Review: Mezcals of Agave de Cortes

It’s not every day you meet a 6th generation palenquero (mezcal maker), but that’s exactly what Asis Cortes, pictured below in my kitchen, is. Cortes and his family make mezcal in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Some of it is only available in the country, and in addition to its own the company also exports a variety of other producers’ mescals to the U.S.

Cortes walked me through four of his company’s products, each representing a fairly different style and approach to the spirit. Thoughts follow.

Sacacuento Silver Mezcal – One of Cortes’s import products, a light, fresh, and fruity mezcal loaded with lemon and citrus notes. The smoke is subtle and delicate on the finish. Arguably my favorite of the tasting. Made from agave espadin. 80 proof. A- / $43

El Jolgorio Silver Mezcal – Made in tiny batches and released 600 liters at a time, this mezcal is available only in Mexico, where it is one of the company’s rarest offerings. Made from white madrecuixe agave grown in the mountains of Oaxaca, this organic mezcal is as different as you can imagine from the Sacacuento. A huge flavor bomb, this is a gut punch, full of aloe, lime, sugar cane, and incense character. Again, not much smokiness, but there’s no delicacy here, just raw intensity and a wild expression of agave. 92 proof. A- / 900 Mexican pesos

Sacacuento Anejo Mezcal – Age Sacacuento Silver in American oak barrels for a year and you get this light brown spirit, intense with earth and menthol characters. There’s old wood on the nose, almost funky in the way it comes across. But the body is something else entirely, smooth cocoa, butterscotch, and caramel notes, all quite lasting. Quite a dichotomy between nose and palate. It opens up over time, much like a good anejo tequila. 80 proof. B+ / $70

Agave de Cortes Extra Anejo Mezcal – Aged three years in French oak barrels, this espadin agave offers a beautiful nose of old rum and a fair bit of wood. There’s a surprisingly lightness on the palate, fresh and young with herbal characteristics, with the agave remarkably still coming through after all that time in oak. What’s left behind is caramel and orange peel. 80 proof. B+ / $120


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