It's National Mezcal Day, so let's celebrate with a terrific artisanal product, Hedonistas de la Fe. As with many mezcals sold in the U.S. market, Hedonistas came to be when some Americans obsessed with the drink and enough money and business acumen to want to build a brand went hunting in Mexico for a mezcalero they loved. Co-founders Bhalin Singh and Jim Beaubien discovered Gerardo “Kaín” Santiago Hernandez in Matatlan, Oaxaca and knew they had their man. Kaín is a fourth-generation mezcalero, doing things the right old way, from sourcing agave to roasting for days over mesquite to natural fermentation to double distillation.
Hedonistas also gets to celebrate the wide-range of flavors mezcal permits. While tequila must be made of Blue Weber agave, there are actually over 250 varieties of the plant, and about 30 have been used to make mezcal. At this point, Hedonistas keeps its product line to four, but each is quite distinct.
They kick off with the mezcal most folks have had, an Espadín. This bottling is the only one of the four that comes from cultivated agave, and as part of the their sustainability efforts, Hedonistas replants as many as they use to distill. As you can see from the photo above, all four styles are crystalline, bordering on shimmering clear--part of the no additives process. Let's get to the smoke issue quick, too. Yes, that's one of the major distinctions between tequila and mezcal, but to act as if that's the only difference is like saying the only difference between the New York Giants and the San Francisco Giants is which coast they play on. I'd rather suggest the difference is more like that between football and baseball itself, with mezcal the more interesting, evolving, thoughtful, and varied, just like the national pastime.
So with the Espadín you get the smoke on the nose and initial palate, but some of the taste of smoke is from burnt grapefruit peel, it seems. Each sip is integrated, complicated, lingering. There are floral notes, and notes of white pepper. It lasts. Hedonistas suggests you can mix this one for cocktails, but it seems too good for that, unless you really want to impress. And I am quite taken by some of their cocktail recipes on their website, in particular the Last Rite No. 1, made with the Espadín, yellow chartreuse, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, and fresh lemon juice.
Moving up the ladder of complexity and price we get to the Tobala, the first of the wild agave sourced by trained jimadors who harvest the plants near the end of their 10-12 year life cycle. Think of Tobala as the whisper-to-a-scream mezcal--it starts attractively come hither on the nose with orange blossom notes, but then builds to a crescendo on its long finish with a hit of pyrazines--that green pepper flavor that makes Cab Franc so distinctive. For its late oomph it still is both sophisticated and inviting.
The Cuishe is kind of the flip side to the Tobala, enticing you in with a nose that makes you feel like a walk through a florist. Tropical, with a lingering note of petrol like in a Reisling, it's a tender mezcal, even down to having the smoothest mouthful of the four. Note that it doesn't give you a bit of alcohol kick at the back of the throat, like you got snapped with a tiny towel, just to remind you you're drinking firewater, if still very elevated booze. (All four come in at a kicky yet controlled 46% ABV, if you were wondering.)
Then there's the Tepeztate, which will make you rethink what mezcal can be. Green and grassy, the plants that make it up mature at 20-22 years (they're old enough to drink themselves in the States!). Think of it as the sturgeon of agave, well, not in flavor, of course. Hedonistas suggests it has a Calvados-quality I didn't quite pick up, but it is to be savored like a fine Cognac, without a doubt.
You've probably guessed from the buzzwords handmade, artisanal, wild, and all those years it takes for the plants to be old enough to be harvested and distilled that this stuff doesn't come cheap. The range goes from $64.99 - $199.99. It's up to you to decide what's too dear for you. But if you can afford it, you won't go wrong.