Madre Mezcal Ensamble (200ml)
Have you heard the one about the foreigner who went to Mexico and ‘discovered’ Mezcal? Probably, and more than once. Which is why Chris Stephenson is a bit put out. He felt that no sooner had Madre taken off in the United States, much of the narrative around the spirit focussed the story on himself and his co-founders. He responded by printing the name of the producer of Madre’s principal Mezcal, Ensamble, on its front label. Jose Ines Garcia Morales and his family have made Mezcal in their beautiful valley outside San Dionisio, Oaxaca, for generations. He is the nephew of Alberto ‘Beto’ Morales, of the respected Wahaka palenque, and his small operation is the definition of an artisanal craft distillery. Jose’s father and brothers lift and cut the agaves, his mother blesses the agave hearts before roasting, his wife plants new agaves on the land, and an extended group of uncles and cousins oversee the hours of distillation. Drawing on the work of his father and grandfather before him, his palenque is certified Artesanal, meaning agave piñas are traditionally roasted in fire pits for up to five days and crushed using a horse-drawn tahona (stone wheel). Fermentation occurs outside in tinas (or oak vats) relying only on the microbe-rich airborne yeasts. The final process is double-distillation in two small wood-fired, heirloom copper stills.
Ensamble is Madre’s centrepiece. It’s a blend of Espadin and the rare, wild agave, Cuishe, which only counts for 1-2% of agave species. The lion’s share of the blend is crafted by Jose Ines Garcia Morales and his family in San Dionisio, with a little Cuishe supplied from the Vazquez palenque in Miahuatlán. Agave Cuishe is part of the slow-ripening Karwinskii family, which also includes the Cirial and Tobasiche varieties. Due to the agave’s dense core and low water content, Mezcal made from Cuishe has a slightly tropical and earthy tone. This is picked up during the cooking; the piña is long and thin, increasing the surface area for the roasting process. As, unusually, the stalk and the piña are harvested and roasted together, Mezcal from the Karwinskii family is often said to have a firmer structure. As wild agave is a dwindling resource, for every plant harvested Madre replants it two-fold.
A departure from overtly smoky expressions, the blend of sweet Espadin and piquant Cuishe is designed to be a perfect first taste for a new Mezcal drinker, as well as a great everyday sipper for the Mezcal aficionado. Not only less smokey than Madre's 100% 'Espadin' bottling, the nose is also more shy being vaguely fruity with hints of mustard pickle and green olive brine. Superbly integrated flavours unfold with dry, ashy notes, suggestions of potpourri and mineral followed by a sappy, resinous character and a peppery finish. The mouthfeel is pure, elegant, supple and borderline juicy while the aftertaste has solid length. Each small batch release is bottled in recycled glass and hand numbered. 45% Alc./Vol.
Other reviews... “This Ensamble is made using Espadín and Cuishe agave, and serves rich tropical fruit and bonfire smoke notes that flow from nose to palate. Its alcohol content ups the intensity of those aromas and flavors, delivering a well-balanced experience and an approachable introduction to the category.” Vinepair (15 best Mezcal brands and best Mezcals for sipping 2022)