1. Harvest [Jima]
Jima is the process of harvesting the agave. Once the agave begins to quiotar or flower through the sprouting of a pistil in the central part of the cone, the quiote has to be cut. This prevents the agave from dispersing its inulin (sugar, energy) to the flower, thereby concentrating it in the cone. Afterwards all the main leaves are cut leaving just the cone which is extracted from the earth. The jima process is very labor intensive; each cone (or piña) weighs between 50 and 100 kilograms.
In a normal 8-hour work day, four agave harvesters [jimaderos] can harvest some 70 cones -3.5 tons- from which around 350 liters of mezcal will be obtained.
After obtaining more than 7 tons of agave, the stone oven is prepared for cooking the cones. This oven starts as a large hole in the ground. First one ton of logs is placed inside then set afire and then one ton of river rocks are placed on top of the burning wood. When the rocks reach the desired temperature they are covered with bagasse (spent agave fibers from the distillation process) in order to protect the cones from the direct heat. All the cones are incorporated and they are covered with a tarp and earth in order to keep in the smoke and heat. The agaves are left to cook in this oven for around 5 days. It is the same method used with pit barbeque [barbacoa de hoyo].
The cooking transforms the inulin into sugar and the smoke from the wood is what contributes the smoky flavor characteristic of mezcal.
The cooked agave is put in an Egyptian mill where one ton a day is ground; the horse runs kilometers around the mill so that the tahona (rock) compresses the cooked cones extracting their liquid.
The liquid is then placed in large open air pine vats, and as with the artisanal mezcals, water and bagasse are added. The water that is added at this stage is very important because it allows the bacteria to transform the sugar into alcohol.
Mezcal Amores lets the fermentation occur naturally, without adding any external agent. The fermentation takes from 7 to 13 days depending on the environmental conditions. In Mezcal Amores we do not add yeast. The process is 100% natural.
In Mezcal Amores copper stills are used for the distillation (at least 2 distillations). The process consists of heating the wort (juices and bagasse) in order to bring the different alcohols and volatile compounds to their boiling point and convert them into steam; the steam rises to the top of the still where it is channeled into a coil that is submerged in water. In this process the steam condenses to become ordinary mezcal (that is what the liquid obtained from the first distillation is called). The heads and tails of the distilled liquid are removed – these are the first and last two liters from the first distillation (these contain a mix of alcohols like methanol, aldehydes, ketones and esters that increase the acidity and affect the flavor of the mezcal).
Aged Mezcal Amores is cooked in a masonry oven (with steam) and once distilled it is aged 6 months in partially charred American white oak barrels that were previously used to store bourbon.
The entire process is overseen by the master mezcalero whose techniques have been learned from an early age. It is his job to select the best agave, decide the amount of time in the conical oven, how finely the agave is ground, how many days it is fermented and, finally, regulates the temperature during the different stages of distillation. Their attention to every detail helps to give Mezcal Amores it’s characteristic smooth, clean and balanced flavor.
All the processes are artisan and therefore each production lot has important variations: the amount of sugars in the agave, temperature and humidity of the environment etc.
This makes each production lot of Mezcal Amores slightly unique and unrepeatable.
Finally the finished product is bottled, labeled and signed by hand by the master mezcalero.
7. Raising Awareness
The main objective of Mezcal Amores is to raise awareness around mezcal and its culture, to inspire through our philosophy and to achieve a broad up-to-date perception of Mexico around the world. For Amores producing mezcal is best described as an alchemist process, so much time and energy go into the making, thus producing a beverage full of spirit.