Seeing that I'm fresh off a weekend in Vegas, and the fact that it's much warmer there than here, it's easy to understand my current drive towards one of the more fun and engaging spirits of the distilled repertoire. I came home and knew exactly what I wanted to eat and, more importantly, what I wanted to drink with it. I got off the plane, took a cab home, walked to downtown San Mateo, visited the Bay Area's finest taqueria - Pancho Villa (now that I'm married into a large Mexican family I think I'm more qualified to make such claims) - and purchased a huge vat of carnitas, refritos, and pico de gallo to make some tacos at home. Remember, I'm all about matching your drink to your food because meals are simply more exciting when all the proper regional and ethnic elements are in play.
Breaking out a bottle of Del Maguey Chichicapa is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly, hence why I made sure I had the choicest of slow roasted meats and plenty of lime. The Del Maguey mezcals are in the same category with Bordeaux first growths, Krug champagne, and DRC Burgundies: they are the best of the best and they are priced to match their quality. At $69.99, the Chichicapa is the most inexpensive of the single village line-up, which displays different styles and flavors of mezcal based on the water, terroir, and maguey (agave) sourced from the individual and extremely remote Oaxacan villages. I cannot stress enough how pure and clean the quality of these spirits are and when you know a bit more about their production it makes total sense.
The process is completely hands on as the maguey hearts are roasted over hot stones in an outside pit and then covered with earth to smolder for three to five days. Unlike virtually every other tequila that uses a giant machine to break down the agave, Del Maguey is made in tiny villages so they have no machinery, only a horse-drawn stone mill to mash up the roasted plant before it is ready for a long, slow fermentation, after which it is distilled twice in clay pots and copper stills. The only ingredients are water and agave - nothing else.
The smokiness that is retained from the roasting is unique to mezcal and helps to differentiate it from tequila. The levels range anywhere from Caol Ila to Ardbeg numbers, which is why I'm still baffeled as to why Islay lovers have yet to truly cross over. There are no worms in the bottles (a sign of ultra-poor quality), no hot alcoholic flavors, and no next-day hangovers with Del Maguey as top chef Anthony Bourdain learned while featuring the mezcal on his Travel Channel show. The complex flavors of citrus, agave, spice, and smoke make unaged white whiskey seem even more boring than it already is. Considering how many people eat a burrito five times a week, it doesn't make sense why this specialty of Mexican culture has yet to catch on. Del Maguey is as good as mezcal gets and there is no reason for you not to be drinking it with me, so find me in the store and let me tell you more about why you're going to love it.