Mezcal Alipús San Baltazar
...is produced by Don Cosme Hernández and his son Cirilo since 2007 in San Baltazar Guelavila. Both act together as maestros, authors of their products, although the role of Doña Cristina, Cosme's wife, in the family business should not be underestimated.
The distillery is equipped with classic equipment of the region: earth pit oven, stone mill and copper pot stills. Compared to other distilleries, the wooden fermentation tanks are relatively large at just under 2.5 cubic meters. They are housed in an enclosed building, so the fermentation process is less affected by the outside temperature than elsewhere.
San Baltazar Guelavila is located on a dry plateau surrounded by hills at 1600 meters. It is a well-known mezcal production town, traditionally home to many distilleries. The agave cultivation extends over 400 meters of altitude, producing very different terroirs.
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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.
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