Few people on Earth have more experience handcrafting mezcal than Master Distiller Doug French. For that matter, there are even fewer who are as passionate about making world-class mezcal than he.
French is the mastermind behind the global powerhouse Scorpion Mezcal, a range of artisanal spirits made from Espadin agaves. He performs his magic in the village of San Agustín de Las Juntas in Oaxaca, Mexico [NOM 019X]. French relies on production practices and techniques long discarded other distillers as too costly or time-consuming.
He is also one of the pioneers behind distilling mezcal from different varieties of agaves. French was among the first to create a 100% agave mezcal using wild Tobalá agaves—the unabashed king of agaves. He spent 15 years climbing the steep mountain slopes of the Sierra Madres in an effort to collect seeds from mature Tobalá agaves. He carefully germinated the seeds, and after years of painstaking work, French had thousands of plants flourishing on his estate—this despite conventional wisdom that Tobalá agaves are only able to grow in the wild.
His newest opus is called Escorpión 100% Agave Mezcal, an altogether sensational range of varietal mezcals; one variety is distilled entirely from Barril agaves and the other exclusively from Arroqueño agaves.
The agaves used to make the Escorpión Silver 100% Barril Agave Mezcal are sourced from Ejutla de Crespo and average 14 years in age. After harvesting, the estate-grown agaves are steam baked in brick ovens, crushed and then fermented in small vats. Fermentation is precipitated by natural airborne yeast, a process that takes up to several weeks. The fermented mash is distilled twice; the second distillation occurs in a small, copper pot still. It is bottled at 40% alcohol (80 proof).
The small batch mezcal is shimmery clear with a lightweight, silky textured body and a peppery, herbaceous bouquet. On the palate the mezcal raises little in the way of heat and it has a spicy, herbaceous taste. Its long, lingering fade is thoroughly saturated with the flavor of the Barril agave. From start to dreamy finish, this silver mezcal is an absolute pleasure.
The exact same can be said about the Escorpión Añejo 100% Barril Agave Mezcal. After exiting the pot still, the joven Barril mezcal is put into French oak for 23 months for aging. When it reaches optimum maturity, the mezcal has developed a deep, amber/golden appearance, a lush, medium-weight body and a lightly spiced, herbal, pastry and honey bouquet. The mezcal merits a little extra time in the glass breathing to open fully. Despite it having a higher alcohol content—43.5% alcohol—it drinks cool and exceedingly smooth. Its broad palate tastes of caramel, cinnamon, anise, spice and toffee. The lingering finish is smooth and delicious. Trust me, this mezcal is too good to share with your in-laws.
French is also introducing the Escorpión Añejo 100% Arroqueño Agave Mezcal. The agaves to make this varietal gem are cultivated in the Valles Centrales and Tiacolula regions of Oaxaca and average around 12 years in age. The Silver version, 40% alcohol, has a lightweight body and a wafting herbaceous nose. It's a touch warm on the palate, but the heat dissipates quickly and never approaches hot. A much appreciated mark of quality.
A side-by-side comparison of the two mezcals reveals their differences. The Arroqueño Silver mezcal has a more floral and herbaceous nose than the Barril. It's vivacious and has slightly smoky notes and a more prominent spice, anise and pepper component. Both are imbued with finesse and beauty.
The Escorpión Añejo 100% Arroqueño Agave Mezcal, 40% alcohol, is aged in French oak for 15 months. The time spent in oak adds a delectable touch of caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, toffee and honey. The bakery fresh flavors marry perfectly with the underlying flavor of the varietal agave.
Kudos and ¡Salud!