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Tag: Mezcal

Five things you should know about agave

You’ve probably sipped on fermented and distilled agave sap in the form of Tequila and mezcal – perhaps even drizzled the syrup over your porridge as a honey alternative –…

You’ve probably sipped on fermented and distilled agave sap in the form of Tequila and mezcal – perhaps even drizzled the syrup over your porridge as a honey alternative – but how much do you really know about Mexico’s most beloved plant? MoM became acquainted at The Ginstitute’s Agave Sessions masterclass in London, hosted in partnership with Herradura Tequila…

Hands up, how often do you give thought to the raw ingredients that make up your favourite boozes? Our guess is, not too often. Understandably you’re probably more interested in the finished product, and hey – who can blame you?

For spirits holding a Denomination of Origin – which can only be made in a designated region, since their distinct characteristics are the product of their geographical environment – the plants they are produced from have a special significance and history, and this is especially true of Tequila, and, in turn, agave.

We headed to Notting Hill for an in-depth masterclass covering agave history, heritage and craft, nibbling tacos, sipping cocktails, and tasting our way through some of Mexico’s spirited creations. Here are a few things we learned along the way…

agave

You’ve presumably tasted a drink made from agave, but how much do you know about it?

#1: Agave is a type of lily

It may closely resemble a cactus, but the agave plant, also known as maguey, is actually a member of the lily family. It’s a pretty versatile, hardy crop, dating back to pre-Columbian Mexico. Back in 1650, Spanish priest and naturalist Friar Francisco Jiménez said the “plant alone would be sufficient to provide all things necessary for human life”, and could be used to make all manner of items from sandals to razors and even a tincture for bandaging fresh wounds.

#2 The plant has babies called pups

Agave takes around 10 or 15 years to flower, producing a large stem that shoots up several metres into the sky, known as a quiote. The flower is the largest produced by any plant in the world, and requires a fair bit of energy (read: sugar) to grow, so farmers cut the stalk off as it grows to make sure all that deliciousness stays in the piña. How, then, do they reproduce? Each agave produces around 18 genetically identical ‘pups’ around its base through the course of its life, which are connected by an umbilical root.

#3 Agave is the goth of the plant world

Agave is pretty self-sufficient and grows naturally with very little intervention. It’s one of just 10% of plants that performs photosynthesis at night time. While all those other mainstream sell-outs are busy using sunlight to grow, the agave uses the reflection of the sun on the moon. This gives it a pretty distinct advantage – there isn’t much water in the dry volcanic soil; using moonlight means the plant requires less water to grow.

agave

The Ginstitute’s Agave Sessions masterclass included some delightful cocktails

#4 They’re usually harvested at around eight years

Agave plants can take up to 10 years to reach maturity. While a handful of small growers will check each agave and harvest them individually when they’ve reached perfection – a time-consuming and expensive process – most do a ‘sweep harvest’ which is basically means ‘eh, most of them are ripe, let’s take them all’.

#5 There are more than 200 types of agave

The variety that goes in your Tommy’s Margarita is called Blue Weber, and there are strict rules that forbid Tequila producers from using other types of agave. That’s not to say you won’t find them in other agave-based sippers – you might’ve heard of Espadin, a large agave species, as well as Tobala, which, conversely, grows to around the size of a houseplant. The larger varieties can take decades to mature, some 10, 20 or even years. Some are very rich in sugars, which means the sap is very sweet, while others are far lower. Agave can be found growing everywhere, from vast, wild hilltops to cracks in the pavement.

Bonus fact: Mezcal is the name given to *all* spirits produced from agave. This means all Tequila is mezcal in very much the same way that all Cognac is brandy. There are several other Mexican spirits produced from agave that also fall under the umbrella of mezcal and these have protected regions too, such as Sotol, Bacanora and Raicilla.

Keen to expand your agave knowledge? The Agave Sessions event is held weekly on Saturday afternoons at The Ginstitute on Portobello Road, comprising a two-hour masterclass, four agave cocktails, an agave-based tasting, a selection of tacos, a 700ml bottle of Herradura Plata Tequila and a miniature barrel. Tickets are available to purchase here: www.agavesessions.com

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Minor celebrity boozes

While we appreciate the George Clooneys and David Beckhams of this industry – and we do, honest – it’s only right to champion less famous celebs, shall we say, who are…

While we appreciate the George Clooneys and David Beckhamof this industry – and we do, honest – it’s only right to champion less famous celebs, shall we say, who are hustling hard on their own booze projects. Here, we present the alcohol brands of ten celebrities you’re more likely to find cutting a supermarket ribbon than walking the red carpet…

Celebrities come in all shapes and sizes. Not everyone is meant to be the most visible, the most talked-about, the highest-earning and the most powerful, there simply isn’t enough space. For every exclusive Ryan Reynolds press junket, we need an X Factor finalist to turn on Christmas lights in Stoke on Trent. C’est la vie.

