Spirit of the Month February ’18 – Mezcales de Leyenda San Luis Potosi Mezcal
“And now for something completely different,” as Monty Python used to say. In this case, we’re speaking of San Luis Potosi Mezcal from Mezcales de Leyenda. It’s quite unlike any mezcal we’ve ever tasted, touting spicy jalapeño on the nose and a grassy, lightly sweet body. As a result of all those herbal, mineral notes, this unique spirit highlights the potential of mezcal to be far more than just tequila’s smoky forefather. All that and more makes San Luis Potosi a worthy sipper in its own right, the base ingredient in your next exquisite cocktail, and our Spirit of the Month for February 2018. Read on for some background and tasting notes.
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Few brands explore the diversity of artisanal mezcal with the rigor and passion of Mezcales de Leyenda. More than just a provider of spirits, the company has been opening mezcal-focused restaurants since 2005, and continuously working with small producers throughout Mexico to offer a range of unique statements. Virtually every release in their line-up is a prime example of “terroir”, with each mezcal exhibiting characteristics and flavours intrinsically demonstrative of the region in which that mezcal was produced. In fact, Mezcales de Leyenda was the first company to offer mezcales from different states outside of Oaxaca from the Domination of Origin of Mezcal.
Along with Mezcales de Leyenda’s commitment to exploration are equally steadfast commitments to method and conservation. That is, the brand seeks out small-time mezcaleros working in protected areas known as Reserves of the Biosphere. Most of the mezcaleros come from a long line of artisans, and purposefully maintain their ancestor’s roasting, milling, fermenting and distilling techniques (to read more about mezcal production and history, check out our previous article on the subject).
In keeping with Mezcales de Leyenda’s environmental agenda, their farmers harvest agave using sustainable methods. Furthermore, every bottle of mezcal is made from recycled glass, recycled paper and natural corks. As if that wasn’t enough, the brand routinely donates to conversancy projects. Their mezcal was also the first in Mexico to be certified as USDA organic.
Given the brand’s emphasis on diversity, technique and sustainability, it’s no surprise that Mezcales de Leyenda’s line-up delivers spectacular range. Accordingly, the flavour differences between each statement are not subtle, but downright profound. Try one or try them all, and expect something completely delicious and completely different each time you do.
In the free and sovereign state of San Luis Potosi is the small town of Santa Isabel. It’s here amidst a dry and rocky terrain that you’ll find the agave salmiana plant, distinguished by its thick, pointy leaves. Each plant takes between 7 and 10 years to mature, and produces 1 litre of mezcal per every 16-19kg. Unsurprisingly, it’s the agave salmiana lying at the heart of San Luis Potosi mezcal, which is produced in the very same region by a mezcalero named Juan Jose Hernandez.
Descended from a long line of distillers, Hernandez operates inside a small hacienda and derives water from a nearby well. Employing at least some of the same methods used by his forefathers, he cooks the agave in a clay oven for two days, ferments it in ground level cement tanks for five days, and double distills it in a copper still with onion top.
The result is an un-aged mezcal that’s quite unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. Whereas most mezcals are synonymous with outright smoky character, San Luis Potosi is far more herbal and grassy, with an ample touch of sweetness to it. Here’s a breakdown:
Nose: On the nose is the absolutely distinct aroma of jalapeño swimming in a mineral bath, joined by notes of salt, pineapple and flower.
Taste: While jalapeño was dominant on the nose, it takes a backseat to smooth, mellow notes of agave and botanicals, set against a clean, thoroughly developed mineral backbone. Also present are traces of spice and smoke.
Finish: Notes of salt, agave, light smoke and grass are accompanied by touches of heat and bitterness on the relatively smooth finish.
With a nose that reminds you of jalapeño-infused tequila, and an herbal body vaguely reminiscent of sweet rosewater, San Luis Potosi certainly delivers a surprise for the senses. Ultimately, the spirit leaves you with no doubt that Mezcales de Leyenda isn’t blowing smoke when it talks about diversity in terroir yielding completely different flavours of mezcal. Speaking of smoke, the absence of it here lends this spirit some true left field character, making it as similar to top shelf tequila as it is to any mezcal. For those who love agave-based spirits, and want to try something completely different, this one’s definitely for you.