Introducing Yuu Baal
There isn't a day that goes by where I don't receive twenty different emails from readers, potential customers, vendors, or general enthusiasts about a product we just have to carry at K&L. With so many different products hitting the spirits market right now, it's almost impossible to keep up, especially when so many random people are constantly writing to me about their experiences:
"David! I had this rum on vacation in Bali. You simply have to do the six months worth of price negotiations, product research, government formula approval, label design and approval, importation logistics, and then take all the investment responsibilities of an importer just so I can get one bottle for my wife who forgot to buy one while we were there! I might even buy two bottles if you can make it happen!"
Unfortunately, K&L has never been the store that carries everything, nor will we ever be (see my viral article about saturation here for clarification). Now more than ever we have to be extremely picky! I've never been the asshole gatekeeper who said no to everything under the sun and made people nervous with a serious, straightforward demeanor. I've always been the easy-going guy who said yes to any and every appointment and did my best to give every decent label a chance to succeed. Unfortunately for the little guys coming to market today with superfluous booze, those days are over. There's too much competition today. There are too many people vying for the limited spots we have on the shelf and extremely tough decisions are going to be part of the modern reality. When it comes to Tequila and mezcal, I've put a total freeze on any expansion because we're as full as full can be. However, when I tasted the new expressions from Yuu Baal, my mouth dropped, my eyes widened, and I bought everything they had.
Yuu Baal is one of the best new mezcal labels we've seen from Oaxaca in the last few years, originating from the town of San Juan del Rio—one of the region's most well-regarded distillation centers. The brand (which translates to "earth" and "fire" in Zapotec) is a collaboration between a local cooperative of distillers and my friends at Pacific Edge here in California, incorporating spriits from San Luis del Rio, Santa Ana del Rio, and Santo Domingo Albarradas. It has immediately become one of the most diverse and high-quality mezcal line ups we carry with flavors that are clean and focused all the way through. The entry level espadin expression is made from estate grown agave baked and crushed by stone using traditional methods, and the pure, unadulterated character of the aromatics is evidence of the artisinal production. It's also very well priced for the quality. Del Maguey's Vida was always the go-to value mezcal, but with the competition on the market right now it's going to be tough for them to keep that crown; especially with something as good as this:
Yuu Baal Espadín Mezcal $34.99 - Roasted aromas of earth and spice emanate from the nose, and the palate brims with subtle smoke and a concentrated blast of tangy fruit and savory spice. The Yuu Baal espadin is hands down one of the best sub-$40 mezcales we've ever tasted. There may be a new king of Oaxacan spirits.
Yuu Baal has three high-end wild agave expressions as well, made from the holy trinity of tobalá, madrecuixe, and tepeztate. For those of you who are new to mezcal, these wild agave expressions are expensive because of the rarity and difficulty in the foraging of them. Unlike the espadín varietal, which can be cultivated in fields such as in the photo above, think of wild agave like you would truffles. They cannot be farmed, but rather they must be found. Not only do you have to find them, you have to find enough of them to ferment into enough liquid to justify cooking a batch for distillation. The flavors of the wild agave expressions, however, are not instantly better than the standard espadín expressions to the novice palate. I would compare the nuance of their profiles to something like cigars for the newcomer: at first it's just smoke and earth, but over time you come to appreciate the complexity. In the case of the three Yuu Baal releases, they're three of the most precise, textbook distillates of tobalá, madrecuixe, and tepeztate I've ever tasted. They're definitely worth the extra dough if wild agave is your bag.
Yuu Baal Tobalá Mezcal $109.99 - Tobala is usually the ultimate test of a Oaxacan distiller's craft and in this case the Yuu Baal passes with flying colors. There are textbook tobala notes of earth and sweet plant-like flavors that morph into a rather peppery note on the finish. It's an elegant expression of the famed wild agave on all levels.
I would never write this in the actual notes for the website because I think it would scare off the budding consumer, but for you guys here I'll say this: to me, tobalá always has what I describe as a paper towel flavor. When I was a kid, someone told me that drinking water filtered through a paper towel would get rid of the hiccups. I tried it once and the flavor has never left my memory. That plant/paper flavor is a big part of the classic tobalá profile, in my opinion.
When the agave piñas are roasted before fermentation, they're left to smolder under a mountain of earth. Hence, many of the Yuu Baal expressions have clear and vibrant flavors of—you guessed it—scorched earth. Pretty straightforward, right? You really get that earthy flavor coming through in the madrecuixe.
Yuu Baal Madrecuixe Mezcal $109.99 - Madrecuixe is one of the most coveted and complex of the mezcal wild agaves and the immediate aromas from the Yuu Baal expression showcase exactly why. Nosing the spirit, there are distinct and potent earthy elements at play, intermingled with an ethereal smoky note that smells like a fire pit after it's been doused with water. The balance between those elements on the palate is a spectacle to behold, as the flavors meander from vegetal, to sweet agave fruit, to subtle spice, and then back to plant matter and earth. This is truly a mezcal expression for those who seek out the most potent of agave flavors.
Yuu Baal Tepeztate Mezcal $119.99 - Yuu Baal's wild tepeztate expressions is perhaps one of the most polished top shelf mezcals we've ever tasted, perfectly balancing the line between classic agave spirit flavor and more exotic notes of earth, spice, and savory. There's a seamless note of black pepper, roasted agave, scorched earth, and sweet agave perfume all the way from front to back. Those searching for elegance, look no further.
Like I said, there's no room for new mezcal at K&L right now unless it's some of the best mezcal we've ever tasted. In the case of Yuu Baal, it is. These are definitely here to stay.