And I think that passion, converting one person at a time, nose-to-nose, for all those years has really paid off. A lot of it comes down to the specific agave plant—where it is, what variety it is, and when and how it was harvested. The Consejo Regulador del Mezcal (CRM) commenced certification operations in 2003 to set some order to this madness, to ensure mezcal’s continued quality and protect its producers. Gold Medal, Zignum Mezcal AñejoAgave Species: Espadín(Oaxaca) 80° proofAroma: Caramel, brown sugar, tropical fruit, ripe banana, dried figs, candied cherry, lemon curd, vanilla, honey, cooked agave, peach, green apple, citrus, dough, clay pot, mulch, earth, woody.Palate: Toffee, caramel, buttery, butterscotch, sugar cane, honey, sweet dried fruit, dates, fruit compote, pÄ«na, melon, citrus, herbal, vanilla, nutty, light tobacco, earth, briny, cedar, oak, bourbon.Finish: Toffee, brown sugar, buttery, vanilla, honey, ripe banana leaf, herbs, smoky, smooth, very pretty, beautiful. Delish editors handpick every product we feature. It's fantastic as well. Double Gold Medal, GOLD MEDAL WINNERSGrulani Mezcal Artesanal JovenAgave Species: Coyote(Oaxaca) 92° proofAroma: Espadín agave, green olive, mushrooms, Roquefort, raisins, citrus, rose, herbal, eucalyptus, menthol, black pepper, peppery, tobacco leaf, leathery, earth, wet stone, wet wood, brine, smoke, hickory, oak.Palate: Agave, dried fruit, ripe dates, cocoa, brown sugar, pear, almond, dough, floral, herbal, spearmint, grass, green pepper, spicy, black pepper, tobacco, wet stone, earth, brine, smoke, cedar box, sandalwood, soft.Finish: Lingering agave, hints of pineapple, walnuts, tobacco, grassy, minty, pepper, black pepper, spice, wet stone, smoky, woody, well balanced, smooth, soft, elegant. … It’s what I imagine the Chiquita banana girl would taste like if she fell into a still. Mezcal is a spirit, which means that it’s distilled until it reaches the required alcohol content, which is typically around 80 proof, or 40% by volume. Now Suro Piñera takes the health of the agave personally. It is super light on smoke and a long, easy sipper. The focus of the DO should only be on protecting the interests and well-being of the producers.”, Having opened the Mexican restaurant Tequilas in Philadelphia in 1986, Suro Piñera’s agave obsession led him to start importing rare and small-batch mezcals, including acclaimed labels like Mezonte, Siembra Spirits (of which he is founder and president) and Don Mateo de la Sierra. Happy hunting! Of course there are agave-based spirits not distilled in states included in either the tequila or mezcal DOs, which further expand what were once all collected under the mezcal banner. Mezcal producers use in-ground fire pits filled with wood and charcoal. Plant species, length of fermentation, type of still and fermentation vats, number of distillations, airborne yeasts, soil conditions, and climate are all variables in the alchemy of a mezcal maestro. The traditionally high ABV of natural mezcal — usually between 45-55% — makes it very hard to certify without proofing (aka watering down) to 40%, anathema to agave purists. It’s illegal for other countries to produce an agave-derived spirit and refer to it as mezcal. Ostensibly, anyway. The word "mezcal" literally means "roasted agave," Gaston shares. As for the larvae's hallucinatory powers? The Ramos Family is considered one of the very best and this intense example of the excellent Tobaxiche shows us why. Only ice water, neutral unflavored crackers and chips were available to cleanse the palate.The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets.