When a large corporation creates a spirit it is usually the product of spreadsheets and pie charts. When a small distiller creates a spirit it's typically the product of passion, artisanship and unwavering conviction. Herencia del Mezcalero Añejo Reserva 100% Agave Mezcal is a sterling example. When you hear about something being handmade, this is exactly what you should envision. The mezcal is made using traditional techniques and vintage equipment passed down through the generations. It's like a gift from the past.
Herencia del Mezcalero is crafted at Fabrica de Mezcal del Amigo, a small family-owned distillery located in Matatlán, Oaxaca. The family-owned distillery of Enrique Jiménez Monterroza has been producing exceptional mezcal for four generations and is acknowledged as one of the oldest continuous producers of mezcal. The spirit is produced entirely of Espadin agaves grown in the arid climate of southwestern Mexico. The plants are harvested by hand after about 10 years when their sugar content is at peak levels. As per tradition, the trimmed agave piñas are put into an earthen pit and slowly roasted over an open fire. The baked agaves are then sliced, mashed and allowed to ferment naturally in wooden vats.
Don Enrique Jimenéz insists that there is no set recipe for creating great sipping mezcal. "You can't measure exactly the fermentation, you must listen to it. The aguamiel—the fermenting wash—will tell you when it is ready. Then you must distill it. You can't wait or the moment will be lost and the mezcal will not be good."
The elder statesman of the range is the Herencia del Mezcalero Añejo Reserva 100% Agave Mezcal. It is double distilled in a traditional pot still, aged in ex-bourbon oak barrels for a minimum of 2-3 years and drawn from a single barrel. When the mezcal in the barrel has been depleted, that particular slice of 80-proof life is gone. The next barrel may be close in character, but it won't be the same. The morale of the story is to appreciate each glass of this elegant spirit as a once in a lifetime thing.
Herencia Añejo Reserva is a glorious treat from start to finish. The single barrel mezcal has a golden/amber hue, an oily lightweight body and a generously smoky bouquet with light citrus notes. It bathes the palate with the lingering flavors of anise, fresh basil, vanilla, zesty orange/tangerine and charred oak. The combined effect is mesmerizing. This is an ideal mezcal to sip neat after a marvelous dinner.
The Herencia del Mezcalero Reposado, which is triple-distilled and aged in charred oak barrels a minimum of 6 months, is equally intriguing. Its character is a meld of the Añejo Reserva and the unaged Herencia del Maestro Blanco. Alone in a glass, the 80-proof reposado mezcal has a pale amber appearance, a silky textured body and the beckoning aromas of vanilla, caramel and toasted oak. Its smooth entry quickly fills the mouth with slightly sweet, slightly smoky flavor. The extended finish is saturated with the flavors of sliced oranges, vanilla, roasted peppers and a light dose of smoke.
Those looking for an entrée to mezcal experience are well advised to start with triple-distilled Herencia del Mezcalero Blanco. Bottled fresh from the still at 80 proof, it is unadulterated by the affects of prolonged aging in wood and best represents what the mezcalero was attempting to achieve. The crystal clear mezcal has a wafting bouquet of vanilla, citrus, cinnamon and roasted peppers. Its aromatics are worth the price of admission. The lightweight body lavishes the palate with warm, herbaceous flavor that persist well into the long, lingering finish.
The last member of the portfolio is Herencia del Mezcalero Citrus, 68 proof, a vivacious spirit infused with lemons and oranges. This splendid mezcal is a refreshing variation on the theme and is brimming with honey and lively citrus.
Herencia del Maestro Mezcal is as authentic as they come. Don't bother checking to see if it has a worm in the bottle. If you created a masterpiece, would you drop in a worm?