Mezcals and other artisan Agave spirits from Mexico have been on fire in recent years, and lately enthusiasm has only increased, especially among younger consumers and innovative mixologists.
Last January when I returned to become the Spirits Buyer at The Wine Country (the first time, circa 2014), the first category I was infatuated with was Mezcal. I was already a Tequila fan, but the use of different Agave varieties used in Mezcal, made me aware of how distinct the smokiness was from different distilleries. After tasting through dozens of Mezcals (and later its Cousins Sotol and Bacanora), those “maniacs” who loved the taste of bonfires and fire pits made sense to me.
Jump forward to 2021, Mezcal and small production Agave distillate is all the rage, especially with younger, more innovative mixologists and consumers. It is great for putting a twist on both Tequila and Whiskey cocktails and the unique flavors of the over 250 Agave species available, the journey of finding your favorite one is almost limitless. A brand I was recently introduced to that highlights some of the more unused Agave varieties is Izo.
Gaston Martinez founded Izo with the focus of showing how Mezcal was made in Durango, Mexico. Using the Cenizo Agave (see where the name Izo came from?) for his Joven and Reposado, adding Lamparillo Agave to his Ensamble, Angustifolia Agave for the Bacanora and Dasylirion Wheeleri for is Sotol, Gaston is showing off wild plants and how when treated properly can make beautiful libations. Each offering from Izo is as expressive as their bottles are. The dark smoke that starts at the bottom of the bottle and becomes translucent as you go up, is like the smoke vapers of the volcanic pits that roast the Pina of the Agaves used in Izo. And the onyx tops are not only eye catching on their own, but are sourced from Durango, just one other way Gaston Martinez represents his State proudly.
While my love for Mezcal has never gone away over the past 7 years, I now have a new infatuation; Izo Mezcal. But not only their three Mezcals, their Sotol is great and their Bacanora is my favorite of the bunch. I am happy to say that Izo is now available at The Wine Country, enjoy finding your bottle that makes you blissful.
While the smokiness of this Mezcal is present, it never takes over the palate completely. Light notes of lime and citrus brings vibrancy to the palate. Lean vegetal notes similar to black pepper and leaves from the Cenizo plant itself add a great savory aspect to it.
$63.99 per bottle
Aged for at least two months in American oak barrels, you still get the subtle smokiness Izo spirits are known for, but the citrus notes aren’t as vibrant as they are in the Joven. In fact there is a funkiness (think Islay Scotch or Jamaican Rum) that becomes the more vibrant characteristic in this expression from Durango.
$78.99 per bottle
A creamy mouthfeel coats the palate and allows a smokey, almost fire pit like, savoriness which creates a unique flavor profile. Adding to the savory; tobacco leaf, black pepper and Agave leaf all lighten up the body of this blend of Cenizo and Lamparillo Agaves.
$78.99 per bottle
Made with the Dasylirion Wheeleri plant, Sotol is considered the official drink of Durango, Chihuahua and Coahuila. So it’s no surprise that Gaston Martinez made sure his brand made a delicious drink of his State. Smoke pit like smokiness with tons of pepper and agave vegetalness. The smoke is light along with a hint of funk (again, Islay Scotch or Jamaican Rum) allowing the vegetal notes to linger.
$73.99 per bottle
Not only is the Izo Bacanora my favorite expression from the brand, it also like how Bacanora is from Sonora, and that little rhyme has always helped me remember where it was made. Bold smoke makes this spirit seem like it will be robust and aggressive. But just as quick as the smokiness takes over your palate, it slips away to the back allowing the savory profile of this Sonora spirit to take main stage. Vibrant pops of lime and fresh black pepper make it lively and allows those flavors and the smoke to linger for a bit.
$66.99 per bottle