I tried all 14 mezcals in my cabinet in one night, here’s what happened

I tried all 14 mezcals in my cabinet in one night, here’s what happened

I blacked out. Hard. 

But let’s back up and talk about how GREAT things were going before they suddenly took a violent turn for the dark side. 

We are going to Tarantino this story a little bit, so bear with me. 

The previous day I got a shipment of four new bottles from Old Town Tequila: a Mezcal Vago Arroqueno, 5 Sentidos Madrecuishe, Rey Campero Mexicano, and Rey Campero Tepeztate. 

Now, if you’ve ever ordered or transported mezcal to the states you know that waiting to crack these babies open is like waiting to open your presents on Christmas Eve. I was tracking that UPS dude by mile. 

Side note: I ordered this batch on a Thursday morning and it showed up Friday afternoon. I don’t know which laws of physics Old Town Tequila is bending or breaking, but I’m not gonna ask any questions. 

All this to say, the next day was gonna be a mezcal tasting of some degree. Apparently, the highest degree. 

Tasting 1: Espadin (and fully sober)

Espadin isn’t my go-to. I can fully appreciate the maguey’s range of flavors and quality from one brand (and mezcalero) to the other, but it’s just not my go-to. Generally, I like to prime my palate with Espadin to prepare for some more complex flavors. 

It’s like eating salad before your steak. Just get it done and try to appreciate it along the way. 

To start things off, we reached for a couple classics: Mezcal Vago Espadin by Emigdio Juarquin, and Del Maguey Vida Clasico

Del Maguey Vida Review

There’s a reason people usually recommend the Vida as a starter mezcal: It’s easy to drink. You don’t get the typical ethanol bite on the first sip that you get with many Espadins, making it super approachable. It’s mostly smooth throughout the sip and leaves your palate with a strong campfire smoke. It’s also worth noting that it’s only 42% ABV, which partially explains the lack of bite. 

Score: 3.75/5

Mezcal Vida Espadin Review

I’ll be honest…I expected a bit more out of this one, especially given its general praise from mezcal drinkers. The best way I can describe it is “rough around the edges.” You get the initial ethanol bite (good for shocking the palate for later), followed by agave syrup, and finally a light smoke on the back one (much less than the Vida). I feel like maybe I’m missing a trick here, so I’ll continue on with this bottle. 

Score: 3.5/5

Inebriation Status: Totally fine. Getting more chatty and excited for the good stuff. 

Tasting 2: Rey Campero Flight (a little chatty)

I had a flight at Sabina Mezcaleria last month and decided that my collection of Rey Campero needed to be way more well-rounded than a single bottle of Jabali. I was blown away by the Mexicano and Tepeztate offerings. And at a price tag of $99 and $115 respectively, it was a no-brainer to pick up both bottles so that I could set up a flight whenever the hell I wanted  one. 

Rey Campero Mexicano Review

Out of the Campero lineup, this is one of the few with a “relatively” lower sentiment from aficionados. I don’t agree with them. As a $99 bottle (and one of the cheapest in their lineup), it’s an absolute steal. It’s sweet on the front, smooth and fruity across the middle, and mellow on the backend. Of the three, it was my brother’s favorite (he ended up worse than I did, by the way). 

Score: 4.25/5

Rey Campero Tepeztate Review

This was the one I was REALLY excited about trying again. After trying this in Boston all I could think was, “This is a better value and tasting version of El Jolgorio’s flagship tep.” On second tasting, I was right. Some teps can be overwhelmingly floral and peppery, or a little too hot. Some can be a little mellow and uncomplex. This one strikes the balance perfectly. You get the bell peppers and fresh garden you expect on the nose, a creamy middle, and a tight, smooth finish. So. Well. Balanced. It’s a must for any tep enthusiasts. 

Score: 4.5/5

Rey Campero Jabali Review

This Jabali is universally regarded as one of the best you can find…but I’m just not getting it. I know Jabali can be super, super finicky from batch to batch. The Agave Convallis is a pain in the ass to work with, foaming up and destroying stills. So maybe my batch was a little off, or I’m totally missing a trick. Up front I get tennis balls, a sweet middle, then copper…goddamn…pennies on the aftertaste. Every time. I HATE the bitter finish. Take away that finish and it’s a 4.5 for me. 

Score: 3.75/5

Inebriation Status: I am cruising now. I’ve got the mezcal energy high, and I’m getting a bit torqued. 

Tasting 3: Madrecuishe Comparison (putting on music and vibing)

At this  point I was absolutely in the sweet spot in life. Five to seven mezcal tastings is the harmony line. Kingdoms were created by ambitious humans living in the harmony line. 

I was feeling great, coherent, enthusiastic, and loose. I WAS the harmony line. 

