Wahaka Mezcal: The Spirit of Oaxaca
Wahaka Mezcal is the result of several childhood friends from Mexico City who turned their passion for Mexico’s oldest distilled spirit into a sustainably produced, community-focused, and internationally recognized brand. In 2010, these amigos set out to find Mexico’s finest mezcal. After months of intensely researching, travelling, and tasting their way through Oaxaca, they found kindred spirits in maestro mezcalero Alberto “Beto” Morales Mendez and his family, who, for five generations, have been perfecting the art of making mezcal in San Dionisio Ocotepec, a tiny village in the Central Valley of Oaxaca. Together they created Wahaka, and with it, a new model for mezcal brands, one that was as committed to making an award-winning product as it was supporting the community from which flourishes. Unlike any other spirit, mezcal is a product of its terroir—and you can taste the Spirit of Oaxaca in every drop of this artisanally crafted, small-batch elixir.
The Zapotec highlands are known for their rich cultural mosaic, as well as for their unrivaled biodiversity; Oaxaca is home to the widest range of agave varieties anywhere in the world. And it’s here that Maestro Beto, a founding member and equal shareholder of the Wahaka brand, manages the family palenque in San Dionisio, overseeing the process of bringing our mezcal from harvest to market, using traditional distilling processes that are more than 400 years old. Some spirit brands choose to take advantage of modern industrial processes, but we choose to place great emphasis on preserving mezcal’s authentic history and its traditions. As such, we make mezcal almost exactly as our ancestors did centuries ago.
The agave for our Joven Espadín and Reposado con Gusano is sustainably farmed on our San Dionisio estate. Because our Espadín agave is harvested after 10 years of maturity, our spirits are truly a labor of love and patience. The Morales family planted the agave used to produce our current vintage almost a decade ago.
During the harvest season, our team of life-long cortadores painstakingly heads into the Oaxacan lowlands to collect Madre Cuishe agave and the cliffsides and high mountain peaks to gather Tobalá. Both of these wild agaves are particularly sensitive to their growing environments, and so only small amounts are taken from the ground each year, to ensure the plants’ longevity and many more years of producing wonderfully unique spirits. To make mezcal is to be in a constant balance with Mother Nature. With the utmost respect for that ecological equilibrium, we sustainably cultivate our Espadin and responsibly replant more Tobala and Madre Cuishe than we harvest.
Crafting Wahaka Mezcal is a ritual that lasts an average of 25 days for a single 300-liter batch. After harvesting our 10-year-old Espadin, the agave hearts are then cooked for up to five days in an earthen pit using ocote (pine) wood. They are then crushed under a tahona (a traditional millstone) pulled by Pacquiau, our trusty mare. The agave is then fermented in wooden, open-air vats with distilled water and naturally occurring yeasts. Finally, it is distilled twice in a copper alembic where it is transformed into perfectly pure, artisanally crafted mezcal—from maestro Beto’s hand to yours.
Mezcal is indeed a magical spirit, but it doesn’t come into existence magically. It really does take a village to produce a bottle of Wahaka Mezcal, and everyone from farmers in the agave fields to the Morales family who oversee the palenque to the cortadores to the local San Dionisio women who help bottle our spirits is affected by the delicate balance of Oaxaca’s complex ecosystem. We’re committed to 100% fair and sustainable practices. To honor that commitment, we started the not-for-profit Fundación Agaves Silvestres, ensuring that we give back whatever we take from the earth, not only reforesting wild agave but also educating the community and its youth on responsible farming. To help fund our nursery and reforestation efforts, the foundation imports ultra-small-batch mezcales from mezcaleros around Mexico under the Vino de Mezcal label.
Our earth-conscience practices have been certified organic by both the USDA and Mayacert, and we are also certified by the Consejo Regulador del Mezcal, A.C. (CRM), Mexico governing body for the production and control of mezcal.
We’re on a journey to bring Wahaka Mezcal— the Spirit of Oaxaca —to places near and far, and we hope you’ll begin your journey with us.