On the Trail

LOS DANZANTES

About thirty minutes outside of Oaxaca City sits one of the most-heralded production centers of mezcal in the region. I don't know that I'd call it a modern distillery, but Los Danzantes (known as Las Nahuales in the U.S. due to trademark disputes) has what is by far the most efficient and streamlined operation we've yet to visit in Oaxaca. It's still pretty much a hands-on facilty, but everything looks orderly and well-maintained. It's both rustic and highly-functional. Three pot stills on the main floor next to the fermentation vats (to make the transfer of fermented agave much easier) and two additional pot stills on the upper level for wild agave distillation and projects that require more attention.

Unlike with most tequila, Danzantes is actually putting the pulp and the fiber into the still during distillation. Tequila production strains out all the agave fiber and boils only the sugary liquid when distilling. That makes a huge difference in the intensity of the agave flavor. Keeping extra contact with the solids during the entire process can be a stylistic choice of various producers. For example, some vintners like to punch down the cap when fermenting wine (pushing the skins back down into the liquid so that they impart more flavor into the final product).

We've long sold the Danzantes mezcales at K&L, the brand has actually enjoyed more success abroad with the Alipus portfolio—a series of single village mezcales—simply because of the wilder flavor profiles and the romanticism surrounding the remote locations of production. That being said, the Danzantes mezcales are still the industry standard. They're so clean, so well-crafted, and so pure in flavor that they're often overlooked in the face of more intense and powerful mezcales coming out of the mountains. Karina Abad Rojas is the head distiller and her mezcales are some of finest and most balanced of the agave spirits world. We began working with Danzantes in 2015 to source exclusive expressions on behalf of K&L.