Mala Mia Mexcal launched earlier this year with four expressions: Espadín, Ensamble, Cuishe, and Tepeztate. Traditionally distilled by Saturnino Martínez Méndez in the village of Santiago Matatlán in Oaxaca, the operation uses agave aged anywhere from 6 to 26 years of age, cutting them down whole. (This is the inspiration for the name Mala Mia, which roughly translates to “my bad.”)
Today we look at three of the four expressions available — all but the entry-level Espadin offering. Thoughts follow.
No NOM listed.
Mala Mia Mezcal Ensamble – A blend of espadin, cuishe, and tepeztate agave. A pleasant mix of sweet and smoky on the nose here, lightly briny but otherwise indistinct with secondary aromatics — something of a jack of all trades in the mezcal world. More complexity arrives on the palate, which shows off the mezcal’s sweeter side, with elements of vanilla wafers, lemon curd, caramel, and some milk chocolate in the mix. Surprisingly dessert-like, it comes across with a certain marshmallows-round-the-campfire quality, making for a delightfully different after-dinner drink — touched with mint on the finish. I love it, but fans of burlier, more aggressive mezcals may find this too sweet. 84 proof. Reviewed: Lot SMM-ENS2. A- / $80
Mala Mia Mezcal Cuishe – 100% cuishe, or agave karwinskii. A much different experience than the Ensamble, this is an aggressively smoky mezcal with sharp overtones on the nose evoking burnt citrus peel and salty beach bonfire. Similar elements on the palate evoke smoked lemon curd braising on a mesquite fire, with a lightly vegetal seaweed quality late in the game. A bright pop of orange citrus gives the finish a needed lift, but the whole of the experience is deeply brooding and laden with that heavy bonfire quality. 82 proof. Reviewed: Lot SM4C-L7CUIS. B+ / $100
Mala Mia Mezcal Tepetzate – 100% tepetzate, or agave marmorata. This lands somewhere between the two above expressions: Mildly to moderately smoky, with more fruit on the nose and a restrained beefiness that adds a savory touch. It’s chewy on the palate, thanks in part to a slightly higher abv, but with a toasty vanilla wafer quality that quickly sweetens things up. Hints of anise work well with the cookie dough quality on the finish. Bold but balanced, it’s probably my favorite expression in this collection, and it also feels like the most versatile — while still packing in plenty of smokiness. 90 proof. Reviewed: Lot SMMTXT. A- / $130