Mezcal is to be sipped. It is savored so as to enjoy all the everything that comes with the fermentation of the agave cactus, in all its glorious varieties, into an elixir that shape-shifts in taste as it meanders from the hard palate to the soft, lazily through the throat and then even slower, with new flavors, down the gullet. That said, like all plant-based libations and elixirs, the taste is not necessarily acquired but, perhaps, coaxed and practiced.
All too often, mezcal is treated like its mainstreamed-fructose-adjacent cousin tequila, peddled in bars and liquor stores. These mixto tequilas have at least 51% blue agave sugar, with the remaining replaced by corn-based high fructose sugars. To be very clear, that's not to knock tequila, just a warning about the feelings the day after as related to the fermentation process of the chosen libation. Check out this clearinghouse for scientific research on tequila and mezcal.
Tequila is basically a type of mezcal, while using only blue agave, 100% or mixto. Mezcal is made from a variety of fermented agaves. Shooting mezcal like tequila deprives the drinker of something wonderful. As can shooting tequila like tequila. Fortunately, my first taste was in front of Church of Santo Domingo Guzmán, in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, in the early 1990s. Friends introduced me with a brewed batch shared from a repurposed glass bottle.
In the context of tequila markets recovering from the blight in the late 1990s that devastated the agave industry, mezcal is now big global business. Demand for both tequila and mezcal has attracted the eyes of the famous and wealthy. Yet my memory of crafted, small-batch casera (home-made) mezcal led me to Yuu Baal.
From the website: "Grupo Yuu Baal, S.A. de C.V., a 100% Mexican company, a social enterprise that highlights the traditions of the native Oaxacan producers of mezcal, that of which the complete process of production is artesenal impregnating in each of its products the mystical, the exotic, and the absolutely delightful taste that makes this majestic drink. Grupo Yuu Baal is made up of producers in San Juan del Rio, San Luis del Rio Tlacolula and Miahuatlan, Oaxaca. The quality of the 'magueys' begins in the earth and looking after it as well, this means that the complete cycle of production as is the planting, cutting, and distillation are done manually, all with absolute respect for our environment."
My favorite for sipping – for example, to help prepare the stomach for receiving a meal – is the Mezcal Jóven Espadín. Fragrant and capacious in the pepper and fruit terpenes and, if one's palate insists, smooth and clear in taste for a blackberry mezcal, or with fresh cucumber, mint leaves and lime juice, with organic agave nectar. The Añejo is also not only for special occasions, yet the versatility of the Jóven Espandín allows for experimenting. I am looking forward to trying the Mezcal Jóven "Madrecuixe," a mezcal that "offers an unmistakable herbal aroma and taste. On the smell it accentuates intense notes of green vegetation and wet earth, with a mineral smell that is unparalleled and unforgettable." Salud.