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How One Journalist keeps confusing consumers about Agave

I’m not one to write controversial articles about mezcal or agave. When I began this blog I made it my sole purpose to portray mezcal in a positive way and talk only about the wonderful things that make me love mezcal so much. But at times I have seen or heard things about mezcal, tequila or other distilled agave spirits that make me feel frustrated and I know that in the end it all comes down to one thing: IGNORANCE.

It is ignorance that makes people fear even having one sip of what is one of the most interesting and finest spirits in the world. It is ignorance that makes people say that a mezcal under 45% Alc./Vol. is not mezcal. It is ignorance that makes people think that mezcal should be worth $20 a bottle. And it is that same ignorance that makes people publish things that just confuse the consumers even more.

Today I came across an article that made me laugh a little, but at the same time made me feel like there is still so much work to be done to spread the word about agave spirits and educate consumers. The article was about a very popular Tequila brand and how they had made it big and pretty much are taking over the world. Now, I don’t have anything against Tequila. In fact, I have tasted plenty of great Tequilas out there and have met many interesting people in the industry who I admire and aspire to be like some day. Even the Big Guys teach us something every day, and in the end this is a business and how everyone goes about to do their business is their business.

It was all going well until I came across this line:

“Eventually, Austin found a spot where he would make the tequila he had dreamed of at a high altitude where the roots of the agave plant (that’s what tequila is made of) would have to work to go deep into the ground and survive. It makes for a lighter flavour, he says.”

Ok, no big deal. I guess some people like their spirits to taste like NOTHING. But then I read this:

“You’ll understand that when you try Avion, a liquor on which no expense has been spared. For example, the “heads and tails” (top and bottom) of the agave are cut off before the plant is turned into liquor. That’s part of what takes away the “I-need-to-squint-my-eyes” feeling you get after drinking most tequila. But of course, that means there’s less tequila.”

As my friend Sheima would say, aye aye aye…

Heads and tails are actually distillation terms used to describe two stages of the distillate as it comes off the still. Whether it’s whiskey, tequila, mezcal or grappa the alcoholic steam that is boiled off is broken into three parts, the Head, the first steam to emerge, the Heart, the middle, and the Tail, the last of the steam. The Head (also known as puntas) mainly contains methyl alcohol, which is toxic, and the Tail contains unpleasant fatty and oily substances. Therefore they are thrown away and only the Heart is retained (this is also known as “The Cut”). The art of the Master Distiller is to know exactly when to make that cut so only the purest of the Heart is retained, which is the part that is rich in ethyl alcohol and aromatic substances.

So in terms of distilling agave, NO TOPS AND BOTTOMS of the agaves are being cut off the plant before being turned into a spirit. When agaves are harvested, the leaves are removed so we keep the core of the plant, otherwise known as piña. The piñas are then cooked and then fermented to be distilled and turned into a spirit.

I’m pretty sure the journalist might have had one too many tequilas while the process was being explained to her. Or how we say in Spanish… “Se le fue el avión” meaning she lost her train of thought while writing this. We can only hope she visits a distillery in the future and can learn a lot more about how Tequila or any spirit is produced before writing another story. Until then, let’s all do a little research before publishing.

– La Niña del Mezcal

To read the complete article published in the Business Insider Australia click here.

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