At this point, I was ready to break out the bottle I was most excited about: the 5 Sentidos Madrecuixe. There’s a couple important reasons why I was feeling particularly spicy about this bottle… 

First, Madrecuixe is my favorite maguey, hands down. It gives me special feelings. I like the minerality, the light texture, the soft floral nose, and the nuanced, yet complex flavors. I have yet to meet an MC that wasn’t a banger. 

Second, this was my first bottle of 5 Sentidos. They’re straight-up tough to get your hands on in the states. If you see a bottle stocked somewhere, you gotta buy it. The other madrecuixe in my collection Is a Mezcal Vago Madrecuishe by Emigdio Jarquin. I had already tried plenty of that bottle, but I wanted to contrast it against another quality bottle. 

5 Sentidos Madrecuixe Review

Blown away. Absolutely blown away. It’s l unlike any other MC I’ve tried (but not in a bad way). The nose had some of the typical floral elements  you’d expect, but also a little bit of smoke and…funk? On the palate you get a ton of complexity from light vegetables, minerals, and a hint of smoke. It’s hard to describe, but it has a lot of “depth of flavor”, if that makes sense. This is one of the few mezcals I’ve been excited about, and exceeded my expectations after buying it. 

Score: 5/5 (a no brainer). 

Mezcal Vago Madrecuishe (Emigdio Jarquin)

I have a complicated relationship with Emigdio Jarquin. I WANT to like his stuff…but I often find it a little rough around the edges. This is NOT one of those instances. This madrecuishe checks every box you would expect from this maguey: floral, lots of minerality, watery texture, and a smooth finish. This is easily a bottle I would want to keep stocked on my shelf. And at the $99 price point, why not? 

Score: 4.25/5

Inebriation Status: The car keys are hidden, the music is loud (as am I). We are officially 7 mezcals down. Our foot was on the gas and the brake lines are cut. Blast off. 

Tasting 4: Tepeztate Comparison 

I’ve passed the Harmony Line and now I’m drunk. It’s a controlled drunk, not sloppy. And I was still fully capable of appreciating the nuances of the mezcals I was drinking…but I was drunk drunk. 

But fortunately I had been cooking all day up until this point, and had just finished some smashed golden jewel potatoes baked with butter and salt. This helped absorb some of the evil that was brewing inside me. 

Alas, there was still work to be done. Exciting work by the name of tepeztate, the maguey that got me excited about mezcal years ago in Oaxaca. 

We were going to be comparing three different bottles: Rey Campero, Memorable, and El Jolgorio

El Jolgorio Tepeztate

Look, I know EJ is the “cream of the crop”, and can command an insane price point due to their reputation. And it IS great tepeztate…but is it worth $160+ per bottle? Am I feeling like I’m getting good value? Honestly, no. I don’t feel that way. Mentally you have to add an incremental level of value for an incremental increase in price in order to feel the value. Again, I don’t feel that. 

The EJ is very, very floral on the nose along with some ethanol fumes. The initial hit on the palate is an ethanol bite, then the typical bell peppers/vegetable garden with loads of complexity. It’s great. Priced at $120 I would give it a 4.5. Priced at $160+, you’re paying for the name. 

Score: 3.75/5

Rey Campero Tepeztate

We already tried it in the RC flight, so we knew what we were getting into, but needed a reference point against the other two. Again, I LOVE this mezcal. 

Score: 4.5/5

Mezcal Memorable Tepeztate

I picked this bottle up from a mezcal shop called Mezcalia in Mexico City this year. Walking into Mezcalia I had zero intention on buying anything that wasn’t on my list for that particular shop, but I have no willpower. I asked the shop owner, “What are you really really into right now?” She pointed me in the direction of a Carreño Espadin (SUPER solid) and this Memorable tep. 

The first sip was like a velvety, smooth floral garden. Where was the tepeztate bite that you expect? Nonexistent. Where was the ethanol hit? Nowhere to be found. Though the classic vegetal flavors (mostly green bell pepper) are a bit more subdued with this one, you get an insanely smooth sip with plenty of complexity. 

This bottle is hard. to. find. You can get it imported from Cask Cartel for a whopping $340, when it should cost you about $100 at any shop in Mexico. I’ll hang onto this one and break it out on special occasions. 

Score: 4.75/5

Inebriation Status: Continuing beyond this point was a mistake. The bodily systems that keep us functioning as adult humans were losing an epic fight against 10+ ounces of distilled agave. The mezcal was winning. 

Tasting 5: Arroqueño

I had one new bottle I had yet to crack open: The Mezcal Vago Arroqueño by Emigdio Jarquin. I was in zero condition to crack open anything at that point (other than a cold water bottle)…but as I mentioned, the brake lines were cut and things were in motion that couldn’t be undone. 

And after all, it was the last new bottle in my cabinet. I HAD to try it. Especially because arroqueño is a top tier maguey in my book. I love that they are so rare. I love that they have an earthy, robust flavor unlike any other agave. It’s the first maguey I tried many years ago that I really fell in love with. 

