In the tiny village of San Miguel Ejutla in the central valley of Oaxaca, a co-operative comprised of 35 families (Integradora Comercial de Ejutla) is committed to sustainable, fair trade mezcal production the same way it’s been done by their ancestors for nearly two centuries. Underground wood-fired pits, donkey-pulled tahonas (stone-wheel mills), fermentation in wooden tanks and small-batch distillation in copper alembics punctuate a process that has been and remains the life’s work of these mezcaleros, with the same care and attention to detail reflected in each and every bottle.
process of making mezcal
Banhez is made from Barril/Esapadin and Tepeztate Agave Plants. Different varietals of agave can take up to 25 years to be fully grown plants that are ready for harvesting. To harvest the plants, first the Mezcaleros trim the outer leaves of the agave plant, and then dig up the heart of the agave plant to harvest the piña.
The cut piñas are split and then roasted in deeply dug pits. Stones at the bottom of the pit are heated by an intense 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.
After the roasted piñas have cooled, they are chopped into smaller pieces and placed into a round, stone mill called a tahona. A giant stone wheel, pulled by a horse or a donkey, crushes the piñas to prepare them for fermentation.
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 remain for approximately one week until they become alcohol.
Once the fermentation process is completed, everything (mash and liquid) is moved to the wood fired copper alembic distillation tanks 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.
Banhez is bottled and labeled by hand in Oaxaca. Banhez is a cooperatively produced Mezcal from the agave to the bottle.
A Joven Mezcal is ready to be consumed right away. Banhez ensambles and single-varietals are all Joven (unaged) Mezcals.
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 to give back to the earth and continue the cycle. Growth, harvest, roast, crush, ferment, distill, bottle and drink!