The Banhez Cooperative is committed to making mezcal sustainably using artisanal techniques. Earthen wood-fire ovens lined with local river stone, tahonas pulled by horses, natural fermentation and small-batch distillation define the life’s work of the mezcaleros.
Step 1: GROW
It begins with only a small seed. The families who plant the agave have known this land for centuries and take great care to ensure the fields are natural and grown organically. This semi-cultivated method encourages wild plants, bats, insects and birds to populate the fields, keeping the crop healthy and leaving a unique flavor impression.
STEP 2: HARVEST
An agave reaches maturity just once in its lifetime. To harvest the plants, first the Mezcaleros cut the Quiote, wait, then trim the outer leaves and unearth the heart of the plant, the piña.
STEP 3: ROAST
The cut piñas are split and then roasted in earthen pits lined with river stones. After the stones are heated by a wood-fire, the piñas are loaded in, covered with shredded dried agave pulp from previous harvests and roasted any where from three to seven days depending on the temperature and humidity and the desired flavor outcome.
STEP 4: CRUSH
After the roasted piñas have cooled, they are chopped into smaller pieces and placed into the tahona. The giant stone wheel is pulled by horse or donkey, crushing the piñas to prepare them for fermentation.
STEP 5: FERMENT
As the piñas are broken down into a mash, the agave shreds are moved to open air wooden fermentation tanks, where they are covered with water and left to rest for approximately one week. During this time, wild yeasts and microbes from the agave, the wooden vessel, and the surrounding Palenque will turn the natural sugars into alcohol and contribute flavor.
STEP 6: DISTILL
Once the fermentation process is completed, the mash and liquid is moved to the wood-fired copper alembics (stills) to filter and refine the alcohol. After the first distillation, the liquid is drained and the mash removed. All expressions of Banhez are distilled two times. Each small batch is crafted with careful attention to preserve the unique flavors of the region.
STEP 7: BOTTLE
Banhez is bottled and labeled by hand in Ejutla. Every hand in the process – from caring for the agave plants to labeling the bottle– is a member of the Banhez Cooperative.
STEP 8: REPLANT
Because of the length of time for most agave to reach maturity (the youngest agave used in Banhez is seven year old Espadín), it is important to sow more agave plants than we harvest and continue the cycle. Growth, harvest, roast, crush, ferment, distill, bottle and drink!