Mezcal Vago Arroqueño by Emigdio Jarquin

Like the espadin, I was left feeling like this batch was a bit rough on the palate. The initial bite was harsh, the flavors were fairly nondescript and unnoteworthy, and the finish was a bit harsh. Rough around the edges. I was disappointed.  I won’t replace this bottle. 

 I really, REALLY want to like Mezcal Vago. I love the bottles – especially how each mescalero gets their own colored labels. I love the overall branding. I love the activity on their Instagram page. I love their brand story.  I just don’t love their mezcal. Yet.

Score: 3.25/5

Inebriation Status: My brother started getting hiccup fits in the middle of his sentences. I mean, he couldn’t speak. It was like a cartoon caricature of a drunk person from Looney Toons. I’ve never seen a grown man involuntarily spasm that much. 

Tasting 6: The rest

Drinking beyond this point was peak stupidity. We intended on doing some maguey comparisons and taste the new bottles. We did those things. We accomplished much. 

But we got greedy. 

I foolishly reached for four more bottles. I have a visceral response just remembering that moment. 

I grabbed: Lagrimas de Dolores Masparillo, El Buho Jabali, Mezcal de Leyendas Cenizo, and El Mero Mero Tobalá. 

El Buho jabali

El Buho is an underrated brand, and I’ll die on that hill. Sure, it’s not a collector’s item (you can find it everywhere online and often on the shelf). Sure, it’s not highly regarded and celebrated amongst the mezcal community. But you’re all missing something! 

My first intro to Buho was through their tepeztate I found on the shelves at my local liquor store. Blown. Away. It was pure, fresh-cut bellpeppers on the nose and palate. At $99, it was a goddamned steal. I picked up this bottle of Jabali at the same store for $108 (pretty decent for a Jabali). It’s nothing like the Rey Campero Jabali I complained about earlier. It’s almost smooth and vanilla in the initial expression, followed by some sweetness, finishing with no. goddamned. pennies. A smooth aftertaste. It’s good stuff

Score: 4/5

Lagrimas de Dolores Masparillo

I only noticed this bottle because I was stalking the Mezcalia mezcal store’s website and spotted this curious stubby, leather strapped bottle. I knew nothing about this brand. The reviews online were outstanding. What was this hidden gem from a region few get excited about (Durango) from an agave few make mezcal with (Maximiliana)? I had to find out.

The second you open the bottle you get a STRONG waft of perfume. (In a really good way). It’s unlike anything I’ve smelled from mezcal. I was tempted to question whether or not it actually was mezcal. That perfume smell translates to the flavor. It’s a smooth first sip with loads of spice and complexity. But it doesn’t feel schizophrenic or unbalanced. It’s controlled, smooth, and packed full of flavor and aromas. This stuff will ALWAYS live in my cabinet, regardless of the cost. It’s a hard 5. 

Score: 5/5

It was halfway through this tasting that my brother completely lost all his faculties. The wheels were completely off. He was GONE. 

Here’s the moment before the eruption in the backyard. 

I’ll spare you the details…but his tasting was 100% over for the night. 

Mine was not. 

I had two more mezcals I had to get through. The Cenizo and Tobalá were mocking me, and I was not to be bested by minute details, like consciousness. 

El Mero Mero Tobalá

This one takes a full copita to fully understand the flavor. The problem with this one is that the ethanol is super heavy on the nose – it almost burns through your sinuses. Once you power through the fumes, you get a bit of a damp clay, chalk, and earthy flavor. I don’t find it to be particularly complex or noteworthy. It’s just fine. I won’t be replacing it in my cabinet. 

Score: 3.25/5

At this point my brother was throwing up everything I cooked and blowing circuits in his brain. He was DONE done. But the problems was that he still had a few tastings left that he didn’t finish. 

I wasn’t going to pour them out…

So I drank them. Foolishly, I might add. 

Then I finally moved on to the Leyendas. 

Mezcal de Leyendas Cenizo

I picked up this bottle in my local Bottle Barn for about $80. If you look online, the range is all over the place, with $80 being a damned good deal. This is a VERY smooth mezcal. There’s no ethanol vapor, no sharp bite, just creamy butter. Maybe even a hint of vanilla. The smoothness carries through from the initial kiss until the end. It’s not overly complex, but it doesn’t need to be. 

Score: 4/5

At this point, I estimate that we each drank a minimum of 16 ounces of mezcal. That’s a pound. A pound, dude. I had zero interest in getting trashed that day – I just wanted to appreciate a lot of mezcal. 

At that point I was meant to watch a movie with my girlfriend on Facetime…but I started getting the dead-eyed, thousand yard stare. Lights on, nobody home. And the room started spinning. After that I remember nothing. 

Unfortunately, that’s the end of the story, because I legitimately remember nothing further. 

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I started truly getting into Mezcal after a visit to Oaxaca years ago. It's now turned into a passion and hobby.