Mezcal Alipús San Andrés
...has been produced since 2009 by Valente García Juárez in Santa Maria La Pila, near Miahuatlán. The place is located two hours by car south of Oaxaca City in the Valles Centrales at 1600 meters above sea level, just before the natural barrier of the Sierra Madre del Sur.
In the early years that Don Valente bottled under the Alipús label, he was alone in the distillery as his sons worked as indocumentados, or illegal migrants, in the United States. When sales improved, the family brought them back to join the family business. Valente's grandson Semei is now also part of the team.
A local feature of the distilleries in this region is the use of large, flat earth pits that produce only a subtle hint of smoke in the final distillate. In addition, Valente uses a grinder to crush the agave. This produces a much better broken down, drier fiber mass than tahona (stone mill) or hand crushing. This is set to ferment with water and pressed down in the tank with stones. This keeps the surface in the tank liquid and open instead of having a lid of fiber pulp that closes off the fermentation from the air.
As a special feature, Valente distills its Alipús variety with 10% Bicuishe (Agave karwinskii), which gives the Mezcal extra complexity.
Having always invested in land, Don Valente owns large acreages of agave and is mostly independent of additional purchases. This gives him complete control over the quality of his raw material.
Since 2017, Valente's neighbor Atanacio Aragón Martínez has also been producing Alipús San Andrés Mezcal using the same techniques and processes. For export, each distiller's products are assigned to fixed buyers and markets.
All Mezcal Alipús in SHOP
The Mezcal Alipús Project
What appears at first glance to be a normal Mezcal brand is in fact a very successful social project that has been in existence since 2000. The umbrella brand Mezcal Alipús, under which nine families now bottle their products, is owned by Grupo Los Danzantes, who run the restaurants of the same name and have their own distillery and mezcal brand. The starting point was to be able to offer traditional Mezcal of different terroirs of the region in the restaurants.
There are no binding contracts between Los Danzantes and the distillers, which is why the latter enjoy maximum freedom to work with other brands, for example, or to set up their own - although no producer has yet abandoned the collaboration. Prices are regularly renegotiated, and these are normally 20% higher than the usual market price in the region. There are projections and targets, depending on what happens in the market, rather than binding agreements. The smaller producers receive advance payments to prefinance production. The producers meet at least once a year at the invitation of Los Danzantes for workshops and exchange of experiences.
The production team of Destilería Los Danzantes and the administration of the company support the producers with the following measures:
- Technical improvements in the distillery, e.g. hygiene and safety.
- Setting uniform standards for production
- Assistance with certification by the Consejo Regulador del Mezcal
- Assistance with formal procedures such as tax and banking transactions
- “Best practices” in agriculture. No chemicals should be used in agave cultivation or production.
For the sake of understanding, it should be mentioned here that in most of the producer families Zapotec is spoken as a mother tongue and some of the older members do not know Spanish, accordingly they cannot read or write. A technical and cultural “bridge”, such as the one offered by Los Danzantes, is therefore essential to guarantee the sovereignty of the producers over their product and its marketing.
The production sites of the different Mezcals are located between four to six hours by car from Oaxaca city. The Mezcal is transported in tanks from there to the Los Danzantes bottling plant in the valley of Tlacolula, since transporting glass bottles (first empty, then filled) over the poor dirt roads that connect the towns to the main roads is impractical. At the bottling plant, the distillates are bottled, labeled and packaged.
All Mezcal Alipús in SHOP