Mezcal Los Javis: A Lesson on Scaling Traditional Manufacturing

A mezcalero removing the wood-charred agaves from the underground pit to make into sweet agave juice, and then later mezcal.

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How do you expand production for a method of production passed down in your family, your community, your culture for thousands of years? 

This is a question that the founders of the Los Javis brand of mezcal had to consider when the pallet of elitistas from Mexico City and millennial Latinos from Los Angeles experienced something different, something pure and exquisite. 

What do you do?  You expand, obviously.  But how, without compromising the authenticity to your product.  Without disparaging the values and traditional of your people. 

You scale, horizontally, one tahona at a time. Instead of purchasing large distilling equipment and other industrialized machines to squeeze out juice more efficiently, you merely just build more of the same small-scale stills and tahonas already in use.  It's definitely not as efficient, but they -- and I -- believe it's the right balance to expand production while staying true to traditional methods. 

 
 A picture from the mezcal production of  Mezcal Vago, as described by K&L Wine Merchants blog. 

A picture from the mezcal production of Mezcal Vago, as described by K&L Wine Merchants blog. 

A few fun facts about the mezcal tasting in downtown Los Angles where we got a chance to hear from one of the founders, and team at Las Perlas mezcal bar. 

1. Producing mezcal is harder than tequila. Agaves used to make mezcal need to be cut by hand with a machete.  Tequila Blue Weber agaves aren't easy, but at least they can use a goa, a long, sharp rod to cut off the sharp-edged spikes. 

2.  The Los Javis property ecompasses over 700 acres of land, which was combined when some empire-family-building marriages came about.  

3.  As for the wood to smoke up the underground pit to roast the piñas, the use an 80 / 20 mix of oak and mesquite.  BBQ anyone? 

4.  They check the viability and readiness of a mezcal by it's bubbles.  The lovely pearls, to use the right nomanclature, shown below tell a lot about the mezcal.  I just see soap, but that's why I only deliver the booze. 

 
 Insider note: this is the reason Las Perlas in downtown LA is named Las Perlas!  Boom. 

Insider note: this is the reason Las Perlas in downtown LA is named Las Perlas!  Boom. 

5.  For their aged mezcal, like any good agave spirit, they use aged bourbon barrels from Wild Turkey.  The mezcal rests for about 6-10 months depending if the barrel is new-er or old-er.

Thanks American regulations! i.e. in that bourbon needs to be aged in only new bourbon barrels leaving a large secondary market for people looking for barrels.

6. Mezcal Los Javis re-uses the leftover agave fiber after being squeezed and repurposes it for their labels.  So cool.  See below for their new labels and bottle packaging.  

 
 Mezcal Los Javis new labels

Mezcal Los Javis new labels

A lot more was said, even more was drunk.  In particular their wild and rarer varieties that they wanted to show off to the Mezcal Collective.  I won't tell any more.  Guess you'll just have to go visit them in Oaxaca with me in December! 

Lawrence Cisneros