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Producing quality aged Oaxacan mezcal

The process starts in the agave fields where the agave (or maguey) plant takes 7 to 12 years to grow to maturity. When the individual plant is mature the spiny leaves are cut off to harvest the heart of the succulent. The hearts are taken to the distillery where they are cooked either in an underground pit with oak logs or steamed in a brick oven. The cooking takes 2 to 6 days and converts the starches into sugar. The now sweetened hearts are mashed and pressed and are then ready to be fermented. Once fermented the juice is distilled in small artisanal stills. Then a slow cooking in the second distillation ensures the best-flavored mezcal. There is nothing else needed in making pure mezcal. Each batch of maguey is individually processed. The mezcal is then aged for 6 months,1 year or more in oak barrels. 

The mezcal Industry in Oaxaca

The Oaxacan mezcal industry is made up of 400 to 500 low volume palenques. Their prosperous northern cousins, the tequila producers, have a few high volume factories that produce around 200 million liters a year compared to 6 million liters in Oaxaca. This industry is based on a handmade artisanal production process carried out with all the love and skill that the Oaxacan people posses. The drink has a strong character behind the myriad of mystical and savage flavors that is called mezcal. It is the predecessor of tequila and has its roots in the indigenous Zapotec culture. The central valleys of Oaxaca are the principal crossroads of the mezcal trade.

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