Puritans, be advised: Two Ls or three, Ilegal Mezcal is certainly legal, although the rustic labels and wax-sealed cork stoppers may make you think otherwise.
This small batch mezcal from the Oaxaca region of Mexico is hand numbered and produced in very small lots (typically under 2,000 bottles per lot). All 100 percent agave, of course, and all three are 80 proof. All three bottles reviewed below are part of lot #1.
Ilegal Mezcal Joven – Far less smoky than most mezcals, this is a smooth and velvety mezcal that could easily pass for a slightly brash tequila. Zesty with huge agave character up front, then a tangy lemon and citrus finish. The body is moderate and a touch hot, but it’s refined and easygoing. If you like your mezcal on the smoky side, I expect this won’t strike your fancy. Most of you will love the hell out of it. A- / $60
Ilegal Mezcal Reposado – After 4 to 5 months in new oak, Ilegal takes on a whole new character, buttery in the body and showing more smoke, with a butterscotch, creme brulee-like tone to it. Actually too sweet by quite a bit, I appreciate the attempt to balance savory smoke with sweet candy, but it comes off as a bit wild and unbalanced. B+ / $80
Ilegal Mezcal Anejo (pictured) – Spends a full year in oak, and the characteristics of the Reposado are amped up even further. More smoke, and more sweetness. Almost bacon-like with the blend of sweet and savory. This has a bit more balance but its richness is almost too decadent. A very powerful and unique mezcal, and pricy. B+ / $120