Mezcal Mills of Oaxaca, The Process, Mezcal Production
The manufacturers invite your visit.
They hope you will buy a jug or two of the pure Mezcal. They might later invite you to dine with them on Gusanos, the Agave worm usually found in the bottle but also salted and roasted on a comal with chilies.
Anyone sprinkling the salt on their hand and daubing it with a lime while drinking Mezcal or Tequila has already tasted the Gusano. The grub feeds on the underside of the agave plant, the main ingredient in Mezcal.
One of the favorite types of Mezcal in the region, Pechuga, has an interesting twist. Some distillers tell you that they put a chicken breast in the distilling kettle when making this Mezcal called Pechuga de Pollo. At least that is what they tell you. Others tell you Pechuga refers to the heart of the maguey, a slice of the roasted pino inserted in the bottle.
You can watch as they go through the process of making pure Mezcal, nothing added. In the Village of Matatlan the entire main street on the highway south is devoted to the making and selling of Mezcal. You can make photos of the harvest, the baking, the grinding, the fermenting, and the distilling. And of course, while there, you can join the local tasting committee.
Mezcal of Oaxaca Page 2 (Mescal)
What makes Mezcal unique is that unlike tequila, mescal starts with the baking of the piños in an earthen oven heated with Encino oak firewood.
This baking gives Mezcal a subtle wood smoke flavor.
Once the farmers have removed the spines from the piño(Agave) they will bake them in the earthen oven for five days. The baking converts the starch in the plant to sugar.
Oaxacan dining will Traditionally start with a small glass of Mezcal
Oaxaca Mezcal: Eight years growing in the fields, five days baking in an earthen oven, 12 days fermenting in a vat, several days in the distilling chamber and then into a wooden keg or a bottle for additional aging and perhaps the addition of coconut, coffee, chocolate, or the heart of the maguey. These one liter bottles of pure Mezcal sell in Matatlan for 50 pesos or $5. USD.
Oaxacan Mezcal: Once the maguey piños come from the baking oven they are crushed by a round stone drawn by a horse or mule. The crushed pinos then go into a fermenting vat for 8 to 15 days.
After the crushed and baked maguey hearts have done their fermenting and converting the sugar to alcohol, they go into the copper cooking kettle where the spirits vaporize and rise into a cooling chamber from where they emerge as alcohol. The distilling will produce a 80 -90 proof alcohol This would be 40 or so percent alcohol and could include a second distilling.
Mezcal in Oaxaca is sold at the place of manufacture. Oaxaca Mezcal is often a family business involving several generations in the process of making Mezcal, this one in Matatlan.
Crushing the Cooked Piños
Baking in an earthen oven