Oaxaca Mezcal Producers Court Sociedad de Mezcaleros on Central Valleys Visit
Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D. (Alvin’s archive)
Over the past two years, mezcal’s star has reached new heights with each passing month. The incidence of its Oaxaca producers and exporters, acting upon knowledge of the pending arrival onto their turf of American and Canadian mezcal aficionados and connoisseurs, has been nothing short of remarkable, at times droll.
Bartenders, Bar Owners Included in Sociedad de Mezcaleros Tour of Oaxaca
In March, 2013, the secretive Sociedad de Mezcaleros embarked upon a major sojourn into the heart of Mexico’s agave producing country, a region so climatically suited to the growing of maguey, that some of Jalisco’s tequila producers have stepped up their pirating ways in trucking off multi-ton trailer loads of Oaxacan pi├▒as.
The first wave of mezcal aficionados to arrive for the tour was an entourage of bartenders and bar owners, closely followed by architects, journalists, photographers, and those whose mere curiosity about the Sociedad had been too hard to resist. Almost all of the Sociedad members had hailed from the American northwest, an area of the U.S. which, judging from the interest generated in the community of mezcal producers and their marketing arms, will soon overtake New York City as the country’s spirits and cocktails trendsetter. In fact, La Carta de Oaxaca and Mezcaler├şa Oaxaca, both based in Seattle, have been at forefront, doing more than their fair share.
Oaxaca Mezcaleros Come a Courting
No less than six stakeholders, part-owners of an up-and-coming brand of the beverage, swooped down on Oaxaca, coming from their homes and offices in diverse corners of both Mexico and the U.S., to converge upon their new found land of gold, to meet, greet and court. Now to be fair, a specific date had earlier been set for a visit to their palenque. But they otherwise spared no late night energy in tracking down the spirits aficionados and imbibing with them, each to his fullest capacity. Whatever food and watering hole the Sociedad recommended to its flock, the mezcaleros were sure to follow.
A recent trend in not only Oaxaca, but also in other Mexican states, has been the emergence of young attractive women on the mezcal scene. Some are distillery employees hired to market, promote and ultimately sell. Others, and not to take away from their sometimes involvement in day-to-day distillery operations, are front (wo)men, members of families which have either been palenqeros, or have invested in the purchase of an existing mezcal operation. Using sex to sell alcohol is not the exclusive right of breweries.
Now once the group had had an opportunity to personally meet Mademoiselle X at her family’s palenque, it didn’t take long for them to begin texting her, advising of their whereabouts for the duration of their visit, and suggesting a further rendezvous or two – notwithstanding that at least for this tour member it quickly became obvious that Mademoiselle X was not the one to consult with questions of a technical nature relating to mezcal, its production and its sale. To her credit she readily acknowledged that she was a novice, with a lot to learn. But the se├▒orita tan g├╝apa was up to the task at hand, and she both fit and fulfilled her job description to a tee.
Se├▒or Y was in a different category, and while wooing was no doubt part of the game plan, he played his cards well, coming across as and indeed being more of an educator and genuine host than a wolf pouncing on easy prey. He, as was the case with our distillery conglomerate, had previously booked a date with the group. But Se├▒or Y managed to finesse a way to not only extend contact with the barmen and the rest, but also set up a meeting with Mr. Journalist and Master photographer / videographer, a brilliant and calculating move which will likely pay off in spades, much more so than how the Group of Six and Mademoiselle X approached a marketing opportunity.
More Diverse Activities of Sociedad de Mezcaleros in Oaxaca than Exposure to Exporters
The Sociedad de Mezcaleros is a living organism, continuously changing through adaptation, meeting the needs and desires of a growing and thus increasingly diverse interest group. On earlier excursions the focus was largely exploratory. This new itinerary was not entirely void of some of those past exceptional experiences: revisiting memorable distilleries with a view to rekindling acquaintanceships with their colorful palenqueros; relaxing at and enjoy the higher end fare of well-known downtown Oaxacan restaurants; fulfilling the yearnings for a return to favorite roadside eateries; and of course showcasing emerging adventures.
The March, 2013, tour of Oaxaca by those intrigued with the Sociedad de Mezcaleros, succeeded in delving yet further into the related worlds of agave and mezcal, both directly and indirectly, nevertheless leaving a plethora of avenues unexplored. As Sociedad presidente cryptically concluded in his trademark fashion, “you bet we have much more in store for both neophytes and seasoned mezcalytes alike, but those details are for another discussion; and don’t forget those producers who didn’t get their hands on our group this time.”
Alvin Starkman tries to follow the every move of the secret society known as the Sociedad of Mezcaleros. He operates Oaxaca Culinary Tours with Chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo (www.oaxacaculinarytours.com) and Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast with wife Arlene (www.oaxacadream.com). He compiles a body of English works about mezcal and pulque (www.oaxaca-mezcal.com), and occasionally takes mezcal aficionados on visits to a diverse variety of distilleries, and out into the fields to harvest agave as well as aguamiel used in making pulque. Alvin has written over 30 articles about mezcal, pulque and Mexican craft beer. Watch for his upcoming craft beer, mezcal and pulque tour of Oaxaca.