Mezcal: The pitfalls of infusions

“Many also do not wish to work within the limits imposed by the CRM (mezcal regulator) and may occasionally fall foul of the limits on methanol, for example. This doesn't mean they are bad or harmful, just that they register a bit higher than what is permitted in certified mezcal. It is a hot topic and highly political at this point.

“Personally, I have no issue with destilados and in fact find most brands are far more transparent about what is in their bottles than many of the larger brands of mezcal, especially those owned by multinationals.”

One destilado mezcal which frequents the bar shelf at Moncrieffe’s Hacha is Dangerous Don, which is distilled a third time with steeped Oaxacan coffee beans.

“All categories are looking for innovation, it’s what grows the reputation and awareness of a spirit,” says Thea Cumming, founder of Dangerous Don. “But there’s a big difference between infused mezcals and destilados because the latter are pure, true mezcals whereas some infused mezcals can use strong flavours to completely mask any agave identity.”

According to Cumming, adding more than  five grams of anything to a mezcal disqualifies it from being labelled so. “Why would you want to do that? Adding stuff to something already great and you can’t even call it mezcal?” To members of the trade this seems crazy, but to a lot of consumers mezcal is an acquired taste so something with a more familiar flavour, regardless of whether it’s called mezcal, could provide an entry point into the category. Cumming adds: “Artificially flavoured mezcal could encourage major consumerism. Not only could this encourage shot culture and products with added sugar, but the agave supply wouldn’t cope because the limited number of producers need protecting.”


Melanie Symonds, founder of Quiquiriqui – the first mezcal brand to gain supermarket listings in the UK – says: “I’ve been working in agave since 2012 and the price has basically tripled due to the rising demand.” She told DI of rumours that farmers were being bought out by large brands, which could lead to a cooperatives, and some are even being forced to sell unripe agave to meet the rising demand. Symonds adds: “I believe there’s still so much room to grow in terms of new brands coming to market because the demand is rising so much in Europe, we just need to manage the supply chain better in preparation.”

As with all spirits categories the education to consumers is what will dictate the awareness and sales of mezcal. Symonds adds: “It’s encouraging to see, particularly in Europe, that people are starting to understand different types of agave and are actually looking at bottles to determine what’s in a mezcal.” However, Cumming believes this needs to be ramped up before the category is ready for infusions and flavours. “More people need to know what mezcal is before infusions hit the market in force, because the education isn’t there yet and it could damage mezcal’s reputation before it’s reached its potential,” she says.