Oaxaca Travel Guide: Get an education in mezcal with Experience Mezcal

“Oaxaca is mezcal country. Both industrial and artisan palenques dot the countryside and if you’ve developed a taste for this spirit then a day visiting some of these palenques with Experience Mezcal is a must. Accompanied by a passionate local guide you’ll discover the process of making mezcal from the roasting of the agave hearts, fermentation, right through to distillation. Oh, and there’s plenty of tasting to be had!

You’ll learn what types of agave create certain flavour profiles (with the opportunity to try and discern the difference) and visit palenques of varying sizes, from an operation that exports its product to the small shack in the Oaxacan hills. You’ll also get a chance to try freshly collected pulque made from the fermented sap of the agave plant. Trust us, one sip of the aguamiel (the sap prior to fermentation) will have you seek out pulque wherever you go in Oaxaca. Transport and a traditional Oaxacan lunch is included. Experience Mezcal’s mezcal tour in Oaxaca is a must.”

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Mezcal’s meteoric rise continues, but not all industry insiders are ready to toast (The Guardian, October 2016)

“Mezcal, tequila’s stronger and smokier relative, has become a staple spirit in trendy bars across Mexico and the United States in recent years, and the agave-based drink has inevitably attracted the interest of global alcohol giants. In the process local growers are worried a unique spirit is under threat…

Mezcal has been made for centuries in 26 of Mexico’s 32 states, but the DO [denomination of origin] limits production to just nine states. Distillers from other areas have expressed outrage over NOM-199, a new regulation proposed by the government and industry giants including Diageo and Pernod Ricard, that would have forced them to label their products as “komil” — an obscure indigenous word meaning “intoxicating drink” understood by almost nobody in Mexico.

A revised proposal would have them use “aguardiente de agave” – meaning agave firewater – instead of “destilado de agave”, the more literal name currently in use. Agave spirits expert Clayton Szczech said that while preferable to “komil”, the word “aguardiente” still has “a pejorative connotation that makes people think of cheap rum and seems designed to taint these products in the marketplace.'”

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7 Unique Group Tours in Mexico (Travel Age West, September 2016)

“Designed by owner Clayton Szczech as ‘group tours for people who don’t do group tours,’ Experience Tequila offers hands-on tours around Mexico’s eponymous region to acquaint guests with the spirit. Clients will learn about all the parts of the tequila production process, from agave cultivation and harvesting to distilling. Guests will also imbibe in the private tasting rooms of some of the oldest tequileros (tequila experts) in the world.”

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The Rise of Mezcal: Great for Cocktails, Better for Oaxaca (AFAR Magazine, April 2016)

“Oaxaca is the second-poorest state in Mexico and its most indigenous, two braided facts that owe much to geography. When the Spanish plowed through in the 16th century, they found a rugged terrain dividing Oaxaca into isolated village-states. In some ways that’s still the case: Many communities have maintained their own dialects, their own traditions—and yes, their own mezcals.

So how do you penetrate the state’s 36,000 square miles of god-knows-how-many tiny producers? I had been led here by two guys from the United States—my spirit guides, if you will. [Experience Mezcal founder] Clayton Szczech is a serious fellow with a minor pompadour and dark, skeptical eyes. When he was younger, a career test predicted he’d grow up to become a podiatrist or an undertaker. Instead Clayton moved to Mexico to lead tequila and mezcal tours for the similarly obsessed…

…I didn’t want a cursory tour of all god-knows-how-many distilleries. I wanted to see one—to zero in on a single family at the center of these massive changes. To Max and Clayton it was a no-brainer. The next morning we’d drive out to the village of Santa Catarina Minas.”

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On the Tequila Trail (Sunset Magazine, November 2014)

“Clayton had been leading private tasting trips on his own since 2008, but recently he teamed up with an established tour operator out of Los Cabos to help handle the million and one logistical challenges of running vanloads of day-tasters through a foreign country. His Spanish was crisp and flawless, almost lyrical, and his tight connections in the tequila world would open many doors for us. Dirt roads too.”

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5 Things to Know About Tequila (KOMO Seattle, August 2014)

“So what does a rookie to the world of good tequila need to know before leaving behind the world of salt, lime, and slamming a shot, for the high-quality sip? After listening to tequila expert Clayton Szczech of Experience Tequila preview his Tequila 101 class…and drop some additional agave knowledge, here is a taste of important tequila information…”

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