Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal
Mezcal is the mother of Tequila, and Del Maguey represents its true heritage. It is among the finest and purest spirits available in the world. The way mezcal affects one’s palate and the way it warms the chest, throat and mouth are quite different than any other alcohol. And Del Maguey, Single Village Mezcals transcend all others.
The word Mezcal comes from Metl or Mexcalmetl, the prehispanic Nahuatl language, meaning Agave. Today the commonly used word for Agave in Oaxaca is Maguey. Nearly twenty-five percent (900,000) of the total Indian population of Mexico live in the state of Oaxaca. The indigenous languages and cultures of Oaxaca are unusually diverse and un-industrialized or changed by modern society.
The Zapotec people are still producing one of the most important hand crafted distillates on earth. With minimal resources, they are up against multinational might and multimillion-dollar facilities, like those found in the state of Jalisco, where tequila is made. Like their ancestors, they still make offerings to deities, in exchange for permission and blessings, before harvesting for the revered spirit, which they regard as a spiritual entity.
Sustainability Matters in Oaxaca
Why Strive for Sustainability?
For over twenty years, Del Maguey has maintained a deep commitment to the amazing biodiversity and rich cultural heritage of Oaxaca. Environmental and Social responsibility are the central tenets that anchor our impact philosophy. From well-planned maguey cultivation strategies to reforestation projects that address ecosystems and wild agave, our environmental mission focuses on leaving a positive, impactful footprint in the majestic Oaxacan terrain.
From a social perspective, we dedicate substantial resources to the long term growth of our producing partners’ families, palenques, villages and regions in the form of various infrastructural and educational initiatives. These range from, but are not limited to; water accessibility projects, scholarship programs, renewable energy installations, internet facilities, job creation and job security.
All Del Maguey production remains sustainable for each different village’s pure mezcal, to preserve ancient style and quality. Our maguey is renewed and cultivated by the single village producers. Del Maguey pays fair-trade premiums over and above local industry standards and supports generational consistency with every member of our large, extended family.
Wild Maguey Propagation
Del Maguey’s wild maguey project began the day that Ron Cooper and our Tobala producer decided to work together in 1996. In this region where Tobala, Tepextate, Jabali, Wild Espadin and Karwinskii varieties grow freely, Ron developed a symbiotic relationship with the producer and village that respects the maguey’s lengthy reproduction process. Here, each species is balanced in nature and the village and Del Maguey take great efforts to leave a healthy percentage of maguey flowering naturally. The restraint shown here over twenty years reflects the sustainable ancient Zapotec customs that maintain wild maguey populations without direct human intervention.
In other villages, Ron focused on semi-wild, or semi-cultivated varieties; Arroqueño, Barril, Madrecuixe and Papalometl, where our producers and their families have kept nurseries and cultivated these particular crops for generations, whether as property barriers (Barril, Madrecuixe) or as the first cultivated maguey in the Central Valleys (Arroqueño) or La Mixteca of Oaxaca (Papalometl).
As Del Maguey grows so too do our nurseries. In Santa Catarina Minas we are preserving some of the most threatened species in the area, including Barril, Madrecuixe, Pelon, Sierra Negra, Mexicano and Coyote. The now 7-10 year old Arroqueño raised in this area reveals the amazing vision that was necessary to anticipate rising demand while maintaining restrained harvesting techniques. In La Mixteca, more than half of the Papalome maguey used in this expression has been cultivated from human planting.
Del Maguey is involved with even more wild maguey nurseries around Oaxaca’s Sierra Sur, Valles Centrales, Mixteca, and Sierra Norte regions. While these are long term endeavors, 10-20 year projects to start, they continue an already 21 year old mission to leave behind a positive and lasting ecological footprint.
Single Village Mezcal
As the saying goes, it takes a village….
At Del Maguey it currently takes 12 villages. We are honored to share their liquid art with the world and convert the world’s response into actionable, sustainable developments within these communities.
In essence, this methodology supports single village mezcal producers (palenqueros) with the freedom to produce mezcal using ancient practices that the indigenous people of Oaxaca have been employing before the Spanish conquest. The result is a distinct character and singular purity from village to village.
The state of Oaxaca’s topography is the most varied in the country of Mexico. The capital city of Oaxaca is in the center of a confluence of three great valleys at an altitude of 6,500 feet. There are mountains, plains, fertile valleys, tropical jungles and the Pacific Ocean all creating many differing growing zones for many varieties of maguey. The way we explain the general breakdown of taste is: The high, narrow mountain valley mezcals are simpler, more subtle, drier and smoother. They are more aromatic and go to the upper palate. The broad-low valley mezcals are fruiter, more complex and spicier. Cheeky, chewy, middle mouth with lots of body.