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Casa Perempitz Tuxca

From tiny seeds a whole tree can grow.

A good friend, called Mehul, had learned via an agave specialist in London of a particular style of Mexican spirit that was still to find its way to the shores of the UK. This seed sat dormant until Mehul met a Mexican whisky enthusiast here in the UK; a trade was arranged, and a precious bottle of the spirit was hand carried across the Atlantic to the UK. Mehul shared a sample with me, and this article germinated. I am as grateful for the links Mehul shared with me to ease my research as the sample itself.

The origins of this story go back much further than a chance conversation in London. The roots of this modern-day spirit are in the Philippines. The links to the Phillippines go farther back in history than the Spanish Conquests, from which evidence exists that distilling was already quite extensive in Mexico. The Manila-Acapulco trade root had been used for transporting all kinds of goods, spices and precious metals.

Following the conquests and the commercialisation and industrialisation of the traditional trade routes some 75,000 Filipinos settled in Mexico, introducing rice, mangos, tamarind and coconuts. On the spirit front, the immigrants brought with them the apparatus to distil a coconut-based spirit called lambanog. It was called vino de coco in Mexico, and it was exceptionally popular. It is from this coconut-based drink that a local spirit emerged (it is thought) due to the lower concentration of coconut groves and high density of agave. Particularly in the Colima region where the spirit evolved, agave became the main component.

The spirit in question is Tuxca, the original artisanal spirit from which other mezcals, tequilas and some other lesser-known Mexican spirits have evolved. The spirit is made only with old growth agave; many different varieties grow within the region. The agave is cut and then cooked in an underground conical oven fueled by wood. What this means in practice is a large wood fire being started, layers of rocks placed on top, and then agave segments being placed around and on top to create a conical shape. After cooking, the grinding is carried out by hand, generally with a mallet and an ax made of volcanic stone. The pulp which is first fermented in stone pits hollowed out of volcanic rock below ground level, then it is distilled in a still called a Filipino still.

The Filpino still is unbelievable to see in comparison to modern processes. A hollow tree trunk comprises the main volume of the still, usually from the parota tree. The still has a copper bowl in the bottom to hold a volume of the fermented agave, and a bowl in the top which is cooled with water. Inside there is a collecting plate that directs the alcohol towards a wooden spout which catches the spirit.

The still has to be constructed for each distillation, with the pulverised remains of the roasted and fermented agave being used for packing to seal up gaps. There is no set number of distillations as part of the process, but for this particular review the spirit was distilled twice (this is typical). I have used a photo from this excellent article to illustrate the stills, as they simply need to be seen to be believed:

There remain extensive ongoing architectural examinations happening around Mexico trying to determine if distillation occurred prior to the arrival of the Spanish colonisers. There is a suggestion that a Chinese design of still may predate colonisation, but this is challenged. What is clear is that fermented agave has played a significant role in indigenous society for thousands of years. More on the history can be found in this Spanish language documentary to which I believe English subtitles can be applied.

Turning now to flavour: my research discovered some interesting spider plots on the Casa Perempitz Facebook page. This is certification of quality provided by the Mezcal and Maguey Academy, which gives the spirit an overall taste factor of 98.1%. I’ve reproduced the Casa Perempitz version in its original form below, but as it is in Spanish I flexed the network within my whisky club, and Fred helped me out with the translation. Fred and I relied on a couple of assumptions and educated guesses, but I’ve pulled these together into a set of blank charts in English. For me, the most interesting thing about these translated charts is the expected flavours that can be found across all mezcals, and the lack of a place to record a floral note, which I picked up in the Casa Perempitz. I was also relieved to see the tasters and I agreed on the grassy and earthy notes.




Casa Perempitz Tuxca – Review

100% Ixtero Amarillo agave. Distilled 07/06/2017. 45% ABV. Roughly £120 to £150.

Colour: Clear.

On the nose: Barbecued mint, green and woody, celeriac, cut earthy potato, salsify, smoked beetroot and balsamic strawberry, earthy not vegetal, mesquite, a little malt vinegar, a hint of roasted fat, effervescent, toasted marshmallow, grassy with a little salt. The longer it airs the more perfumed floral notes come out.

In the mouth: Medium bodied, violet flower, daisy stem, sweet floral notes, lily of the valley, all combining to be a little soapy, a smoked bar of soap. The longer you hold it in your mouth the more earthy and green plant notes develop with a little smoke, it’s like drinking a garden standing in hot summer rain. A little mineral clay on the finish which ends up with flowers that lingers for a long time.

Conclusions:

It’s a tricky thing to score; I can’t see where these floral notes would sit on the Academia Del Mezcal y Del Maguey charts. Fred suggested between the green fruit and citrus, but it’s prominent enough to have its own branch. I love the earthy aspects, and I have really enjoyed investigating the process. It’s smoother than I would have expected. So overall I’d give this…

Score: 6/10

P.S. If you have any insights or challenges in relation to our interpretation of the Spanish in this article, please do correct us via the comments.

Graham

Graham is at the consumer end of the whisky world; constantly seeking out a bargains and generally very cautious with his limited budget. An occasional visitor to distilleries and a member of the odd whisky club. He does not collect whiskies but has a few nice ones put away for some future special occasion. He enjoys discussions with the wider whisky community and may resemble the ‘average’ Malt reader.

  1. Tony says:

    This stuff sounds like it wrote the book on craft distilling! Very intensive process.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in greenhouses and those “green” notes (vegetative/herbal/floral) are very appealing to me. Some hate them, but whenever I can pick up on those notes I really appreciate them.

    Your “drinking a garden” comment rates up there with Taylor’s “rusty farm equipment in the forest” for memorability! Nicely done.

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