The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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122 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016 { fine spirits } A LOOK AT AMERICA'S UP-AND-COMING CRAFT SPIRIT WITH MASTER SOMMELIER GEOFF KRUTH by Gemma Z. Price / photos by Geoff Kruth, MS INTEGRAL TO MEXICAN CULTURE FOR AT LEAST 400 YEARS, mezcal is having a well-deserved moment in the U.S. as the efforts of trail- blazing American distributors and a growing domestic appetite for artisanal spirits intersect. Ron Cooper was among the first to champion mezcal, founding his brand Del Maguey in 1995 to bottle and distribute single-village mezcals in the U.S. Today, a number of brands—Mezcal Vago, Alipus, Sombra and others—are more widely found across America, and specialist watering holes frequented by enamored drinkers are popping up all over the nation. AdWeek reported in May that mezcal sales have doubled over the past four years and are up 30 percent in the last year due to organic growth in consumer interest. "Mezcal in the last five to ten years has been booming—it came from nothing to being super trendy," says Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth, President of the Guild of Sommeliers. "But you could make the argument that mezcal is one of the most complex spirits cultures in the world." To get a feel for this smoky, highly nuanced Mexican spirit—and its cultural significance to the villages that make it—Kruth, star of documentary Somm, follow up Into The Bottle and his own Esquire Network show, flew to Oaxaca to document local production. The resulting short film, screened for Guild Somm members on June 13 during a mezcal lecture and tasting master class held in San Francisco, revealed how incredibly time-consuming and labor- intensive mezcal is to craft. While mezcal can be used to refer to any agave-based spirit produced in Mexico, including tequila, mezcal, as a regulated denomination of origin, describes the clear spirit produced "from the fermented heart of a mature MEZCAL MEZCAL The Making of

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