Looking across TV hosts, soap actors, former pop stars and more, we’ve picked ten lesser-known celebrity faces who are dabbling – or have dabbled – in distilling, winemaking and brewing.

Neat Gin

It’s only Ian Beale!

Neat Gin

Who made it? Adam Woodyatt.

Remind us who he is again? You’ll know him better as Ian Beale from BBC soap opera EastEnders.

What’s the goss? The EastEnders legend launched Neat Gin with wife Beverley back in 2017. The London Dry-style sipper was inspired by a 15th-century recipe which listed botanicals but, crucially, no quantities. Eleven ingredients were refined to just eight, and Neat was born. He’s come a long way since Phil Mitchell flushed his head down the loo.

Graham Norton’s Own Pink Gin

Who made it? Graham Norton, unsurprisingly.

Remind us who he is again? An Irish television and radio presenter, comedian, actor, author, commentator, and the face of comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show.

What’s the goss? Norton has a wine label made by New Zealand producer Invivo, with whom he first teamed up with back in 2014. One Sauvignon Blanc, one rosé, one Shiraz and a Prosecco later, the TV host turned his hand to gin through a partnership with Ireland’s West Cork Distillers.

MMMhops

Mmmhops, you see what they did there?

Mmmhops

Who made it? Hanson.

Remind us who they are again? An American pop band best known for their hit single, Mmmbop. Geddit?

What’s the goss? Since brothers Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson launched craft beer brand Hanson Brothers Beer back in 2013, they’ve created four flavourful brews – Mmmhops, Festive Ale, Redland Amber Ale and Tulsa Tea – plus a further two in collaboration with other breweries. The company’s strapline? Music + beer = awesome. Eh, we can’t argue with that.

Sven The Wine Collection

Who made it? Sven-Göran Eriksson.

Remind us who he is again? The Swedish football manager and former player who took England to the World Cup back in 2006.

What’s the goss? Back in 2014, Göran Eriksson unveiled Sven The Wine Collection, made by Italy’s Casa Girelli with indigenous grape varieties. His white bottling is a blend of Grillo and Fiano grapes, while the red in the collection features Nero d’Avola and Frappato. He released the collection across Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland – whether any bottles remain, we don’t know.

Tres Papalote Mezcal

Tres Papalote Mezcal

Tres Papalote Mezcal

Who made it? Cheech Marin.

Remind us who he is again? An American stand-up comedian and actor, best known as part of the comedy act Cheech & Chong.

What’s the goss? Marin is a partner and brand ambassador for Tres Papalote Mezcal, a three-strong range made from Wild Cupreata agave grown on the mountaintops of Guerrero, Mexico. If you’re wondering what he thinks about the smoky spirit, Marin is quoted as saying that mezcal is “like Tequila but with tattoos and piercings”. He’s not wrong.

Ver2 Vodka

Who made it? Shane Lynch.

Remind us who he is again? An Irish singer-songwriter, best known for his time in Boyzone. Apparently, he’s a professional drift driver now.

What’s the goss? Lynch joined forces with caffeine and guarana-infused vodka brand Ver2, which was marketed as ‘Great Britain’s first energy vodka’ – make of that what you will – before industry watchdogs the Portman Group threw the book at them. The brand’s Twitter feed seems to exist solely to retweet questionable political opinions these days, so we’re guessing Ver2 is no more.

 

Ringmaster General Shiraz 2010

Sweet dreams are made of these

Ringmaster General Shiraz 2010

Who made it? Dave Stewart

No seriously, who? He was one half of British pop duo Eurythmics (the other half being Annie Lennox)

What’s the goss? Stewart teamed up with McLaren Vale estate Mollydooker to launch Ringmaster General Shiraz 2010, named after his 2012 album release. The bottling is said to be a version of the Aussie winemakers’ Carnival of Love Shiraz 2010, which is barrel-fermented and matured in 100% new American oak. Suggested food pairing? Kangaroo, obviously.

