Recognized as one of the most famous cultural icons of Oaxaca, mezcal is a distillate capable of seducing locals and strangers with its artisanal roots and great taste.
The opportunity to discover the origins of the distillate, from the hand of its own producers, is an offer that few would dare to reject, even in these days when the mezcal roads are difficult to travel.
Throughout 6 municipalities that surround the City of Oaxaca, the Route Los Caminos del Mezcal can be found, in which nationals and foreigners can learn the methods under which the mezcaleros magueyes are cultivated and distilled.
San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, Teotitlán del Valle, Tlacolula de Matamoros and Santiago Matatlán are essential stops to visit the palenques that produce some of the largest mezcales.
In San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, on the edge of the Carretera Internacional, the first mezcal factories can be visited. Companies like Mezcal Oro de Oaxaca, founded in 1985, offer the possibility of knowing the process of cooking, grinding, fermentation, and distillation.
More than 130 mezcal producers converge in Santiago Matatlán, a region that concentrates 70 percent of mezcal production in Oaxaca.
Joel Martínez, Oaxacan mezcal teacher, is famous in Matatlán. At age 12, Don Joel already dominated the art of distillation, today he holds one of the most notable records of the local industry: baking 18 tons of maguey “in a single pull”.
In Santiago Matatlán, the landscape is horizontal. Along the small valleys, it is possible to observe maguey espadín plantations arranged in an orderly row, without slopes, well cleaned and systematically worked. Everything changes when visiting productive areas nestled in the mountains, such as San Luís del Río, the mezcal community of Tlacolula de Matamoros.
In San Luis del Río the landscape is vertical. Here the magueyes are cultivated on steep hills and in the middle of mango trees. The immensity of the Oaxacan mountain range is also a bank of wild varieties such as tobalá, madrecuixe and tepextate, among many others.
Developed by the Secretariat of Tourism and Economic Development of Oaxaca, the route Los Caminos del Mezcal seeks to promote the promotion and commercialization of Oaxacan mezcal, an industry that provides sustenance to more than 27 thousand families.
There are few tourist agencies that offer complete tours throughout the 6 producing municipalities. According to the mezcaleros themselves, there are more visitors who decide to travel the route on their own.
“Some factories offer visits to our palenques, with the purpose of knowing the entire production process and trying different types of mezcal, but everything is managed directly at the request of the visitor”, explains José López, from Mezcal Oro de Oaxaca.
“In San Luis del Río people are just beginning to come interested in the origin of mezcal; they are few and always come invited by some of the factories or brands that are here put together.
“I think it could be an opportunity for many of us, to promote visits to this area to give voice and exposure to the real producers,” says Don Baltazar Cruz, from Lluvia de Maguey.
If you are interested in a tour along the Ruta del Mezcal, tours are available for $500 pesos per person ($30 USD) every Wednesday, includes breakfast, bilingual tours, a private guide in private vehicle, visit several factories and tasting. Email [email protected]