TRAVEL | April 19

Oaxaca, Mexico Trip Report Part 4: Mezcal Educational Tour

Kaye Rottingham

As soon as we opened the car door to step foot onto the first stop of the day, it hit us right in the nose; the sweet, smokey aroma of distilling agave that fills the air of the Oaxacan countryside. It was a scent that would stick around with us for days and I can not say that I was disappointed by that.

Living in Toronto, I've been hearing a lot about Mezcal over the past year or so. However, up until this point I had yet to try any of this buzzworthy spirit. I had been saving myself, however, the time had come and this was the day that I would try all the mezcal!

Our host and educational guru of all things mezcal, Alvin, took us around the remote areas surrounding Oaxaca City to sample from all the best small batch distilleries. The excursion was little pricier than we normally spend when traveling, but we figured we would make the budget work by sacrificing eating at restaurants (as stated earlier). Just like coming to Mexico for some authentic Oaxacan street food, we were also down for experiencing the best of mezcal. The tour was worth every penny and is highly recommended by Jessica and myself. A true Oaxacan experience!

(For more information on the tour visit: Mezcal Educational Tours with Alvin Starkman)

Mezcal is made from the succulent plant known as agave. After being harvested, the hearts of the agave plants are cooked in an earthen oven for about three days.

Once their time spent in the earthen oven is up, the agave is then broken and ground up into mash and left to ferment in barrels with the addition of water.

Once everything is thoroughly fermented, the liquid is then collected and distilled.

Next comes the bottling and sampling. I had underestimated how much mezcal would actually be involved on the tour. I thought maybe one or two kinds from each distillery we visited. That was not the case. Each house offered probably about half a dozen selections to sample, as well as some from Alvin between locations, and of course, you have to try them all, this was important research, an educational experience, we were bettering ourselves...

What I'm trying to say is, I started off taking much larger sips than I probably should have, not fully understanding the amounts that would be involved by the end of the day. My tip is to take it easy, take small sips, there is plenty to enjoy and this is especially important because the tasting notes are all unique and should be tried. That's probably why we ended up buying seven litres of the stuff, it's just so darn good!

Stay tuned, now that we found the booze, we have to ask ourselves, which way to the beach...