Exploring mezcal distilleries with bartenders and staff from the fantastic Los Siete Misterios Mezcal, was one of the most unforgettable trips of my life. Besides amazing days in Mexico City (read more here) and the enchanting town of Oaxaca (more here), I had unreal experiences at distilleries where Los Siete Misterios’ different mezcal varietals are produced – there are six regular varietals, the seventh/siete being a changing varietal. For the first time in my life, despite visits to dozens of distilleries around the world, I witnessed clay pot distillation, the ancient way of distilling where liquid is distilled in a pot in the mud, not through a still.
I spent time with jimadors (agave plant harvesters) as they hacked agave plants with a machete, or with mezcal distillers working up winding, narrow roads in the Oaxacan mountains in the regions of Sola de Vega. After a day up in the mountains, we ended with a home-cooked meal at one distiller’s home with a number of distillers and their families. We filled up on mole they cooked for two days and sipped mezcal as kids and dogs ran around and grandmothers looked on.
About an hour outside Oaxaca city in Matatlan, I chopped roasted agave myself with a machete. This distillery was described as “modern” compared to what we saw up in the mountains, as they use a copper alembic still and crush agave plants with a horse and wheel – still clearly Old World but not as ancient as clay pot distillation.
How could I forget stopping roadside up the mountains where two women made salsa, grilled Oaxacan cheese quesadillas on a streetside grill, while we drank from coconuts they’d just hacked open with a sword as we gazed across mountain vistas? Spend some time exploring the region and you will surely happen upon similar, once-in-a-lifetime moments.
Here are a few of mine, via photos: