I Love It When You Call Me Big Papalote

May 08, 2017

I Love It When You Call Me Big Papalote

It’s a great time to be alive… and drinking mezcal in California.

Due to the recent surge in popularity of the original agave-based spirit, there is an onslaught of new mezcal brands entering the market. Of course, there are pros and cons to this opportune influx. The primary concern among vanguards of the category, is the adherence to sustainable practices with mezcal production. Throughout history, spikes in demand often lead to pillaging of precious natural resources, which could be especially problematic with agaves that take 10-12 years to mature before harvesting. Therefore, it’s very important to support mezcal brands that take great concern to ensure sustainable practices. We all can do our part to make sure that there will be plenty of exquisite mezcal to enjoy for generations.

At the consumer level, we can start by choosing the right brands to support.

On the plus side of proliferation, there are a number of great new mezcal brands along with a wider scope of agave varietals entering the marketplace that previously were unavailable to the gringo-sphere. One of my favorite agave varietals has emerged in our portfolio as a dynamic sidekick to the ubiquitous Espadin… enter the rise of the Papalote.

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Papalote is a varietal of agave native to the mountains of Guerrero, Michoacan, and Oaxaca. It is also known as Cupreata or Papalome, as the same agaves are frequently called different names depending on who you are asking and where you are standing.

Of the Papalote-based mezcals in the Wine Warehouse portfolio, The Machetazo from Mezcal Mayalen is a great place to start. This bottling of 100% Papalote made by master mezcalero Jose Morales Uribe in Mochitlan, Guerrero is distilled to 80 proof. The Machetazo is a great expression of Papalote for cocktails. The tropical fruit notes, herbaceous quality, and mineral undertones play nice with others. In fact, I look forward to enjoying several sunny weekend afternoons crushing Machetazo margaritas at a certain LA rooftop bar in my neighborhood this summer.

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Continuing down the Papalote path, the other offerings from Mezcal Mayalen include the Guerrero and Borrego expressions.

The Guerrero is a fitting Mezcal to bare the namesake of its homeland. Coming in at a rugged 108 proof, this expression will rapidly turn the meek into warriors of the night. Despite its potent punch, the Mayalen Guerrero goes down pretty easy, making it a favorite among bartenders for a mid-shift “staff meal.”

The Borrego release from Mayalen is a 100 percent Papalote expression that undergoes a third distillation. During this additional distillation the vapors pass through a hanging basket containing a leg of lamb, seasonal fruits, and nuts. Using animal protein to incorporate flavors into a dsitillate is a tradition among mezcaleros in Guerrero, and this particular recipe has existed in Jose Moreno Uribe’s family for generations. Most consumers of mezcal are more familiar with Pechuga, a style of mezcal from Oaxaca which utilizes a chicken breast in a similar fashion. However, in the state of Guerrero, lamb is the protein of choice. In Guerrero it appears that Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep, and we’re all drinking better for it.

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The first expression of Papalote, Cupreata, or in this case Papalome, I ever tried, is the fantastic Del Maguey Wild Papalome from their Vino de Mezcal series. This release is produced by Fernando Caballero Cruz, in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca. The Del Maguey Wild Papalome is a great mezcal to pair with food. This is a decadent mezcal, with umami notes of leather and black olive with sturdy backbone at 98 proof. This Papalome could be enjoyed with many different types of cuisine for many different occasions. As Del Maguey suggests on the sides of their bottles displaying the popular Oaxacan proverb:

“ Para Todo mal, mezcal. Y para todo bien tambien.”

Translation: For everything bad, mezcal. And to celebrate all good as well.

To round out this glance at the Papalote expressions available in our portfolio, we’ll close with the exciting new releases from Bozal, which means “wild or untamed,” a definition that aptly characterizes their philosophy towards their mezcal lineup.

The Bozal Ancestral series opened with an expression of Papalote bottled a hair under 96 proof. This release from Chilapa, Guerrero of stone-crushed Papalote agave, distilled in stills made of clay and bamboo reflects the most ancient methods of mezcal production. The Bozal Papalote showcases the minerality imparted by the clay still, yet displays pronounced notes of stone fruit and wet earth.

One of the latest releases of Bozal is the delicious Pechuga from their Sacrificio Series. This 94 proof Pechuga from Mazatlan, Guerrero is made from wild Papalote in a copper pot still. For this expression, a cooked chicken breast is marinated in cinnamon, clove, fruits, citrus, and raisins prior to its inclusion in a third distillation. Allspice, cinnamon, and clove, along with roasted pear, apple and banana are prominent notes as this release is truly worthy of a celebration.

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Lastly, it is important to note that all of these brands mentioned: Del Maguey, Mezcal Mayalen, and Bozal; all employ sustainable practices and work with mezcaleros that take great pride in the traditions of distillation that have been passed on for generations. 

So whether you’re making Machetazo margaritas poolside, or triumphantly sipping Del Maguey Wild Papalome over dinner with loved-ones while celebrating a great accomplishment, or contemplating life sitting alone in a dark room binge-watching Alf reruns with a copita or two of Bozal Pechuga… you can always feel good about drinking up.

 

Contributed By Wine Warehouse Spirits Specialist Andre Kissin

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