Mezcal is sometimes referred to as “Mexico’s other spirit,” since it is not as well-known as tequila and its occasionally sweet or spicy and always smoky flavors can be off-putting to the uninitiated imbiber. (While a single type of agave plant is used for tequila, mezcal can be made from a variety of types, giving it its disparate characteristics.) One person who takes kindly to mezcal’s unique flavors is chef Michael Mina; he has created a special product with Del Maguey, an artisanal boutique distiller located in Oaxaca, Mexico, where most mezcal is made.
For the Del Maguey San Luis del Rio Michael Mina Special Cask Finish, the distiller took its white (unaged) mezcal—sourced from the village of San Luis del Rio, two hours south of Oaxaca—and finished it in an oak barrel from the Jarnac commune of southwestern France that previously held a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags’ Leap winery in Napa Valley, Calif. While the white mezcal offers notes of citrus, honey, and pepper upon first taste, the Mina version initially exhibits a palate of Cabernet tannins, which precede a biting mezcal smokiness and an oak-rich and earthy finish replete with leather and ripe cherries, as well as a lingering hint of sweet marmalade.
Del Maguey has produced just 450 bottles of the Mina Special Cask Finish mezcal; samples became available in August, exclusively at the chef’s 20 restaurants in the United States—including his namesake culinary staple in San Francisco and seven other eateries in the region, and his locations in Miami, Las Vegas, and Southern California, among other locales. The mezcal is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks, though specialty cocktails are available upon request, including the Mezcal-rita—a mezcal-based version of Mexico’s trademark refresher. (www.delmaguey.com)