This month I’ve already done a week of reviews of a category I don’t know very much about: bourbon. I’m now pleased to do a week of reviews of a category I know even less about: mezcal. I’ll be reviewing two mezcals from Del Maguey, the brand that has in recent years raised the profile of mezcal among whisky drinkers, and another from Quiquiriqui, a brand I had not heard of until I acquired a sample of it. First up, Del Maguey’s Tobala. It is named for the variety of agave from which it is is distilled. The tobala agave is much smaller variety than most others used to make mezcal, grows at high elevations, takes a long time to reach maturity, and apparently its yields too are quite low. All of this means mezcals made from tobala are typically more expensive. This Del Maguey iteration—which is a single village/town expression from Santa Maria Albarradas—goes for over $100, if you can find it. I’ve never had a tobala mezcal before, and so will not be able to tell you if this is a representative example of the varietal, but I’m curious to try it.
Del Maguey, Tobala (45%; Lot: TOB-181; from a bottle split)
Nose: A big blast of lime peel, rock salt, pepper and hot green chiles off the top; muskier notes (pineapple, a touch of passionfruit) below. More vegetal with each sniff. A drop or two of water and the vegetal notes recede and the citrus moves in the direction of preserved lemon.
Palate: Comes in with salt and lime peel here as well but there’s less of the pepper and the chiles; instead there are more savoury notes (ham) and more sweetness. A nice bite and good texture at 45%. On the second sip there’s smoke playing through the rest. A little more vegetal here too with time. As on the palate with water: less vegetal, more preserved citrus.
Finish: Long. The sweet and salty notes are interspersed as it fades. A bit of char at the end. The char expands a bit with water—or is it cracked pepper that I’m reading as char?
Comment: This is a very nice, easy-drinking mezcal. Either that or I’m getting more habituated to the flavours of mezcal. I don’t think it’s available in Minnesota and so I don’t need to think about whether I would be willing spend $100+ for a bottle. Those of you who know more about mezcal should feel free to let me know where this falls on the general tobala spectrum.
Rating: 87 points.