Ilegal Mezcal Joven, Oaxaca, Mexico 40% - 70cl bottle
Within the Mezcal category, unaged spirit is usually called Joven (young) but is the same as any Blanco or Silver in the Tequila category, in that it never sees the inside of an oak barrel. Ilegal Joven is bottled very soon after distillation and is made from 100% Espadin agave.
Even without ageing, Ilegal’s spirit is punchy and complex. More fruit focused than their aged mezcal, this a pure expression of traditionally cooked and distilled agave. A carefully composed blend of sweet and smoky notes - green peppers, sooty smoke and freshly baked agave. As the smoke fades, fruity sweetness comes through - more agave and green apple, along with peppery spice, mint and eucalyptus.
Desperate for a good Mezcal to stock at his bar, Café No Sé, John Rexer began smuggling artisanal Mezcal from Oaxaca to Guatemala in 2004. Once in his bar, it didn't take long for word to get out about this smooth and smoky spirit that was only available from the backroom at Café No Sé. Soon, this Mezcal was being carried in the luggage of travellers passing from Guatemala to America and beyond. In late 2009, Ilegal Mezcal became legal and today is available in the USA, Australia, Europe and the Caribbean.
Mezcal was named Vino de Mezcal by the Spanish as it was made under specific vintage conditions with characters relating to a particular harvest. Like the original Mezcals, Ilegal is produced and hand bottled in small batches, with each bottle receiving its own number within a specifically numbered lot.
Unlike Tequila, Mezcal is not constrained to using only Blue Agave. Mezcal can use a much greater variety of agave species giving rise to the broader style and flavour profiles found within the mezcal category. Ilegal predominantly uses the Espadin Agave.
Production utilises the traditional pit oven in which the agaves or "piñas" are roasted beneath the earth over volcanic rocks. The roasted hearts are then crushed using the traditional tahona. Airborne yeasts then ferment the cooked and crushed agave, and distillation takes place in small alembic stills. The placement of mesquite and eucalyptus to heat the ovens is done in such a way that the piñas will have less direct contact with the coals, and thus creates a more even and consistent roasting. The result is a distinct flavour profile, where the agave flavour is complimented rather than dominated by subtle smoky aromas and flavours.