Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Context: I'm no natural at tasting spirits. My first major hurdle was consuming things too quickly. After a couple decades of pre-shift family meals, I still eat standing up in the kitchen if my wife's not home. Ask childhood Kris how his food was and you'd probably be met with two full cheeks, a head nod, and a maybe a thumbs up. I can assure you I wasn't tasting anything. My lone criteria for awarding that thumbs up was experiencing something that landed roughly in balanced/neutral/familiar territory - just this side of bland. Nothing was good. It just wasn't bad. Things weren't much different when I started drinking spirits. They came in a shot glass. They were good if I could put them back quickly without much complaint.
The second major hurdle I experienced was looking for the "right answers" - some verifiable identification of notes that we all agree on. There are cherry notes in Buffalo Trace products. If you don't taste them, you are wrong and should try again. So for everything I poured, I'd have eight tabs open with other people's tasting notes. I'd set up with one or two other glasses for side-by-side comparisons and calibration pours and go searching for notes that other people had already managed to find. With multiple glasses at the ready, the rate that I ripped off my first 300 bourbon reviews points yet again to problems with patience and speed.
Blind and mystery reviews started to change that for me. I couldn't go anywhere else for help, and often I'd have to publicly commit to a guess on Reddit before the reveal. This is not a fun activity if the goal is to be right. It's only fun if the goal is to experience what is in the glass with as little outside noise as possible which happens to require a lot of unsexy behavior: patience, focus, and a healthy dose of humility. It's about what the glass is saying not what the glass says about you. If you enjoy tasting spirits and you're not doing some blind tastings, give it a go for a week. It's almost impossible not to learn something.
This series of mysteries is compliments of Don Pablo. I'm enjoying these with my wife, Corina - who, on the other hand, is much more naturally gifted when it comes to tasting notes (more on that next time). We have no idea what any of these spirits are, but we do know that Don loves mezcal and all the bottles he filled for us contain clear spirits. So we're not flying totally blind here.
Our notes were messaged to Don for the reveal.
Kris: Green and vegetal. Light fruits. Also a little oily and industrial. Clay. Peppercorn. Smoke is dialed back.
Corina: Dewy grass. Pear. Bug spray. Fresh cement.
Kris: Floral honey. Orange. Grassy and herbal again. Pleasant bitterness around the proof spike.
Corina: Bitter flowers. Wet paper. Cotton balls. Chalk.
Palate Structure: The action is backloaded. A little more dessert-y and fat up front. More herbal and dynamic toward the finish. The baked sweets make a final appearance toward the backend.
Alcohol Integration: Spot-on. Great weight. Plenty of action. Smooth transitions. Medium/dialed-in finish.
Score: 7 (Highly Recommended) The nose kept unfolding and offered plenty of complexity. Interesting structure with lots of range. I could pour this confidently whether you were experienced with mezcal or just starting out.
Corina says, "This is a bottle I'd help you drink."
This drinks right around 50% ABV. Not as herbal and smokey as the entry level espadins I've tried. Not as fruit forward as the tepeztate and madrecuishe that have been some of my favorites. But grassier than some of the tobala and jabali I've tried. Just for fun (because I truly have no idea), I'll say it's a ensemble with a small portion of wild espadin.
Reveal: Mezcal CUISH
2015. San Luis Amatlan. Madrecuishe. Tahona crushed. Natural wood tank fermentation. 48% ABV. Mezcalero: Agustin Guendulain Maya
10 - Reevaluate The Budget
9 - Stash Two (If Able)
8 - Stash One (At The Right Price)
7 - Highly Recommend It To Strangers
6 - Solid - Above Average
5 - Acceptable For The Situation
4 - Not Vocally Complaining
3 - Wish I Was Drinking Something Else
2 - Nothing Nice To Say
1 - Drain Pour