Angel Alkaline Gin

Who made it? Steven Gerrard.

Remind us who he is again? Liverpool’s former central midfielder and now manager of Scottish Premiership club Rangers.

What’s the goss? The Gers gaffer is reportedly set to add a range of flavoured gins to his alkaline water brand, Angel Alkaline. Described as “a premium contemporary English gin lovingly handcrafted with our natural alkaline water and bottled in England”, the range is pipped to span watermelon, lemon, blueberry and lime flavours. The news only broke in May 2019, so watch this space.

This stout weighs in at 13%

Drew Curtis / Wil Wheaton / Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout

Who made it? Wil Wheaton.

No seriously, who? The American actor best known for portraying Wesley Crusher on TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

What’s the goss? Working with Stone Brewery co-founder Greg Koch and Fark.com creator Drew Curtis, Wil (only one ‘l’ for some reason) Wheaton created a speciality imperial stout made using pecans, wheat, flaked rye and bourbon barrels. A new edition of the 13% ABV bottling is released every year, complete with awesome illustrated label.

Garden Shed Gin

Rugby gin

Garden Shed Gin

Who made it? Ryan Grant,

No seriously, who? A retired British and Irish Lions rugby player.

What’s the goss? The former Scotland international rugby union player swapped rugby balls for botanicals, launching The Garden Shed Drinks Company back in 2017 in partnership with wife Maxine and fellow rugby player Ruaridh Jackson. As well as the London Dry-style Garden Shed Gin bottling, the Glasgow-based team also makes Côte-Rôtie gin, which is aged in a French wine barrel.

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Bats, agave and mezcal: a love story

We headed over to Temper in Covent Garden for an outstandingly educational afternoon with Dr. Rodrigo Medellin, known as the Bat Man of Mexico, for a chat about bats and…

We headed over to Temper in Covent Garden for an outstandingly educational afternoon with Dr. Rodrigo Medellin, known as the Bat Man of Mexico, for a chat about bats and their synonymous relationship with agave plants.

Did you know that 80% of agave pollination is due to the humble bat? Dr. Rodrigo Medellin, a professor at the University of Mexico, has spent pretty much his whole life studying and protecting bats, hence his nickname. Born with a love of animals, his first word was “flamingo”. At the age of 12, he held his first bat and his fate was sealed: he was going to work with bats for the rest of his life. We were lucky enough to see him talk about his passion, and learnt a lot about a species that isn’t given much good press. Move over Bruce Wayne, here’s the real batman.

With a glass of mezcal in hand, Medellin began to explain how bats and agave plants are linked. The relationship goes back around 12 million years, but don’t worry, we won’t start all the way back then. Instead, we’ll begin in 1988 with the lesser long-nosed bat, which are found in Central America and were, at the time listed as endangered. Fast forward 30 years, and in a truly historic moment in 2018 they were the first mammal to be delisted! This was no cue to relax, it was now time to focus on the maintenance and conservation of the species.

Batman of Mexico

The Bat Man with a lesser long-nosed bat

When Medellin first started studying the largest colony of lesser long-nosed bats in northwest Mexico, he and his team realised that the area was completely barren. Not an agave in sight. The nearest sources of agave were at least 40 or 50km away. Too far, Medellin thought, for such a small bat to fly just to feed. In a great plot twist, they found out that the bats were flying 90km one way to feed from agave plants. Medellin showed us a picture of a bat after feeding, its whole body completely covered in pollen. So, when these bats are flying 90km each way to find food, of course they’re spreading this pollen around from agave to agave like nobody’s business.

Agave is used to make mezcal, and Blue Weber agave is specifically used to make Tequila. The plants take between six to eight years to grow, and only sexually reproduce once in their entire lifetime, during which they bloom a magnificently tall flower. Medellin compared it to “a humongous penis”, and this flower is what bats feed from. However, this process takes up a huge amount of sugar and energy from the plant, so agaves that are destined to make mezcal are harvested before it can take place. Instead of natural reproduction, agave farmers take clonal shoots from beneath the plant and replant those.

The problem with this is that there is no genetic diversity from all these cloned baby agaves. Farmed agave have not been allowed to bloom in over 150 years, and in 2014 it was discovered that 270 million agave plants were clones of just two original agaves. Yep, our jaws dropped too. This means that they all have the same genetic makeup, so should a disease come along (or even the effects of climate change) they would all be equally susceptible. That’s a pretty precarious situation.

