Juan Hernández Méndez & Hortensia Hernández Martínez
Agave Varietal: Henequén
Scientific Name: Agave fourcroydes
Town / Municipality: Santiago Matatlán
Fermentation: Natural, Open-Vat Fermentation in Wood
Still Type: Copper Alembic
Dates of Distillation: December 2017
Number of Liters in Distillation: 397
Smooth and savory. Mineral and saline notes of clay and wet earth. Reminds us of the smell of fresh rain in the Oaxacan countryside. Also the subtle fragrance and sweetness of corn meal, evoking fresh atole and tamales. It is a smooth easy sipper, so the finish may surprise you: slightly spicy, with a tingly numbness that lingers on the tongue and reminds us of Sichuan peppercorns.
A must-have for any serious mezcal collector. This mezcal, made from cultivated Henequén piñas, is a small-batch limited edition of only 397 liters.
Master mezcalero Juan Hernández Méndez made this rare distillation for his own personal collection, until his recent decision to transfer ownership to Erstwhile Mezcal.
Henequén, an agave plant native to the Yucatán Peninsula, once ruled and transformed the region’s economy to such an extent that it came to be known as “green gold”. It is not native to, and thus rarely seen in, Oaxaca and other mezcal-producing regions of Mexico.
Valued for its fiber since pre-Hispanic times, Henequén has been used to make, among other things, twine, hammocks, sacks, baskets and thick ropes for mooring ships.
Henequén fiber, extracted from the leaves of the plant, is sometimes referred to as sisal – the namesake of Sisal, a seaport town that was the principal port of Yucatán, Mexico during the heydays of Henequén fiber exportation.
The first written account documenting the use of Henequén in Yucatán — for making ropes and other naval tools — dates back to as early as 1783 in a report by José María Lanz (Spanish-Mexican mathematician, engineer and cartographer) during his employment by the Spanish Royal Navy.
Henequén takes five to seven years to mature. A tough and resilient plant, it is adapted to survive in arid climates with little water, and reproduces without being cultivated. Its sword-shaped leaves grow out thick, prominent trunks that can reach as tall as four to five feet.
The lot of piñas that made our Henequén was originally bound for Jalisco, apparently intended as some sort of industrial mezcal (or possibly faux tequila?!) experiment. However, the piñas were so tough that they broke the shredder, and had to be sent back.
Somewhere along the way, our partner producer Juan Hernández Méndez intercepted and purchased this lot of henequén piñas. Henequén may be tough, but ultimately no match for Juan’s moxie and tahona (stone mill)!