We’re back with our second full round (not including a brief peek at the joven in 2019) with Ilegal, which is a rarity in mezcal, producing three tequila-like expressions instead of merely a blanco — here called a joven — offering. No need to stand on ceremony; let’s dive in. Production details follow with each writeup.
All are 80 proof. NOM O305X.
Ilegal Mezcal Joven (2022) – Still much smokier than I remember based on Lot #1, Ilegal Joven offers a bold, beefy aroma that pours on plenty of barbecue-like sweetness to the exclusion of most everything else, save for a touch of seaweed and a vaguely vegetal character. Initially sharp on the tongue, the mezcal slowly reveals a creamy quality that folds in notes of lemon peel and some vanilla, moving eventually to an ashy, almost pushy finish. More blunt with smoke than the original but perhaps not as bruising as it was in 2019, Ilegal’s Joven seems suited best for cocktailing rather than sipping in a jicara. Reviewed: Lot #174. B / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Ilegal Mezcal Reposado (2022) – Now aged for 6 months in a combination of new and used American oak. The smokiness of the Joven is tempered here, thankfully, making room for more generalized earth, greenery, and a fresher agave note on the nose. The palate is sweeter, as expected, and also more vibrant and complex — much more so than the rather blunt Joven. Creamy notes of coconut and vanilla pair with a stronger lemon component up front, taming the palate as it finds a complement amidst the smokier elements in the mix. Less barbecue on the finish, more sea spray. While in 2010 this was all over the map, today it’s a solid mezcal for the Islay Scotch fan. A- / $53 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Ilegal Mezcal Anejo (2022) – 13 months in new and used oak. Not overwhelmingly different from the reposado — though double the price — but more urgent and slightly more vegetal up front. A blend of fresh agave and an enduring sweetness give this mezcal some distinct pungency, backed up by a sharp smokiness that is reminiscent of fireplace soot and cigar ash. Slightly cloying on the finish, with notes of overripe fruit and a candylike vanilla character, then a somewhat beefy back end. More powerful than the Reposado, but I’m not sure that’s needed here. The younger mezcal has more balance today, and it’s a much better value. B+ / $99 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]