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Tequila? Nein. Meet Selva Negra, the First Agave Spirit Made in Germany.

Could this be as big as Jagermeister?

Selva Negra Selva Negra

Agave spirits continue to conquer the world in terms of sales and popularity, with eager celebrities getting in on the lucrative action. And now producers in countries outside of Mexico are making their own agave spirits like Selva Negra, a new 100 percent agave spirit made in Germany’s Black Forest.

Selva Negra can’t legally be called tequila or mezcal, firstly because those categories are protected by geographical indication in the same way as bourbon or Cognac. Also, the type of agave used to make the spirit is the salmiana variety, which would remove it from the tequila category even if it were produced in one of the Mexican states where it’s allowed to be made (tequila can only be made from Blue Weber agave, but there are some mezcals made from salmiana).

Winemaker and distiller Florian Faude of Faude Feine Brande is responsible for making Selva Negra, the first agave spirit to be produced in Germany. It is distilled using extract from salmiana agave imported from Mexico, as opposed to having entire agave pinas shipped to Germany. Wine yeast is added for the fermentation, turning the extract into an agave wine over the course of six to eight weeks before it’s distilled twice. In between distillations, Selva Negra is also given a mezcal-like twist by infusing it with smoke from local German spruce wood, but the method used to actually introduce spirit to smoke is kept secret. For now, this spirit is only available in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, so we have not been able to taste it, but expect an agave-forward palate with notes of spruce, smoke and a bit of fruit. Selva Negra is meant to be used in cocktails, and the official website suggests some riffs on classics like the Margarita, Paloma, Old Fashioned and Negroni.

For better or for worse, depending on where you come down on the concept, non-Mexican agave spirits have been popping up with more frequency as of late. Australia’s Black Snake Distillery and Shelter Distilling in California are just a few of the distilleries experimenting with making agave spirits outside the category’s traditional and ancestral borders. There are, of course, many who look askance at this practice, arguing that it’s a combination of cultural appropriation and dilution of an important cultural signifier. Look no further than the drama surrounding sotol—this Mexican spirit has a GI that is not currently recognized by the US, and is being made by American distilleries in the Southwest. And many bourbon drinkers were in an uproar when Crown Royal put “Bourbon Mash” on the label of one its whiskies (it was subsequently removed). Still, given how popular agave spirits have become, this trend isn’t fading away anytime soon. So if you see a bottle of “peat-smoked Scottish agave spirit” on a shelf in the next few years, remember you heard it here first.

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