Puebla: Mexico’s Newest Mezcal RegionBy Brad Japhe
In the recent past, for ‘mezcal’ to appear on a label, an agave distillate originated from one of eight Mexican states including Oaxaca, Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. We can now add to that list the region of Puebla. Encompassing a mountainous landscape towards the south of the country, it is an area with distilling traditions that extend back for centuries. Of course, its new denomination won’t change the ancient methods used to make native spirits here. It simply makes it more likely that American drinkers will get a chance to taste them. To the delight of early adopters, a few examples of Pueblan mezcal have already begun popping up north of the border. A majestic terroir reveals itself in these new labels, hinting at an exciting expansion of what it means to be mezcal.
NEW STATE, NEW MEZCAL BOTTLINGS
Late last year, Del Maguey launched San Pablo Ameyaltepec, the brand’s first foray into the mezcal of Puebla. The liquid derives from the hearts of wild agave, aged for up to 18 years. Production is a patient process which reflects in the bottle’s elevated price tag, just north of $100. But you get what you pay for, and here that equates to an elegant expression with transportive qualities. Its gentle floral nose evokes lilac and desert rose. The dried earth of the central Mexican highlands echos in its lengthy finish. It offers a compelling glimpse into how the region’s volcanic soil characterizes distillate.
Photo Credit: Brad Japhe / Del Maguey San Pablo Ameyaltepec
But as with any mezcal, the juice speaks as much to its botanical origins as it does its geographic provenance. Even within a specific state, such as Puebla, flavors can fluctuate dramatically. While the San Pablo employs the papalote agave (aka cupreata), Mezcales de Leyenda offers something different. Their Puebla offering highlights the tobalá agave. From its smokier aromatics and lighter mouthfeel, to its baked apple finish, the spirit bears little resemblance to its counterpart from Del Maguey. The tobalá leaves its calling card in a subtle sweetness carried through each sip. The first certified mezcal from the state, Leyenda’s bottling retails at $95.
VEGETARIANS NEEDN’T APPLY
If you’re particularly lucky in your boozy travels, you might encounter Vino de Mezcal — a supremely limited lineup of one-offs from the Wahaka brand. In fact, Number 16 in the series might be the rarest of them all. This bottling features Pueblan espadilla agave, and distilled with the essence of chicken and mole poblano. Regrettably, less than 100 bottles worth of this liquid ever entered glass. The 114-proof spirit drinks with tantalizing complexity, balancing roasted and savory notes against an alluring dryness. Bottles flew off shelves at $300 a pop, but a handful remain. Look for them on the back bar of select establishments across the US. Naturally, if you procure a precious pour, expect to pay accordingly.
For those mere mortals anxious for a far more accessible taste of liquid Puebla, relief appears to be on the horizon. The opening shots have been fired and these mezcals have been well received stateside. Consequently, this guarantees an influx of Pueblan mezcal in the months and years ahead. If these examples serve as any indicator of what’s to come, agave aficionados should take heart. The more mezcal, the merrier.
Banner Photo: Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Puebla
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