Fotos: Mariana Castillo
Originally posted in El Universal - read the original article
Miguel Ángel Partida walks through the hills and agaves, his familiar landscape. Locals in Zapotitlán de Vadillo, Jalisco are known as "chacolos," and that's also the name of the mezcal made since his grandfather Filemón collected plants and brought them to their parcel. His father, Macario, continued the tradition, and that's the best inheritance.
Sure, when people think of Jalisco, tequila usually comes to mind, but the rural reality is diverse and extensive. The Partida family used to make "tuxca" - a spirited drink made from various maguey varieties. Nowadays, they use a machine to crush the agave, but everything else remains the same.
Talking about traditional mezcals, the emphasis should be on diversity. Miguel Ángel knows his agaves - both common and scientific names - there are 14, and each one has unique flavors and personality. Observing them is key to understanding this iconic Mexican species - whether they grow on a hillside, their color, or whether they're wild.
Some examples include the ixtero verde, taking 15 years to mature and weighing up to 150 kilos; the presa grande, named by his grandparents, ready in a decade, and weighing up to 200 kilos; the ixtero amarillo, the hairiest of all (used to extract fiber when plastic and glass weren't common), maturing at 12 years and weighing 200-250 kilos; the azul telcruz from Telcruz, taking a decade to mature; and the peña variety, six years old, weighing 30 kilos, and producing a rich mezcal but not in great quantities. Others include brocha and lineño.
The most valued mezcal is the artisanal one, regardless of the variety, because it's all about personal taste. Some prefer sweeter, fresher, more intense, or citrusy flavors - everyone chooses their favorite. When asked to recommend his best mezcal, Miguel Ángel suggests the ixtero amarillo - strong but incredibly aromatic on the palate.
Their process has distinguishing features, like using a Filipino-style distiller inherited from the Nao de China de Filipinas, similar to what's seen in Santa Catarina Minas, Oaxaca. Other necessary utensils are the copper pot and cauldron from Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán. Their stone volcanic oven, preferred firewood like guamúchil, mezquite, and pino, plus two agave leaves for dripping the elixir after two distillations - their taberna's engineering is unique.
Miguel Ángel proudly declares that good mezcal is prohibited, jokingly pointing to his well-worn sombrero. Some might see it as less important, but he believes mezcal has always been an integral part of gastronomy, celebrations, and family gatherings. It's more than just a trend, it's a cherished legacy.
At his place, the distillation season runs from February to June, and they save it for special occasions like the July 22nd celebration of Santa María Magdalena, the patriotic festivities, November, December, and especially the grand celebration on January 14th dedicated to the Virgen de Guadalupe, as well as weddings and birthdays.
Since 2013, they've been marketing their mezcal brand (certified as agave spirit). Their production is small and sustainable, averaging from 1,500 to 2,000 liters. They sell it in Colima, Guadalajara, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Tijuana, Aguascalientes, Mérida, and even to knowledgeable foreigners who appreciate traditional distillates. The historical taste in the region is around 45 to 50 degrees, but they leave theirs at 49 to 51 - a taste of authenticity and passion in every sip. 🥃🔥 #MezcalMagic #ZapotitlanJalisco #PassportDestilados