GSN Review: Tequila & Mezcal Jarritos Glasses

In 2016, Stölzle Lausitz GmbH (a German glass manufacturer that makes, among other items, the Glencairn whisky glasses) and Romeo Hristov from Chisholm Trail Crafts started the development and testing of new glasses for tequila and mezcal inspired by the drinking jars [jarritos] for pulque and mezcal. The Riedel tequila glass (in its two versions, Ouverture and Vinum), the Waterford tequila glass (very similar to the Ouverture) and the Glencairn glass (apparently the preferred glass in USA for agave spirits tastings) among others, are all reasonably functional glasses. Why more glasses then?  Here’s what Romeo Hristov has to say:

“Stolzle and I were trying to bring a glass(es) that capture not only the flavor but also the historical roots of the drink ware for agave spirits. In much the same way as the agave spirits are unique for Mexico there is the “jarrito” [drinking jar], a unique drinking vessel for alcoholic beverages from agave (both fermented and distilled) which have been used for said beverages for over two thousand years. However, it’s not just the tradition behind it, but also its strikingly modern shape which quite closely resemble a stemless tulip snifter (especially in some of the Pre-Columbian pieces that come without handle) that called our attention. In brief, these glasses are a reinvention of this traditional drinking vessel with a modern design and functionality, and the general shape was intended to bring some of the unique feeling of rustic elegance of Mexico.”

We at the GSN offices have been trying these out for a week now and have to say that they are quite elegant, and serve their purpose well.  These are hand-blown glasses with heavy bases that rest well in the hand.  The shorter version has a slightly thicker rim which feels sturdy and somewhat more masculine, whereas the taller glass has a thinner, more feminine lip. The bowls are both deep and manage to catch and keep the olfactory sensation at a premium.  Having used the Glencairn and Riedel glasses for the past several years, these new agave spirit focused glasses offer a new and more focused experience to the tequila and mezcal aficionado.  Not only that, but they make a fine statement on the bar.  Salud!

GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Chisholm Trail Crafts

GSN Review: Ilegal Mezcal

illegalMezcalJoven200Mezcal is one of those misunderstood spirits that has challenged novice drinkers for decades.  Is it hallucinogenic?  No.  Does it have a mummified worm in the bottle?  No.  Is it just another kind of tequila?  No.

Mezcal is the Mexican version of Scotch whiskey.  It’s got a lot of smoke, which comes from the traditional roasting in clay fire pits, similar to the Scottish peat style of drying the malt.  There are significant differences from tequila as well.  Mezcal is made from a variety of agave called Maguey, as opposed to Blue Weber agave.  Lastly, most mezcal is made in Oaxaca, rather than Jalisco, where tequila hails from.  All of this adds up to a completely unique spirit.

Ilegal has an interesting origin.  I’ll let John Rexer, the owner of the brand tell the story.  “It began back in 2004-ish, very informally and almost by mistake. I was bringing down mezcal from Oaxaca for my bar, Café No Sé, in Antigua Guatemala, and the mezcal became popular very quickly. At the time, we were bringing down unbranded mezcal from a variety of villages in Oaxaca that included: Tlacolula, San Lorenzo, Sola De Vega, Santa Catarina Minas, Hierve el Agua, Santiago Matatlan and a few others. You see back in 2004, there were very few mezcals that were certified for export, almost none. Bringing a few bottles across the border was not such a big deal, but try getting 50, 100 or 500 bottles across and things get a bit interesting. Especially at the borders we were crossing where back then, the cops, the military, the gangs and just plain old thieves had to be eluded or navigated or co-opted, if you get my drift.

It kind of began with us stuffing bottles into duffel bags, packing them as luggage under the bus and praying none of our bags would be inspected. Two people can bring 30 or so liters that way. But Oaxaca is a long way from Antigua. It is a day and a half trip by bus and then running from village to village to buy mezcal is another couple of days or weeks. It’s an insane way to stock a bar. One day a mezcalero, whom I had been dealing with for sometime, proposed that I buy a pallet of mezcal from him.“You like my mezcal,” he said, “And it is crazy for you to keep busing up here every other week.” I had no idea how much was in a pallet. When he told me 600 bottles, I said, “Man, I have trouble getting 30 bottles across a border. How the hell am I going to get 600?” He looked at me and smiled and said an expression I have heard so often in Mexico. One I have come to love. That expression is: No te preocupes. Yo tengo un tío. Which means: Don’t worry about it, I have an uncle.”

I guess that uncle worked things out, because now Ilegal is available in the U.S. for mezcal lovers to enjoy.  GSN was sent a bottle of the Joven (young) for review.

Ilegal Mezcal Joven (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: A fair amount of smoke off the bat, with a underlayer of deeply rich agave.
Taste: Ultra smooth and with just the right touch of smoke.  Fresh and vibrant with a lot of terroir and character.  Elegant and introspective.  There’s more going on here than is immediately apparent.
Finish: The fade is slightly sweet, sultry with wood smoke, and leaves you wanting more.
Overall: This is a lovely mezcal that excels at everything.  Flavor, balance, distillation, mouthfeel, you name it.  Mezcal lovers seek this one out!
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Illegal Mezcal

GSN Review: Marca Negra Mezcal


Most consumers today are informed enough to know that mezcal is unrelated to mescaline and does not need an agave worm in the bottle.  In fact, mezcal is a spirit related to tequila, but in many ways quite different.  The plant used can be one of thirty different kinds of agave (as opposed to Blue Weber which is used in tequila), and is generally distilled in the Oaxaca region of Mexico (as opposed to Jalisco).  But, perhaps the most notable difference is the smokiness of the final product.

Traditonally, mezcal is cooked in pits of hot rocks and then covered with stones.  In fact, the word mezcal literally means “over-cooked agave”, and it is this process which gives it its memorable and unique character. Each distillery has its own method, but the end result is the same.  Think of mezcal as the South of the Border cousin to Islay Scotch.

Each and every bottle of Marca Negra contains information on the type of agave used, where it was made, alcohol content, the master distiller’s name and even the batch and bottle number.  The bottle we received at GSN was crafted from Espadin agave estate grown in San Luis del Rio, Tlacolula, Oaxaca.

Marca Negra Mezcal (101.8 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Hefty dose of smoke with mint and tobacco leaf.
Taste: Heavy smoke flavor with an unusual almost soap bubble-like undertone.  Incredibly intense and unique.  After several sips, bright spice notes come through along with an unexpected lemon citrus tinge.
Finish: Burnt cigar and bitter tobacco leaf linger for a long time.  There’s also a very dry and tannic quality that stays in the back of the throat.
Overall:  This one ranks up there with one of the smokiest mezcals I’ve ever tasted.  Honestly, I almost feel as if I had just smoked a fine cigar.  You might want to add a bit of water to open it up and see what happens.  There is not a lot of subtlety here.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Marca Negra