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Mezcal Jaral de Berrio (Joven)

Review: Mezcal Jaral de Berrio (Joven)   83.5/100
Review by Cip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
June 04, 2018

Mezcal Jaral de Berrio is produced at the Hacienda del Jaral de Berrio. The Hacienda is located in the historic borough of San Felipe Torres Mochas, Guanajuato with origins that date back to the late 16th century. According to bibliographic data and historical stock inventories, production of mezcal at the site can be dated to 1764 when it was then known as aguardiente criollo del Jaral.

According to the Jaral de Berrio website:

The family of Mezcales de la Hacienda de Jaral de Berrio is one of the most emblematic among the Mezcal world due to its historical background.

The Mescal produced at the Hacenda is made not from Blue Weber agave, but instead from the maguey species Salmiana (Salmiana Otto Ex Salm SSP Crassispina Trel Gentry). Salmiana is a large maguey (agave) with shades of green which grows twice as large as typical agaves. This maguey varietal has grown naturally in Guanajuato mezcal region of Mexico for centuries.

After harvesting the Maguey, they are steamed for three days in a Conic stone oven. After cooking the remaining juices are extracted under a Tahona Wheel. The juices left over from the cooking process and the juices extracted using the Tohona are mixed together to ferment in open-top type inox tanks. The fermented juice is then double distilled in copper stills. All of the mezcals produced by Jarnal de Berrio are made using the same methods and are bottled at the main compound of the Hacienda.

Mezcal Jaral de Berrio is bottled with no aging and is classified (according to the company website) as a Joven spirit (see here for information about Mescal Categories and Classifications). Depending upon which market the spirit is destined for, the spirit may be bottled between 36 and 40 % (my sample was bottled at 36 %) alcohol by volume.

(Note: Maguey and agave are synonymous. Tequila is produced from Blue Weber agave in the Tequila producing region of Mexico; Mescal is produced from a variety of maguey varietals in the Mescal producing region of Mexico.)

In the Bottle 3.5/5

Although I like the bottle the Jarnal de Barrio is sold in, I am very confused by the labeling on the bottle. The new regulations for Mezcal spirits were introduced just last year so some of this confusion may be due to the mescal company adapting its old label to fit the new labeling regimeor this may be a bottle which is more than a year old. This means that I can easily forgive the fact that the bottle does not indicate (as the website does) that this is a Joven spirit. (‘Joven’ translated to English means ‘young’.)

My larger issue with the label is that I have a very hard time reading the embossing which blends into the bottle. As you can see, the fact that this product is Mezcal and not Tequila is not obvious. As well, the added labels on the foot and shoulders of the bottle are just as hard to read due to the fonts bring too small and the metallic blue font blending into the silver background. The only thing that is clear is that this is a 100 % Agave Spirit.

(In fact, the person who brought this bottle to a recent Tequila Tasting I hosted thought that they had brought a Blanco Tequila.)

In the Glass 8/10

The Mezcal Jaral de Berrio spirit is colourless and when I tilt my glass and give it a slow swirl I see medium-sized droplets forming at the crest. These droplet fall as very slender legs back down to the spirit below. The breezes above the glass bring me light aromas of agave tainted with cucumber. There is also a light spiciness which reminds me of cilantro and coriander.

When the glass is given some time to breathe, the lightly vegetal agave notes become more distinctive. The breezes bring me impressions of mushy banana, grilled pineapple and a growing impression of white pepper and cilantro. Although I said the impressions were distinctive, it would also be true to say that the overall effect is mild. The maguey is not aggressive, and I do not notice any of the distinctive smokiness which is often associated with Mezcal.

In the Mouth 51/60

A very light sweetness comes forward followed by an agave spiciness which as it was on the nose carries impressions of cilantro and coriander as well as white pepper. This spiciness is only mildly aggressive allowing me to taste the light vegetal flavour of the Salmiana Maguey which carries a flavour which is reminiscent of cucumber and baked squash. Hints of pineapple-like flavours can be found as well. I think it would be fair to describe this flavour as Mezcal-lite as the vegetal flavour of the maguey and its agave spiciness are held well in check.

I decided to mix a few cocktails and began with a mixed drink with a similar construction to a Toreador. Basically a Toreador is a Picador or Margarita style serving which substitutes Apricot Brandy for Orange Curacao in the serving. The mixed drink was delicious as the Apricot brandy and lemon juice work wonderfully with this Mescal (see recipe below).

Mezcal Jarnal de Berrio seems to tick all the right boxes.

In the Throat 12.5/15

Mezcal Jarnal de Berrio goes down relatively smoothly with a cilantro-like spiciness swatting gently at the throat after the swallow. Bits of menthol appear as does a light flavour of vanilla. The exit is short and crisp.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I have not had a great deal of experience with Mezcal, and in fact this is the first Mezcal spirit I have reviewed. Based upon the others I have tasted, I would describe the spirit as lighter than most. The spirit lacks the smokiness I was expecting to find (probably because the Maguey was steamed rather than cooked). I quite enjoyed myself as I tasted the spirit, especially when I made my cocktail. I modified that cocktail slightly and have shared the final recipe below.

If you are interested in exploring mezcal, I think that Jarnal de Berrio is worth a long look.

You may read some of my other Tequila and Mezcal Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

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Suggested Serving:

Pompadour

1 1/2 oz Mezcal Jarnal de Berrio
1/2 oz Bols Apricot Brandy
2/3 oz Lemon Juice
1/3 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
dash Fees Old Fashioned Cocktail Bitters
Ice
Orange peel for garnish (option)

Chill a cocktail glass
Add the ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into the chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with Orange Peel if desired

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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You may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing Tequila.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, (we are probably still cocktail in territory).
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing delicious cocktails!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 

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