After years of low-quality imports and instantly regrettable “shooters,” agave spirits like tequila and mezcal are ascendant in America. Between 2005 and 2015, the volume of mezcal sold in the United States grew by 279 percent, according to International Wine and Spirits Research. Bars like Brooklyn’s Leyenda, the Pastry War in Houston, and Baltimore’s Clavel explore the diversity and rich histories of the spirits, offering cocktails, flights, and pours from rare and craft bottles.
Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal is an American-born label dedicated to preserving traditional Oaxacan mezcal production methods. Thirsty for a revolution? Here are eight things you should know about Del Maguey.
An iconic L.A. artist illustrated the labels
Ken Price, a sculptor renowned for his distinctive, acrylic-painted ceramics, drew Del Maguey’s label art. In the 1960s Price happened to live next door to company founder Ron Cooper in Ventura, California, and the two became lifelong friends.
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Each bottle is named for the village where it was produced
An American mezcal enthusiast, Ron Cooper founded Del Maguey in 1995. The company now works with twelve families in Oaxaca and Puebla, four of whom have been with Del Maguey since inception.
Pernod Ricard acquired a majority stake in Del Maguey for an undisclosed amount this summer
The French conglomerate also owns Altos and Avión tequilas. “With an overall increased interest in Mexican spirits, we think this partnership will be a complement to our tequila portfolio,” Jeff Agdern, SVP, Brand Ventures at Pernod Ricard USA, wrote in Forbes. To Fortune, he added, “We think that mezcal is just getting started in the U.S.”
Some mezcal labels and producers had concerns about the acquisition of a craft label by a corporate entity
Eduardo Belaunzaran of Wahaka Mezcal told U.K. trade publication The Spirits Business, “The acquisition [of Del Maguey] by the French giant should concern all the industry.” He worried about the effect corporatization could have on quality, but noted that, “The mezcal sector will be affected positively by this investment.”
One limited-production Del Maguey bottling features “the truffle of agave”
Ivy Mix, who helms New York City’s Leyenda bar and was named Bartender of the Year at the 2015 Tales of the Cocktail, likens Del Maguey’s Tobala to rich truffles. Tobala is made with agave found at high elevations in Oaxaca.
Del Maguey is never blended
Many small or rural Oaxacan producers without international export licenses sell their product in bulk to larger bottlers who blend similar mezcals. All of the producers who work with Del Maguey own their own palenque, or distillery.
Cooper’s influence on mezcal culture in America is enormous
Bobby Heugel, “Houston’s Cocktail King,” credits Cooper with turning him on to mezcal in 2007 with one taste of Del Maguey’s Chichicapa. Heugel now stocks Del Maguey at all four of his Houston bars, including the award-winning Pastry War, which offers more than 150 agave spirits.
Maguey is the Taino word for “agave”
It’s pronounced ma-gay.