Mezcal has been exploding in popularity in recent years, and among the brands leading the charge is Madre Mezcal. Named the fastest-growing mezcal brand in America last year, Madre’s success comes from the brand’s ability to seamlessly walk the line between producing quality spirits that appeal to the American palate and maintaining mezcal’s cultural authenticity.
The brand was co-founded by a team of industry specialists in 2016 who have built Madre to what it is today. Tony Farfalla, an adventurer and artist who was on a persistent search for fantastic agave spirits, brought childhood friend, photographer, and brands specialist Stefan Wigand with him on a trip to Oaxaca to learn more about mezcal. When the pair collided with sustainable business entrepreneur Davide Berruto and brand consultant Chris Stephenson, the rest was history.
Every batch of Madre Mezcal is made on the Garcia Morales Ranch in San Dionisio, Oaxaca, where the Morales family, which produces every bottle, works diligently to follow traditional recipes and methods of producing. Each bottle of Madre is made using a traditional Zapotal recipe that took three years to perfect and uses ingredients from Oaxaca’s natural environment, like well water and natural air, as active ingredients.
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Now that you’re familiar with the basics, here are 10 more things you should know about Madre Mezcal.
Madre Mezcal was created from a chance encounter…
In 2014, while on a trip to Montauk, N.Y., childhood friends Tony Farfalla and Stefan Wigand found themselves, completely unsuspectingly, surfing the same waves. The two then spent the weekend catching up over drinks — in particular, a new spirit Farfalla had recently brought back from Oaxaca. That mezcal — an early version of what would later become Madre — inspired the two to explore the spirit in its entirety together.
…And then another.
Soon, on a trip to Oaxaca, the pair met the Garcia Morales family, which has been tending to the agave plants of San Dionisio, Oaxaca and supplying mezcal to their local community for generations. As Wigand explained in an interview with Flaviar, “We didn’t go down there thinking that this was going to be a business. This was something that just really slapped us in the face in a really beautiful way.” The group later partnered together in an effort to bring Madre Mezcal to the rest of the world. “We were able to grow with them, and they grew with us,” said Farfalla.
While the brand launched in 2016, Madre Mezcal has been made for generations.
Don’t judge a mezcal by its bottle. Prior to being sold in glass bottles with a trademarked logo, Madre Mezcal was packaged in plastic water bottles and sold throughout Oaxaca for years. Eventually, mezcal was brought into the United States in the same fashion — emptied out water bottles — that made it as far as Brooklyn, New York.
Farfalla bootlegged early forms of Madre into the U.S. from Oaxaca.
While the sale of mezcal in plastic water bottles was commonplace in Oaxaca, Farfalla launched the practice internationally when he started bootlegging the spirit back to the United States in old plastic bottles. While it wasn’t illegal to bring mezcal across the border — most of the best mezcal made in Oaxaca is made by families that have been doing it for generations — the unmarked plastic bottles they were packaged in caused a bit of trouble with border patrol.
Of central importance to Farfalla, and now to Madre as a company, is sharing the culture surrounding authentic mezcal — and drinking it in plastic bottles is a large part of that culture. The way he was introduced to the spirit would be the same way he would share the spirit with his friends and family back home. As word spread about the spirit north of the border, his number of requests exploded, and he set himself apart from others supplying mezcal to the U.S. by writing “Madre” in black ink on each bottle. The word, which translates to mother, was meant to honor the land where mezcal comes from as well as celebrating those who are involved in the process of creating it.
Madre’s founders never expected to work in the alcohol industry.
For years prior to starting Madre, Farfalla was an artist in New York City, and his surrealist visions are now incorporated into the brand’s design. While he is now at the head of a large, and continuously growing, spirit brand, Farfalla actually considers himself to be anti-alcohol industry, which was, ironically, one of the things that first drew him to mezcal. In an industry that he believes hasn’t done much good for the world, Farfalla sees mezcal as the most authentic avenue, and the culture surrounding its production and consumption inspired him to explore the spirit further. Madre became Farfalla’s passion project and soon developed into a full-fledged brand.
At Madre Mezcal, ‘handmade’ is more than a marketing gimmick.
In the spirits world, the words “handmade” or “handcrafted” can serve as smooth marketing terms laid out to captivate buyers. This is not the case with Madre Mezcal. Each bottle of Madre is made using Espadin and Cuishe agaves planted, cut, and blessed by the Garcia Morales family. After the blessing, the agave is cooked in an earth-sunken pit and fermented with wild yeast. The distillation process is overseen by a number of Garcia Morales uncles and cousins.
Madre Mezcal is steadfast in its support of immigrant communities.
As explained on Madre’s website, a large number of the family members who work with Madre Mezcal have, at some point, crossed into the United States in search of work. Familiar with the rough conditions required to enter the U.S., Madre was founded on the ideas of “supporting social well-being and fostering good community.” As such, the brand partnered with RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) to raise funds and awareness for the immigration crisis.
RAICES is a non-profit organization whose efforts work to ensure that individuals maintain access to health and legal services, regardless of their immigration status. All profits from Madre’s “Together Campaign,” including a set of pins, poster, and T-shirt, are donated to support those working on both sides of the border.
Madre Mezcal invests in the future of the Oaxacan community.
Madre is dedicated to creating positive, sustainable change in the local Oaxaca community. As such, a portion of Madre’s proceeds is invested into local non-profits Consorcio, Sikanda, and Guirra. All three are female-run and work to provide resources, education, and empowerment for women and underserved children in Oaxaca.
It’s a ‘gateway mezcal.’
Mezcal is a very particular spirit, and for some, it can be an acquired taste. For those who find the beverage to be a bit too smoky, Madre might be the perfect solution. Jokingly referred to as a “gateway mezcal” by Wigand and Farfalla, each blend is blended with the intention of alleviating some of the smokiness so that the spirit is more approachable to drinkers less familiar with mezcal. As explained by Wigand, “When you get into these wild agaves, you’ll find so many other flavors to mezcal, and Madre is such a great entry point for that.”
Madre’s all about the rule of threes.
In addition to its original blend, Madre’s Ensamble Mezcal, which comes in both 750- and 200-milliliter sizes, mezcal lovers can also try Madre Espadin Mezcal, a single agave mezcal varietal, and Madre Desert Water, the brand’s ready-to-drink cocktails featuring mezcal and sparkling water.