The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2017

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36  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2017 1 JAB Clear, legible label, solid branding. Pow, right in the kisser. 2 JABS Eye catching label and memorable branding. This one's got a one two punch. 3 JABS Creatively inspiring in both packaging and branding. I'm seeing stars and parakeets. 4 JABS A near work of art and meaningful branding. Might not last another round. 5 JABS A masterpiece in packaging and new benchmark in branding. An instant knock-out! MAYzcal by Jessie Birschbach Our Wine Editor, Jessie Birschbach, Certified Sommelier—or JABS, as we call her in the office—uses her experience as a sommelier and her background in marketing to rate retail wines on both the inside and the outside of the bottle. After all, in off-premise environments it's usually the packaging that hooks us then it's up to the wine to keep us on the hook. For this reason, we are nixing the traditional rating system and simply employing the "JABS" rating system to assess packaging and brand identity. As for the inside of the bottle, you can be sure that these wines have met the reasonably high yet unpretentious standard of simply being delicious and drinkable. PHOTO: DOUG YOUNG For info on submitting samples, email Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal San Pablo Ameyaltper, Puebla ($105) Tropical fruits, pear, spicy green maile leaf, tropical flowers and sweet tobacco, as if a beautiful cigar-smoking hula dancer presents you with a lei and bowl of fruit. (Can you tell I'm from Hawaii?) I'm astounded at the clean, vegetal, nearly smoke-free finish. The label, designed by the artist Ken Price, is both quaint and exotic. An incredible example of mezcal and nearly perfect packaging. THE SAZERAC COMPANY Cráneo Organic Mezcal Artesanal, Oaxaca ($58) Smooth, well- rounded, citrusy and just slightly smoky. This 100% organic mezcal, from Espadín agave grown at 5,600 feet, offers hibiscus, orange peel and a sweet almost sappy agave through-line. Structurally formidable, with a flavor profile hits that sweet spot between smoke and agave. The bold black-and-white label—a nod to the Aztec goddess Mictecacichutl, protector of bones and a symbol of strength—is pretty cool too, which is important: You always need good bones. 123 SPIRITS Mezcales de Leyenda Mezcal Blanco, Puebla ($85) Cenzio, a species of agave with broader leaves, offers a slightly different agave flavor from the more commonly used Espadín—this is apparent after the mesquite entry blows off. Then comes an alluring pastiche of green banana, pineapple, almond skin, dried grass and savory olive juice, all anchored by a heavy, creamy weight. Mezcales de Leyenda is big on environmental sustain- ability and socioeconomic responsibility, and the pack- aging is unique: The logo is printed on the inside of the nice, squat, clear bottle and cleverly magnified in the center. Mezcales de Leyenda means "legendary mezcals"—I think this is one mezcal that will last after the flood. MS WALKER Gem & Bolt Mezcal with Damiana, Oaxaca ($50) I'm amazed that I love this mezcal so much, because it's not just mezcal: a Mexican herb called damiana is added during the second distillation. Turns out, though, that mezcal with herbs is as traditional as the process itself. The result in this case is an aromatic, eucalyptus- tinged mezcal chased by grass, yellow flowers, banana and pineapple. In my notes I wrote, "Where is the smoke?" It's there, but in a subtle, sexy way. The all-white bottle with an icon-esqe logo is pretty badass. Definitely geared towards us gringos but still maintains street cred due to its legit production process. GEM & BOLT Montelobos Mezcal Joven, Oaxaca ($50) Bold and smoky but somehow this 100% Espadín joven still reveals cucumber and sweet agave. A bit more masculine in style with a masculine bottle design to match. Artisanally made and organically grown, Montelobos means "mountain of wolves," referencing the difference between wolves (mezcal) and coyotes (tequila). I love tequila, but I also love this analogy. WILLIAM GRANT & SONS I 've recently been immersing myself in the fascinating, handcrafted world of mezcal. Once the smoke cleared and I was able to adjust my focus, there remained a few brands whose packaging/branding some- how in some way spoke to Señora Birschbach's corazón. I have a feeling this sort of thing may not be impor- tant to the hardworking mezcaleros, but it's a necessary evil—especially now that the O.G. maguey spirit is hotter than ever. Hopefully not smokier though . . . See the mezcal category report in the upcoming June/July issue of our sister publication, The Somm Journal! DOWN THE AISLE DOWN THE AISLE

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