John Rexer began a life-long love affair with mezcal, an artisanal liquor traditionally made in Mexico, more than three decades ago. Now he is cultivating that cultural love affair by importing his own brand, Ilegal Mezcal, to the US and Europe.
“I’m trying to take something I think is very special, different and unique and introduce it to people who can appreciate not only the drink but the culture of Oaxaca, Mexico, and all that it means,” Rexer said.“If you want to know what the traditional drink of Mexico is, you want mezcal, not tequila… Tequilas today are for the most part industrial products, while mezcals are small village efforts,” he said.
Rexer said he fell in love with mezcal in Oaxaca, “the heart and home of mezcal culture.” The liquor is traditionally handcrafted from the heart of the agave plant in various towns across Mexico in an age-old process: baking of the heart in an earthen pit which is stone ground to a pulp, left to naturally ferment, then twice distilled in small batches.
“I would go village to village, pueblo to pueblo, to taste different mezcals. I would get to know the distilleries and their owners,” Rexer said.He would then “creatively” bring samples of his favorites south across the border to patrons of his bohemian tequila/mezcal bar, Café No Se, which opened in 2003 in Antigua, Guatemala. These expeditions gave rise to the brand name, ILEGAL MEZCAL.
“I found over time my customers liked it much more than tequila, and they were taken by the stories of how I was bringing it down”, he said.
It was when his patrons began seeking to take home bottles of mezcal that Rexer said he began exploring creating his own brand by working with small, local producers and keeping to traditional production methods.
“Mezcal is something from the earth… I’m serious about the ingredients being agave, water, sun and time. Mezcal is not a product,” Rexer says. “It is a culture. It is as nuanced as the lines in the hands that make it.”
His Ilegal Mezcal line features a limited edition Joven, Reposado and Añejo. And there is no contest. For a memorable experience, try them all. Perfect for Cinco de Mayo or anytime a great Mezcal is appropriate.
Mezcals were originally called “vinos de mezcal”. Like vintage wines, you make comparisons to past vintages, but are never looking for bland predictability.
• Elevation: approx 1700 mts. / 5500 ft.
• Soil Type: luvisol cromico—high clay and chromium content
• Climate: subtropical weather, temperate climate
• Water: from Cuajimoloyas, Oaxaca, eleveation 3200 mts. /10,000 ft.
• Certification: COMERCAM
A young mezcal double and triple distilled. Smoke, pungent Espadin agave, pepper, heat and long finish.
Extremely smooth, consistent heat, light smoke, vegetal, green apple, sweet espadín, eucalyptus, hint of white pepper. This joven is slightly sweeter than lot 001 (though the same general profile) because the agave was cut in February at the height of the dry season. Approachable. Bright long finish.
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