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When it comes to agave spirits, mezcal is but a small fraction compared to tequila. And of those mezcals that people can readily buy at the liquor store or taste at a bar, most are made with espadin—the most common agave among the 50-plus that can be used to make mezcal in Oaxaca, Michoacán, and a handful of other Mexican states. Ask any die-hard mezcal fan what their favorite agave is and you’re likely to get a wide range of answers. One taste of Paquera Mezcal’s 100 percent barril, however, could change that answer with one sip.
Barril, scientific name agave Karwinskii, takes between 14 and 20 years to reach maturity before it’s ready to harvest. In that time, it develops flavors that shine through in a distilled spirit that are unlike any other.
“Paquera chose barril because we love the fact that you could simply debate for hours on what you’re experiencing in taste,” Paquera founder and owner Ben Zerbe says. “Some would characterize it as more of an earthy, vegetal mezcal expression that offers more agave-specific notes than ‘generally smokey.’ Barril offers different layers from start to finish and that embodies exactly what mezcal is all about: enjoying that experience.”
ABV: 46 percent
Where it’s available: Check with Paquera’s locator
How Paquera Mezcal Barril Is Made
Paquera is a 100% certified artesanal mezcal. The agaves are cooked in a pit oven (and heated with mesquite and juniper wood in Paquera’s case). These are crushed using a stone called a tahona and the juice is then fermented in locally made Awewete wood barrels before being distilled in copper stills.
“Depending on the agave and region, we use nurseries where we are taking sprouts or using seeds from the quiote to start the replanting cycle,” Zerbe says. “Our goal is to preserve and contribute to agave sustainability and we can accomplish this by working closely with each family producer.”
On each bottle, the head mezcalero is named as well as the origin—Fifth-generation head mezcalero Luis Juarez working in San Agustín Amatengo Ejutla, in this case.
“The challenges and needs of each palenque can be different,” Zerbe says. “You will find that the palenques contain only a few copper stills and vats with different agave varieties on and surrounding the premise. We are strong believers in representing the name of each head maestro mezcalero, production notes and batch number on every bottle.”
What Paquera Mezcal Barril Tastes Like
The agave sweetness hits at the first whiff. No one flavor overpowers another, and, importantly, the alcohol doesn’t overwhelm. It has a bit of a floral orange blossom note on the palate mixed in with those natural cooked agave flavors. Other barrils I’ve had in the past have had a bit of a drywall quality that leaves my mouth barren, but not here. It definitely doesn’t drink like a 46 percent spirit. There’s just enough of an alcohol burn to be present, but each sip leaves the mouth wanting more.
Why You Should Add Paquera Mezcal Barril To Your Bar Cart
People who are already mezcal fans will appreciate this exemplary take on what barril can do. If you’re going to branch out from the more common espadins, there isn’t much better at this price point.
“Depending on terrior, region and family recipe, we believe mezcal is in many ways like fine wine,” Zerbe says. “What you are sipping is a slice of history, representative of how that family producer has been cultivating agave and producing mezcal for generations.”
It’s a sipping mezcal, but I encourage you to give it a try even if you prefer cocktails. This bottle might just change your mind.