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A drink of discovery

Everything you need to know about mezcal, and why the spirit is here to stay
The Lost Explorer Mezcal with two copitas

This article first appeared in our Earth Day 2022 issue of My Green Pod Magazine, printed on 22 April 2022. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

If you’re not yet familiar with mezcal, expect to see it soon: the world’s fastest-growing spirits category shows no sign of slowing.

A Future Market Insights study estimates a rise of nearly 18% – to $840m globally – by the end of 2022.

‘Mezcal is more than just a drink’, explains Tanya Clark, The Lost Explorer Mezcal’s CEO. ‘Within Oaxacan culture mezcal is a social, cultural and
historical product, and that is something that we are both inspired by and seek to celebrate.’

What is mezcal?

The distilled Mexican spirit is made from 100% agave but, unlike tequila, mezcal can be made from more than one variety.

Its name comes from Nahuatl mexicali, which means ‘oven-cooked’ agave. The piña are roasted in conical earthen ovens – lined with volcanic rock, reclaimed local wood, soil and river stones – covered with soil and left for three days. The agave is then allowed to rest and cool for a further two to three days prior to distillation.

The process of making mezcal requires patience and expertise; on average the agaves used in The Lost Explorer Mezcal spend eight to 12 years reaching full maturity in Valles Centrales, Oaxaca.

The taste profile is influenced by the agave variety and where and for how long the agave has grown; the longer an agave is left to mature, the longer it has to soak up the elements of nature – and the richer its flavour.

The traditional (and many would say best) way to drink mezcal is to sip it neat, at room temperature, out of a clay copita (cup).

‘At The Lost Explorer Mezcal we recommend sipping slowly and curiously to savour and fully appreciate the craft and complexity behind each mezcal varietal’, Tanya tells us. ‘We also recommend experimenting with mezcal in a variety of reimagined cocktails, such as an Earthy Paloma, a Negroni or a Mezcal Margarita. There are many different flavours for drinkers to explore and for bartenders to experiment with.’

An art of patience

Growing and hand-harvesting the piña in Oaxaca’s arid and sun-soaked valley requires an approach that is deeply in tune with the rhythms of nature; each of The Lost Explorer Mezcal’s three agave varietals – espadín, tobalá and salmiana – has its own quirks that must not be ignored.

At The Lost Explorer Mezcal, Don Fortino Ramos – an internationally recognised and award-winning maestro mezcalero based in Oaxaco – is responsible for the final selection of the agave. A self-taught first-generation mezcalero, he has been perfecting his craft for over two decades.

Fortino’s daughter, Xitlali, is one of a few young women within the industry – and an aspiring second-generation mezcalera. Xitali has worked at her father’s side in both the field and the distillery, and wants to share the love, knowledge and craft of mezcal. By transcending gender inequality in a male-dominated space, she hopes to pave the way to empower other women to join the industry.

Sustainable drinks

A growing interest in provenance and sustainability is helping to drive sales of mezcal, as people seek depth and discovery from the products they buy. How and where products are made, the people behind that craft and how a product gives back to the local community and the environment are increasingly important considerations for shoppers.

‘The wonder of Mexico – its culture, arts, food and people – are so alluring to the rest of the world’, Tanya explains. ‘Within the world of mezcal there is a lot to discover.’

From the very beginning, The Lost Explorer Mezcal has helped to empower sustainable Mexican enterprise, while also helping to protect this artisanal craft and Oaxaca’s heritage and biodiversity.

There’s a deep respect for the environment; three agaves are planted for every plant harvested and no insecticides are used on the land. Solar panels have also been installed in the agave fields and rainwater is harvested to conserve water.

The bespoke bottles are made from over 55% recycled crystal scraps, and sealed with biodegradable natural beeswax that has been sustainably harvested. 

The company is also committed to advancing a more sustainable and socially conscious mezcal industry as a whole; ‘By partnering with global charity Voice For Nature Foundation, we support a number of local non-profit organisations whose work has an immediate social or environmental impact on Oaxacan communities’, Tanya tells us.

A future-proofed spirit

While respecting the great depths of wisdom and tradition from the past, The Lost Explorer Mezcal is looking to the future to ensure the the long-term viability of agave farming and the mezcal industry itself. Biodiversity is seen as crucial to longevity, and The Lost Explorer Mezcal has created The Lost Laboratory to explore continued environmental improvements.

The lab germinates seeds of genetically diverse agave on distillery land, and experiments with replanting initiatives in its conservation fields. Agave waste is repurposed as fertiliser and upcycled into copitas.

With so much care to ensure the land and community are nurtured, mezcal looks set to be an authentic artisan drink we can expect to enjoy for many generations to come.

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