Admittedly, with all the years I’ve spent travelling through Mexico, surfing and chasing agave spirits i have never been to Durango, that was mistake number one. It’s fucking awesome.
Now for those who don’t know, Durango is located in North-Western Mexico, it is the 4th largest state with the 2nd lowest population density. Durango blew my mind, it is a lush green area sitting in the Sierra Madre from 2000m up to 3600m above sea level, full of volcanic rock and deep valleys and the coldest place in Mexico. It fuckin snows here every winter and it gets pretty damn cold. Good job on the not packing warm clothes Reece. Mistake number two.
But for me, the incredible landscape is much more. It is the most prominent display of wild agave, nopal and sotol i have ever seen.
This place is so green, so lush, flowing rivers and quiotes dotting the horizon around you, as you fly down a mud track in a 4 x 4 truck en route to the first of many unique palenques. It was here that I started to really understand what “wild” meant when we are talking about agaves.
So many mature agaves and sotols flowering in the area creates a crazy diversity and resilience in these plants. They can not only survive, but thrive in the harshest winters. Agave Durangesis or Cenizo as it’s known is the dominant agave in this region. It is tough, hardy and incredibly varied. Maturation varies from 3-8 years and size of the piñas can vary from 30kg all the way to 90kg.
One of the coolest and weirdest things i came across was agaves like this one above. Looks like a rotten agave right?
Wrong. Mistake number 3. Just because you spend all your time geeking out, studying agave and its distillates, doesn’t mean you know shit.
Speaking to Don Nacho, Maestro Mescalero at Rancho El Ojo, he tells me that throwing these agaves into the mix adds unique flavour and depth. So how does the agave mature like this??
When a quiote shoots up from the maturing plant, the cattle see a free meal and dig in. They break off the quiote and feed on it. A natural form of crop care i guess, so the piña underneath retains all the sugars, producing a sweet robust flavour when fermented.
“Artisanal cattle tended wild agaves”, watch out Bondi.
What does this all mean for the mescales of the region?
Motha-fuckin-diversity that’s what.
Durango, I underestimated you. You’re fucking awesome and so are your mezcales (and sotols, and people, and landscape, and weird nightclubs). Thanks to Bildo and all the crew in Durango for sharing with me. Nos Vemos Carnales!
By: Captain Taco