Agave plants destined for mezcal

Medellin proposed a solution to recover the genetic diversity of the agave species and, importantly for him, to help conserve the bat population. If agave farmers allow just 5% of their agave harvest to bloom, that will feed 100 bats per hectare. These bats will then pollinate the agave, reviving the genetic diversity. Should the farmers do this, they will be able to claim their mezcal or Tequila as ‘bat friendly’, and will be able to display a special hologram on their bottles certifying this. So far, mezcal and Tequila brands Ocho, Tapatio, Siete Leguas, Siembra Valles Ancestral and Cascahuin have earnt the title. Clearly, it has been hugely popular, as every single bottle of bat friendly mezcal has sold out. At the moment, it’s impossible to get your hands on any!  

Medellin is also urging bars and other establishments to display this information around the bar, in menus, and to educate the bartenders. The key is to offer people a choice (when some bat friendly mezcal returns to the market!) to help support this crucial cause.

Behold, a very tall agave bloom waiting for bats

Mezcal is one of the very few alcohols that doesn’t rely on a monoculture. Beer? Fields of barley. Wine? Grapes of one species (vitis vinifera) as far as the eye can see. Cognac? More grapes! Even Tequila is made only with Blue Weber agave. Mezcal can be made from any one of over 200 agave species, and this bodes for far healthier and robust ecosystems. When we asked Medellin about his favourite mezcal, he answered that from his top 10 at least half of them he would never be able to try again, and that’s fine with him. “Dwell in diversity”, he said, “or mezcal will become the next Tequila.” What he means by this is that, when you try a brilliant small batch mezcal, you must enjoy it and move on. Whoever said that variety is the spice of life was really on to something.  

At the end, we asked Medellin what Master of Malt could do to help. He answered, “the industry is thirsty for information”, so if we can continue to convey the crucial role that bats play then awareness will only increase. The industry is also thirsty for Tequila, so spread the word, just like those lesser long-nosed bats spread that agave pollen! Seeing Medellin speak about his work was truly inspiring. He was passionate, informative and downright hilarious, and his cause is something that we can all get on board with.

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Warming tipples for autumn evenings!

Join us as well celebrate all things autumn with a round-up of sensational seasonal spirits! Autumn is a season loved by many. It’s all about comfort food and drink. It’s…

Join us as well celebrate all things autumn with a round-up of sensational seasonal spirits!

Autumn is a season loved by many. It’s all about comfort food and drink. It’s a chance to make the most of the produce from the seasonal harvest. It’s the time to attend bonfire nights and Halloween parties. It’s the season when we welcome the darkening nights and browning leaves with a hearty tipple and, let’s face it, heaps of bloody pumpkin spice.

But what makes the perfect autumn drink? Summer refreshers and cocktails are now out of the question. But winter warmers aren’t the required tonic just yet. In autumn, or ‘fall’, for our exceptionally literal friends in the United States, it only seems right to celebrate brown spirits: whisky, Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados and darker or spiced rums, as well as liqueurs and cocktails packed with seasonal fruits and colours.

In this spirit, we’ve produced a list of appropriately autumnal boozes. Each comes with a seasonal serve if you want to get creative. These ought to keep you going until the snow starts to fall.

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How did The Glenlivet, Chivas Regal and Jameson perform in 2018?

With Pernod Ricard’s full-year sales results hot off the press, we take a peek at how the likes of Scotch whiskies The Glenlivet and Chivas Regal, Ireland’s Jameson, Cognac brand…

With Pernod Ricard’s full-year sales results hot off the press, we take a peek at how the likes of Scotch whiskies The Glenlivet and Chivas Regal, Ireland’s Jameson, Cognac brand Martell and Absolut vodka fared in 2017/18. Spoiler alert: Scotch wasn’t the star of the show…

It’s results season, folks! Big companies left, right and centre are publishing their annual (or quarterly) reports, giving us an insight into how they’re getting on sales-wise. Today it’s the turn of Pernod Ricard to disclose its full-year data to the end of June. We had a nose through the docs and crunched the numbers to see how some of the world’s biggest drinks brands got on…

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Intrigued by the mezcal hype? MoM digs in…

This September, London Mezcal Week will return to the capital in a blaze of agave with the largest mezcal selection the UK has ever seen. We chart the rise and…

This September, London Mezcal Week will return to the capital in a blaze of agave with the largest mezcal selection the UK has ever seen. We chart the rise and rise of Tequila’s smoky sister with festival co-founders Thea Cumming and Melanie Symonds…

Clear your diaries, book your train (or plane…) ticket, and rinse your copita: London Mezcal Week is back from 10-16 September, bringing with it more tastings, dinners, talks, parties, cocktails and pop-up mezcalerias than you can shake a piña at.

