By Patrick Gary, Contributor
A couple of things to start off with if you aren’t familiar with the basics of mezcal: Mezcal is a distilled spirit made from the pina of any one of the 30 varieties of the agave cactus. Tequila is a specific type of mezcal made in a specific region of Mexico from only the blue agave. Therefore, tequila and mezcal are related, but mezcal is not generally designed to be either shot or mixed into cocktails, is consumed generally without salt or lime; is generally meant to be sipped neat; and when it is well made, it is very smooth. That said, Americans like cocktails, and there are mezcals that cater to that taste. There, if you didn’t know exactly what we were talking about, now you know enough.
[Disclosure: Kimo Sabe provided complimentary samples to Swine & Swill. The opinions here are the writer’s own.]
Kimo Sabe is a relatively new label, having appeared in 2015, and mixing both traditional and modern techniques to make a high-quality spirit. In all of their mezcal production, a portion of the agave is steamed while another portion is roasted over an open pit fire, then ground using a donkey-driven stone wheel. The two batches then are independently fermented, only to be blended when the drink is distilled. The blend is distilled multiple times in steel and copper stills, resulting in a very smooth spirit. The entire process is detailed here, and it is very interesting.
The Joven is Kimo Sabe’s youngest offering, with a lovely scent of grass, smoke and earth. The flavor is all of that with some citrus and smoked peppers. It is smooth and has a long finish that doesn’t overpower. It is a delicious entry point into the world of mezcal.
The Reposado is a lovely golden color and displays notes of vanilla, rum and butterscotch with less of the grass and earth flavors. Some people also claim to get a hint of coconut, though I personally didn’t get that flavor. This one would also be easy for someone new to mezcal, as it was delicious and smooth on its own.
As noted in the opening, some mezcal distillers now are making their spirits with an eye toward cocktails. Kimo Sabe is attempting to be at the forefront of innovation in their realm and published a collection of recipes. My personal favorite is the El Viejito (right; recipe below), which is a mezcal-centric appropriation of the traditional Old Fashioned. When made with the reposado, it’s a lovely balance of smoke and sweetness that would be easily enjoyed by lovers of bourbon, tequila or rum.
In summation, Kimo Sabe is making a truly delicious product that can easily be enjoyed by drinkers of a variety of tastes. It’s a versatile spirit with a reasonable price point (ranging from $32-$40) and would make a worthy addition to most bars.
Says Kimo Sabe: “This is a variation of an Old Fashioned. A good way to bring some of the whiskey drinkers who [are] not into the overly smoky styles of whiskey into a bit of smoke in their beverage.”
2 oz. Kimo Sabe Reposado
½ oz. Grand Marnier
½ oz. Ancho Reyes
2 dashes of bitters
Garnish: Orange peel
Add all ingredients to shaker tin. Add ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice into a lowball glass. Garnish with orange peel.