_From Food Channel Chef Dennis Pitchford
I’m a pretty adventurous eater and will give just about anything a try. But until the International Wine, Spirits, and Beer Event at the National Restaurant Associatiion (NRA) show, the wildest I’ve ever ingested was calf fries at a BBQ joint in Tioga, Texas.
My decade in Texas made me a bit of a tequila connoisseur, so when I walked into the IWSB show room and saw a booth for mezcal, I knew where I’d make my first stop. Tequila and mezcal are both produced from the agave plant, but for a spirit to be called ‘tequila,’ it has to meet certain requirements, including a Denomination of Origin that is roughly centered around the city of Tequila, Mexico. (This is no different than the regulations that determine what can be called ‘Champagne’ in France or ‘Tillamook’ cheese in the United States). Mezcal, on the other hand, can come from anywhere in Mexico.
Mezcal and tequila have adopted the same vernacular for classifying their spirits – Blanco or Silver for an un-aged spirit, Reposado (‘Rested’) for spirits that have been aged a few months to 1 year in oak barrels, and Anejo (‘Old’) for anything aged longer than a year (a few years ago tequila introduced an ‘Extra-Anejo’ category for tequilas aged longer than 3 years). It has been my experience that most Anejo tequilas have been aged between 1 year to 18 months, so I was curious to try some of the older mescals.
I truly enjoyed some delicious 5-year-old Scorpion Anejo Mezcal – it is a magnificent spirit. It was extremely smooth, mellow and rounded, lacking some of the in-your-face black pepper flavors that are found in younger agave-based spirits. The Scorpion also had some hints of caramel and sweetness – perfect for just sipping in a big wine glass so you can savor the aromas, maybe adding a little water or an ice cube to open it up a little.
You might be wondering why the manufacturer took the name ‘Scorpion.’ Mezcals have become a bit infamous for being the spirit containing a worm at the bottom of the bottle, but this distillery has taken things one step farther and replaced the worm with an FDA-approved dead, dried scorpion. Being the ever-curious chef, I just had to try the scorpion, and the folks at the booth were kind enough to accommodate me.
My analysis? Buy the Scorpion Mezcal because it’s a fantastic beverage, not for the culinary subtleties of the scorpion. It was pretty much flavorless and had the texture of dried wood – I had to actively chew it for 10 minutes, and I still had bits and pieces in my mouth and wedged between my teeth an hour later. But perhaps that’s part of the ploy – after crunching down on a dried scorpion for countless minutes, I certainly needed to wash it down with something – and what better way to do so than by opening another bottle of 5-year-old mezcal?
You can check out the Scorpion Mezcals at http://www.mezcals.com.