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These 4 Artisanal Mezcals Don’t Smoke Out Great Taste

New premium offerings from Mezcales de Leyenda introduce mezcals with interesting flavor profiles that are about more than smoke.

Grandes Leyendas: Don Anastacio bottle and case.

Boutique mezcal producer Mezcales de Leyenda has made a name for itself among agave connoisseurs. Instead of sourcing agave from just Oaxaca, where most mezcals originate, it uses unusual varieties of the plant from many Mexican states. In its latest release of four limited-edition mezcals, the brand focuses on atypical agave species, including one—Agave montana—that has been distilled for the first time. As a plus, profits from the sale of the spirits go to good causes.

Mezcales Únicos ($500) incorporates A. montana, which grows wild in a hidden valley in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The piña is roasted in a lava-rock-lined pit for 5 days and then fermented in oak tanks with local wild yeasts before double distillation in a copper still. Aromas of pine, forest floor, and citrus fruit are present on the nose, but the palate is distinctly different, with sweet toffee and vanilla flavors and a hint of ash-rind cheese on the finish. Some smokiness still pervades the spirit, but it’s light and closer to peat than the typical mezcal smoke.

Mezcales Únicos bottle and case.

Mezcales Únicos bottle and case.  Photo: Courtesy Mezcales Únicos

My favorite in the series was created in celebration of Mexico’s national parks, the Reservas de la Biosfera: Tehuacan-Cuicatlan ($320). Made from Agave marmorata and Agave macroacantha, it smells like no other mezcal I’ve tried, with hints of grassy green leaves, turpentine, and nail-polish remover with just a wisp of smoke. The palate is spritely with citrus and sweetness and has a dry finish that makes you crave more.

CaReservas de la Biosfera: Tehuacan-Cuicatlan bottle and case.

Reservas de la Biosfera: Tehuacan-Cuicatlan bottle and case.  Photo: Courtesy Reservas de la Biosfera

Grandes Leyendas: Don Anastacio ($250), the spirit in this collection that is most like a typical mezcal, is an homage to the master mezcaleros who have been making craft mezcals for generations. This tequila uses a base of Agave cupreata that has been macerated by hand in a fig-wood canoe. It has a meaty smokiness that hints at bacon, but the agave flavors still shine through.

Grandes Leyendas: Don Anastacio bottle and case.

Grandes Leyendas: Don Anastacio bottle and case.  Photo: Courtesy Don Anastacio

The final mezcal, Cementerio Mezcalero ($280), honors an old tradition in the making of mezcal—aged in glass, underground, to be unearthed for family celebrations. Not only does this spirit veer from a typical mezcal, but it also tastes distinctly different from the others in this series. Made with Agave Americana sahuayensis and fermented in oak tanks with wild yeasts, this mezcal has notes of shoe polish and gasoline on the nose with sweet cannabis smoke on the palate. It was aged 3 feet underground for 9 months in a glass demijohn. The occasion of these mezcals crossing the border to the north is certainly enough to justify unearthing such a treasure.

Cementerio Mescalero bottle and case.

Cementerio Mescalero bottle and case.  Photo: Courtesy Cementerio Mescalero

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