Misty Kalkofen, East Coast Juez, Del Maguey with Michael Gardner, Managing Partner of Del Maguey with (behind the bar) Raul Yrastorza, General Manager at Santa Monica’s The Chestnut Club. Photo by Westside People
When it comes to the mezcal in a bottle of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, all the subtle flavors of agave seem to shine through in each sip. This is the kind of mezcal, a spirit similar to tequila, which reflects the care and appreciation that went into making it.
Each expression of Del Maguey is sourced from specific towns in Oaxaca, Mexico using traditional, unadulterated methods of distilling. One particular expression, Ibérico, uses a legendary ham from Spain in the process. Now with up to 18 different expressions, Del Maguey is one of the most widely distributed artisanal spirit brands in the country.
We caught up to Del Maguey’s Michael Gardner at a recent educational training/tasting for Los Angeles-area bartenders, all part of the brand’s tradition of working in partnership with bartenders on a grassroots level. California in general accounts for the largest mezcal and tequila market in the U.S.
When company founder Ron Cooper first discovered mezcal, real, traditionally made, non-commercialized mezcal had only been enjoyed by the local community; few people in the United States had even heard of artisanal mezcal. For the next 15 years the company was virtually alone in the industry.
“Every other brand in the business owes a debt to Del Maguey and Ron Cooper for creating the artisanal mezcal category in the U.S. and globally,” Gardner said.
Today, the brand still prides itself on paying a fair price to the local distillers, which helps maintain a unique level of perfection.
“Our products are made by farmers and not factories,” Gardner said. “Certain items are more limited than others and we’re okay with that. We don’t want to change anything about the process at all.”