Tasting Notes for Ilegal Mezcal - Joven
Aroma: Herbal, with hints of tobacco, flowers and soil mixed with roasted agave plants.
Taste: Sweet almost like caramel, dried herbs and pepper.
Finish: Smoky, earthy finish.
All of Ilegal Mezcal’s products to date are made with 100% Espadín by fourth-generation mezcaleros that harvest the agave by hand and machete before taking it to be distilled in Oaxaca. The agave piña are roasted in a traditional horno (an earthen pit lined with river stones and wood made from certified sustainable wood farmers) in a process that takes between five and seven days.
Once cooked and the sugars in the plant released, the agave is crushed to traditional Artisanal standards by a horse-drawn tahona (large volcanic mill stone). The sugar juice and leftover fibres produced are placed into pine vats where natural fermentation takes place over seven-ten days. The liquid is then double-distilled. To ensure Ilegal’s flavour profile is very light on smoke, the mezcaleros never cook and distil at the same time in order to avoid contaminating the distillate.
The Joven (unaged mezcal) is bottled as is, or put into medium-toast American Oak barrels to make the Reposado or ex-Bourbon casks for the Añejo. Finally, each bottle is hand-corked, labelled, numbered and wax-sealed, giving them a clandestine appeal that nods at the company’s beginnings.
Ilegal Mezcal got its start in life in the early 2000s when its would-be founder, John Rexer, visited Mexico and fell head over heels in love with mezcal. He wanted to sell it in his bar in Guatemala, however mezcal was not yet a legal export so he had to get a little…creative…with the transportation. This creativity resulted in the now famous Café No Se “accidentally” becoming the first mezcal bar outside of Mexico. The Oaxaca produced spirit proved so popular that John decided to import it legitimately in 2006 and name it “Ilegal” as an ode to its past.
Since then, Ilegal has become one of the leading CRM Certified Artisanal Mezcals in the US market. This is in no small part down to Bacardí (the world’s largest independent spirits company) acquiring a minority stake in Ilegal in 2017 – a move that John has faced backlash against from the small batch mezcal producing community. In John’s view, the collaboration will serve to raise the profile of mezcal and increase its availability, which can only help the sector as a whole in years to come.
Producer Unnamed distilleries in Santiago Matatlan Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico for Ilegal Mezcal. Style 100% maguey Espadín Joven Mezcal Volume 75cl ABV 40%