If you need a gift for a tequila lover, how about mezcal, tequila’s smoky cousin.
The giftee can try a side-by-side comparison, straight up or on the rocks.
Here’s the history of mezcal.
In April, IZO Bacanora won Best in Category at San Francisco World Spirits Competition, an annual judging of more than 3,000 different spirits.
Trivia fans: It’s the oldest spirits competition in the U.S., and the second oldest in the world. Judged by the world’s leading spirits experts and covering a breadth of spirits, it’s known for its great picks.
Bacanora is a regional mezcal from the northwestern state of Sonora, Mexico: a tiny Mezcal appellation in the mountains of Sonora, lauded for its great mezcals.
Bacanora is made from a regional varietal of the Agave Angustifolia Haw, also know as Agave Pacifica, Agave Yaquiana and Agave Bacanora. The plant* is native to Sonora.
Bacanora production dates back to at least the 1600s, when the Native Opata learned agave distillation from the Spanish. However, that spirit was declared illegal‡ in 1915, and it remained so for 77 years, until 1992.
Times change: Bacanora has been protected by Denomination of Origin (D.O.) status since 2000. It can only be distilled in Sonora.
Roasted and cooked in underground pits, the agave piñas, which take up to 12 years to grow, have a distinctive flavor that is earthy, peppery and complex.
IZO Bacanora. 88 proof, is double distilled in copper and stainless steel. Per the distiller’s notes, the result is a full-bodied mezcal, robust and aggressive, with bold smoke. There are pops of lime and fresh black pepper, and a lingering smoke finish†.
This is a sipping mezcal. People who like to sip a smoky Scotch may enjoy a bottle, too.
For a top-of-class spirit, IZO Bacanora is affordable at $ 67.99 a bottle. You can buy it here.
Founded by Gaston Martinez, a native of Durango, Mexico, IZO Spirits is a collection of premium, handcrafted agave spirits produced sustainably right in the heart of town. They are made according to centuries of tradition, from slow-roasted, wild agave hearts (piñas) that are harvested on local ranches. Discover more at IZOSpirits.com.
The company makes six premium mezcal varieties and one tequila.
Here’s a new term for us: the people who craft mezcal are called mezcaleros.
*Agave (photo #3) is not a cactus; it is a succulent, and was once classified in the same botanical family as lily and aloe. Today it is classified in its own family, Agavaceae, which consists of more than 400 species.
†Flavors and aromas, especially of finer spirits, are complex. While smoke may be a top note in mezcal, the particular flavor and aroma of any spirit (or wine, or craft beer) is predicated on a number of factors from the type of agave used, to where and how it was grown, to the production and aging processes. Each of these can vary widely.
‡Back then, bacanora was the #2 economic activity in the state. The governor of Sonora was very religious, and believed that producing and drinking alcohol was immoral. He thus banned production [source].