After launching their range of premium Mexican Agave distillates, Alex Wolpert, Michael Sager and Carina Soto are focusing on Mexican rums from the Oaxaca region. Their credo is to defend white spirits, as pure as possible, with no additions of any kind.
This adventure was born four years ago from the desire of three wine and spirits enthusiasts to work together: Alex Wolpert, creator of the East London Liquor Company (ELLC), distiller and spirits enthusiast, Michael Sager, restaurateur, sommelier, wine importer, and natural wine enthusiast, and Carina Soto, restaurateur, bartender, and agave distillate and Mexican gastronomy enthusiast. From the start, it was Mexico and its agave spirits, tequila and especially mezcal, that brought them together.
Handcrafted agave distillates
Four years ago, the trio launched El Destilado, an independent bottling and distribution company for Mexican spirits. Michael and Alex and I find that there are many similarities between the world of agave spirits and wine,” explains Carina Soto. Notably the notions of parcels, varieties, and vintages, the importance of fermentation…”
This is how El Destilado’s range was built around vintages launched in limited series, with a vintage, whose taste evolves from one year to the next. And you have to fight to get them (they are under allocation) since the bottled agave distillates (Tepextate, Pizorra, Coyote, Pierna de Borrego, Pulquero and Mexicano) are mainly produced by small producers in the Oaxaca region, in the south-west of Mexico (but also in other regions such as Puebla, further north).
But El Destilado has also started to produce sugarcane spirits. Because even if it is less well known, Mexico is also a land of rums. You can even find some in France, notably Macollo Cadenhead (pure cane juice), Prohibido or Habanero (traditional) or Sol Tarasco (Charanda Rum). Carina, Alex and Michael have remained faithful to the Oaxaca region and have set their sights on the juices distilled by the Krassel family in the village of Santa Maria Tlalixtac.
Soon three rums in the portfolio
The sugar cane, of the Java variety, is harvested by hand and then crushed using a motorised mill, called a trapiche. Fermentation, using indigenous yeasts, takes place in stainless steel tanks in the open air and lasts 120 hours.
The distillation is done in a “home-made” steel still of the column type, with 8 plates (unique in the world and of which there are no photos!), developed by the eldest son of the family, Rommel Krassel. To date, El Destilado offers two versions: a 41.5% rum diluted on the spot, which is intended for cocktails, and a 52.3% rum, which is reserved for pure tasting.
A third rum will take its place between the two existing ones with its 45%, probably in 2023. And what about the old rums? “The Krassel family is working on aged rum. We have tasted it and found it very interesting, but we are not going to bottle it,” says Carina. We want to stay with clear spirits because for us that is what best reflects the magnificent terroir of Mexico.
Moreover, in mezcal, the ageing is done at the level of the plant, the raw material itself in the plant, when we use 15-18-25 year old agaves, it is an exclusive product and must be respected as a barrel-aged product. We are looking for the purest products possible, without any additions of any kind, even the tannins brought by the wood. In our distillates, we find some of the codes of natural wine.”