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Get in on the hybrid spirits trend with these delicious drops!

Any 2018 drinks trend round-up worth its salt will mention ‘hybrid spirits’. But what the hell are they, are they any good, and why should we bother anyway when the…

Any 2018 drinks trend round-up worth its salt will mention ‘hybrid spirits’. But what the hell are they, are they any good, and why should we bother anyway when the composite parts are already tasty on their own? We scoured the MoM warehouse shelves and found five delectable examples of the deliciousness that can occur when spirits worlds collide…

Gin that thinks it’s a wine? Whiskies made in one place and matured in another? Vodka with a hint of Cognac? For spirits purists (and many of the rest of us) the booze world has gone a bit bonkers of late. So-called hybrid spirits – where one or more drinks categories blur boundaries for a new expression, basically the Transformers of tipples – are billed as the innovative brave new world of liquor, developed to court picky consumers with a thirst for the original. But are they actually any good?

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The Nightcap: 4 May

It’s Friday, it’s cocktail o’clock (here in the UK anyway), so there’s only one thing for it. Bring on this week’s round up of all things booze news: it’s The…

It’s Friday, it’s cocktail o’clock (here in the UK anyway), so there’s only one thing for it. Bring on this week’s round up of all things booze news: it’s The Nightcap!

Happy Star Wars Day, folks! Yep, somehow it’s May already. But no need to fear, The Nightcap is here, bringing you the biggest and booziest news stories from the last seven days!

But before we get into agave-fuelled business deals, new bottlings and all things baijiu, let’s recap the week that was. We kicked off proceedings on Monday with our latest charity auction: snap up the super-rare The Macallan 40 Year Old Sherry Oak and raise a marvellous chunk of moolah for our nominated charity, Malaria No More UK! On Tuesday, Adam reported back from the launch of The Singleton’s Malt Master’s Selection – a single malt looking to ‘do a Haig Club’ and make whisky accessible to new audiences. Will it be a success? Time will tell.

Then it was time to reveal not just May’s Dram Club contents, but also the results of the epic Battle of the Blends: Challenge No. 3. Who was victorious? Did your favoured blend win? Find out in the post. And finally, we checked in with The Lakes Distillery’s whiskymaker-in-chief, Dhavall Gandhi, who lifted the lid on his liquid experiments. Intriguing…

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Whisky Advent 2017 Day #20: Kilchoman Sanaig

With only four days left of #WhiskyAdvent, Drinks by the Dram has delivered another absolutely smashing dram. Behind window #20 of its Whisky Advent Calendar is… We’ve approached that time,…

With only four days left of #WhiskyAdvent, Drinks by the Dram has delivered another absolutely smashing dram. Behind window #20 of its Whisky Advent Calendar is…

We’ve approached that time, people. You know what I mean.

The time when your presents should be wrapped under a glowing tree. The time when your stockings should be hung and your cards all sent out. And the time when your Christmas pudding should be sitting proud in an ‘appropriate’ amount of brandy. It’s day #20 people, and to those for whom this is all true…

… you can rest easy and help yourself to a celebratory dram!* What tempting treat offers such rewarding libation on the other side of window #20? It’s Kilchoman Sanaig!

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Summer spirits trends? Agave and Asian spirits top the charts

We take a look at 2017’s hottest summer spirits trends – based on what you’re drinking right now. With the sun presumably shining, what better way to toast the long…

We take a look at 2017’s hottest summer spirits trends – based on what you’re drinking right now.

With the sun presumably shining, what better way to toast the long summer days than with a top tipple? Whether it’s holiday serves or sippers, a little liquid indulgence goes a long way to add to that sunny feel-good factor. And you, our wonderful customers, clearly agree. We shipped 60% more spirits bottles this June and July than during the same two months in 2016 – which means more of you than ever enjoyed a summer drink from Master of Malt.

But it’s not all kicking back with a cocktail. We’ve spotted that you’re a savvy bunch indeed, with your seasonal sipping choices well ahead of the curve when it comes to summer spirits trends. And this is especially true when it comes to agave-based drinks and Asian spirits.

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