The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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Page 102 of 119

{ }  103 The result: A high-proof agave distillate that is as much about the variety of agave and the village in which it was grown as any bottle of wine. Intimate decisions made by each producer affect the final product the same way that two bottlings of Grand Cru Chablis from the same vintage and vineyard differ between two producers. The Blind Tasting Considering mezcal a product of terroir is a fairly new concept. Today, premium mezcal's rise to prominence on the top shelves of bars demanded that we put several expressions to a blind tasting. I called upon two industry peers who are exceptional tasters to blind taste 13 expressions at Manhattan's Colicchio & Sons, where Beverage Director Ryan Mills-Knapp hosted us, assisted by Sommelier Molly McDonald. Alex LaPratt, MS, owner of Atrium DUMBO in Brooklyn, joined us. We tasted the eight joven, or un-aged, mezcals in the first flight, and three reposados and two añejos in the second. After working our way through the first eight glasses, Mills- Knapp declared, "These are all so unique it is almost as if they could be eight different spirits!" LaPratt and I nodded in agree - ment as I thought more of likening it to tasting eight different Pinot Noirs from different terriors in the Côtes de Nuits. We stepped away to allow the re-pour and returned to taste five more terroirs delivered with a gentle glove of oak aging— again drastically different from one another. Although all the mezcals seemed to be of high quality, the consensus was that the jovens were more pure and enjoyable to evaluate. After tasting all 13 we talked about our individual experiences with each glass. Within the first eight, we ranked our top three. Although the scores and comments were very close, there was a clear order. The Fidencio Tobalá got the top nod, which was no surprise. Tobalá is an agave that only grows wild and needs 12 to 15 years to reach maturity; it is widely considered to produce the highest quality mezcal. It was a favorite of LaPratt, who noted its "spicy rye bread, Maldon sea salt, white pepper [and] very yeasty" character. Following the Tobalá was Del Maguey's Chichicapa, widely regarded as the bread and butter of its single-village series. I was Ilegal Joven: "Stone fruit, anise, mild pear, white pepper. Sweet almost grappa-like on the palate." —R. M. K. Mezcal Marca Negra: "Poached pear, apple sauce, white flowers, salt, spice and olive oil. Incredibly dynamic and complex." —A. L. P. Del Maguey Santo Domingo Albarradas: "Banana, coffee, bubble gum, citrus. Rich, full-bodied yet elegant." —M. C. Real Matlatl: "Very salty, licorice, very complex. Nice weight and depth." —R. M. K. El Silencio Joven: "Smoky and dark, leather, pepper. Robust and full- bodied but not bitter." —M. C. Ilegal Reposado: "Mellow, coconut, dill, roasted yellow pepper, Golden apple. Slightly salty. Smooth, round, well-balanced." —A. L. P. Ilegal Añejo: "Very strong oak pres - ence on the nose. Ripe fruit. Tastes expensive." —R. M. K. Alex LaPratt, MS, owner of Atrium DUMBO in Brooklyn, found his top pick Real Matlatl Reposado: "This showed a sense of place, minerality more than any other in this flight." Notes on Other Brands and Expressions Tasted Matthew Conway called upon two industry peers to blind taste 13 expressions of mezcal. The tasting was held at Manhattan's Colicchio & Sons, thanks to Beverage Director Ryan Mills-Knapp.

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