Saturday, June 22, 2024

New Guanajuato spirits contest highlights Mexico’s mezcals

Despite the challenge of putting on large-scale events during a pandemic, Guanajuato’s wine and spirits competitions are carrying on with upcoming events like the Catando México wine competition on November 26–27 in Guanajuato city and the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles Mexico Selection competition for wines and spirits, starting November 29 in Mineral de Pozos. And a new pioneering competition, focusing on spirits, also made its debut in the state this year.

In August, the Guanajuato Spirits Competition brought together high-quality distillate makers from all over Mexico.

Particularly notable at this event was the performance of the country’s independent mezcal producers.

Diana Landin Campos, a Guanajuato native, and her husband José Antonio Castellanos Cardosa, who have promoted mezcal in the region for a combined 15 years, founded the pioneering event in the hopes of positioning mezcal as an important local product on the national and international level.

Thirty judges — including producers, professional tasters, sommeliers, and other experts drawn from all over Mexico — evaluated 800 brands of spirits during the two-day event, guided by criteria set by four of the country’s mezcal and spirit certifiers. Also in attendance was Abelina Cohetero Villegas, the current president of the Mexican Council for the Regulation of Mezcal (Comercam).

Mujeres de Mezcal group at Guanajuato Spirits Competition
Women of Mezcal, a group of female mezcal producers across Mexico, hosts an event at the Guanajuato Spirits Competition.

Also of note, various chapters of the Mujeres del Mezcal (Women of Mezcal) participated in the event as both organizers and competitors, coming from places like Michoacán, Jalisco, Guerrero and Puebla. A new Guanajuato chapter of the association for Mexico’s female mezcal producers was formed at the event, promising commitment to the women producers, distributors, and marketers of mezcal.

Mezcal from every region, tequila, sotol, bacanora, charanda and other spirits with Destination of Origin competed at the event on a points system that considered each spirit’s look, nose, mouthfeel and the overall balance of its flavor. Each one- to three-minute tasting was blind, meaning that the judges had no idea which brand they were given.

When results were announced a week later, there were few surprises: during the tastings it was very obvious which products far outshone others. In the category of mezcals, Cata Decano from Michoacán, a gold medal winner, was truly delicious, sweet and herbal. Other winners included Designation of Origin gold medals for mezcals Mis Agaves (Aguascalientes) and La Querencia (Guerrero).

Personally, I was impressed with Finca Robles, a Oaxaca producer that for more than four years has positioned itself as a maker of one of the area’s best mezcals, with consistently good products. You can find their mezcal across the country and in the United States. In Mexico City, it’s available at the Mercado Roma in Roma and at the Mercado Roma and the Plaza Frida, both in Coyoacán.

Another standout was Paola Cisneros, a master distiller of Sotol Triple XXX, an incredible sotol made in Chihuahua that I recommend you try if you get the chance.

As a side note, Mexican gins also did well at the competition, with gold medals awarded in the spirits category, including Guanajuato’s Alicia brand, Solferino Native from Quintana Roo, Ginebra de Juanita of Jalisco, Bruja de Agua of Mexico City and Gin Maniobra, also of Jalisco.

Finca Robles mezcal
Silver medal winner Finca Robles mezcal was one of the writer’s favorites at the competition.

Next year’s competition will surely be even better all-around for those of us fortunate to attend in 2022.


• To see a list of all the winners in the Guanajuato Spirits Competition, see the competition’s website.

Sommelier Diana Serratos writes from Mexico City.

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