smooth, chocolate mint
San Luis del Rio – 47% ABV (94 Proof)
This is also the village where this Mezcal comes from. It is made from Espadin. This is a high mountain Mezcal at 8,000 feet above sea level and you can taste the difference in the Mezcal.
Nose: High nose, smoke, citrus peel
Palate: Fruity, creamy, rich, bright minerality,hints of citrus and very aromatic.
Finish: Clean and warming
Santo Domingo Albarradas – 48% ABV (96 Proof)
This is the highest distilled Mezcal, coming in at 9,500 feet above sea level. The flavor of this spirit is influenced by the micro climates and cloud forests it’s situated by. The clouds cool Santo Domingo down and it helps to create a peaty, herbaceous soil where the Maguey can grow.
The Mezcal is distilled in copper pots to give the spirit a full bodied profile.
Nose: Grassy, herbaceous with light smoke and roasted pear
Palate: Spicy, roasted pear, tropical fruits, piney, citrus
Finish: Soft, gentle, lingering, dry
Each of the three above are made by a different distiller in each village.
Minero (of the mines) – Santa Catarina Minas – 49% ABV (98 Proof)
This Mezcal is made in a very low valley at 6,000 feet above sea level. It’s distilled from Espadin in clay pots with bamboo tubing. The heat source is a direct fire heating the still from below.
There may also be a 25-year-old Maguey Baril plant mixed in with the batch.
Nose: Clean, floral, white chocolate, perfumed, orange blossom honey
Palate: Citrus fruit acidity, spicy, white pepper, creamy vanilla
Finish: Rich, full bodied, smooth
Minero as well as all other Del Maguey is certified organic. Minero only produces 1,000 bottles a year.
Tobala – 45% ABV (90 Proof)
This is made from a wild mountain Agave that is found at about 9,000 feet above sea level. It will only grow in the shade of oak trees like truffle that take about 15 years to mature. Ron Cooper says “only God plants them”. The average weight of the pina is around 11 pounds (the size of a bowling ball). 700 hearts of Tobala will produce on average 300-400 liters of Mezcal once it has been distilled in copper pots.
One reason for the minerality in the Mezcal is due to the enzyme Tobala releases. It’s strong enough to dissolve granite which sucks up minerals. In some cases, when Tobala have been picked, some of the roots still have granite rock on them that they have grown into. On average only 600 bottles are produced a year.
Nose: Butterscotch, tropical fruits, sweet
Palate: Slightly sweet, creamy, butter, mango, cooked bread (yeasty), bright minerality (from the granite)
Finish: Smooth, creamy, full bodied and dry
This is the Mezcal that is made with a chicken breast. Pechuga literally means “breast” in Spanish. It is made from Minero Mezcal and then distilled once more in a clay pot with bamboo tubing. The chicken breast being one of the items left in for distillation, there are also several other items. Almonds, cinnamon, rice and 200 pounds of mexican fruit (apples, plums, pineapple) are added to the mix. The chicken breast actually helps to balance out the fruitiness. There is also a salty nose and taste on the tongue due to it being aged with coastal winds nearby. This Mezcal is triple distilled and is usually made in November and December.
Nose: Baking spices, baked apple, vanilla, nutmeg, sea spray, lemon zest
Palate: Smoky, salty, soft, baked apple pie
Finish: Clean, soft, lemon basil
Crema de Mezcal:
This is the Mezcal made for women and a few strong men….or that’s what Ron says.
Nose: Sweet, creamy vanilla, pear, pineapple, almonds
Palate: Agave sweetness (This could be due to the unfermented Agave nectar being added to the finished distillate), creamy texture, coffee, orgeat syrup, roasted maguey
Finish: Dry, smoky, orange peel.
Vida – San Luis Del Rio – 42% ABV (84 Proof)
This is a special Mezcal in Ron’s eyes. He named this Mezcal after his grand-daughter who is named Vida Sunshine. It is lower in proof; 84 proof. Since it is lower in proof, there is a lower excise tax on it. The cut is more towards the tails making it fruitier and very mixable. It’s also great in cocktails.
Nose: Light smoke, caramel apple
Palate: Spicy, smoky, earthy, light sweetness
Finish: Clean, semi sweet
Espadin Especial – 45% ABV (90 Proof)
This is Ron’s limited edition Mezcal. Once it’s gone, it’s gone he says! It’s another high mountain Maguey that is copper pot distilled by his rare Tobala maker.
Nose: Smoke, earthy, tropical fruit, caramel
Palate: Fruity, chewy, sweet pineapple, candied almonds
Finish: Soft, clean, some salinity and lightly dry
San Luis Del Rio – Azul –
This limited edition Mezcal is made from 7 year old Blue Agave.
Nose: Tropical fruits, freshly peeled citrus, banana chips
Palate: Rich, creamy texture, herbaceous, wet slate
Finish: White peppercorn, medium to long finish