Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from any type of agave plant native to Mexico. The word mezcal translates to ,”oven -cooked agave.” Agave grows in many different parts of Mexico, with most mezcal being produced in Oaxaca. Mezcal is made from the heart of the agave plant known as the pina. The agave plant is part of the Agavaceae family, which has almost 200 different subspecies. It takes between 7 and 15 years for an agave plant to mature, depending on the species and whether it is cultivated or wild. Mezcal is made from over 30 agave species, varietals, and sub-varietals. Tequila is only made from blue agave plants, which by regulation means mezcal cannot be made from blue agave.
The most commonly used agave is espadin, or “smallsword” the predominant agave in Oaxaca. Traditionally mezcal is handcrafted by small scale producers. Villages can contain dozens of production houses each using methods that have been passed down from generation to generation, some using techniques practiced over 200 years ago. The process begins by harvesting the agave plants, and then cutting off the roots and leaves to have only the pina, or heart of the agave plant. These pinas are then cooked for about 3 days, often in pit ovens, which are earthen mounds over pits of hot rocks. This underground roasting gives mezcal its intense and distinctive smoky flavor. After this the pinas are crushed and mashed, (traditionally by a large stone wheel turned by a horse) then left to ferment in large vats or barrels with water added. The mash is allowed to ferment, then the liquid is distilled in clay or copper pots which further modifies the flavor. The distilled product is then ready for bottling. Like tequila, mezcal is distilled twice to raise the proof of the spirit to the proper strength. Joven, or young, mezcal is unaged and usually imparts more flavor of the agave. Other mezcals can be aged for longer periods of time to allow for the barrel to impart more oak flavor into the final product.
Mexico has about 330,000 hectares of agave cultivating for production of mezcal. Over 6 million liters are produced in Mexico annually, with over 150 brand names. The industry generates about 29,000 jobs directly and indirectly. In Mexico mezcal is generally drunk straight and not mixed in cocktails. It is often accompanied with orange slices, lemon, or lime sprinkled with a mixture of ground fried larvae, ground chili peppers, and salt called sal de gusano, which translates to, “worm salt.”
Union Uno mezcal is a product that comes from a union of several different producer families all working together to create an authentic mezcal. Their goals include:
Ensuring the production of mezcal is self-sustaining.
Quality of production and the well being of the producers is their foundation.
Respect, above all, the artisan production of mezcal.
Provide social development and economic stability for the producer families.
Union Uno Mezcal Joven is made from espadin and cirial agave plants ranging from 8 to 20 years in age. It is 80 proof in strength, and may vary slightly from batch to batch. Tasting notes include vanilla, pine, and citrus with a long smoky finish. Next time you are looking for a great mezcal at a great price look no further than Union Uno Mezcal Joven. Retail price $39.99