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Entries in mescal (18)



There's a great little shop, CUISH,  in the center of Oaxaca City that sells a bunch of different varieties of artisanal mescal made from wild  agaves. The agave circled in red in the poster shown above, "papalometl", is the species (Agave cupreata) that I studied in Guerrero (see Mescal and Counting Agaves). The shop is dark and filled with hundreds of little bottles of mescal; tasting is encouraged before buying. [NOTE: The posters are free when you buy a bottle of mescal].


Miguel Talks Mescal

My dear friend, Dr. Miguel Alexiades, discusses the results from the impact monitoring with one of the mescaleros from Acateyahualco (see Mescal Re-Visited). So much I like about this photo, e.g. the reams of data shown on the charts, the histogram showing (look closely) that the density of adult Agave plants has stayed more or less constant after 5 years of commercial exploitation, the expression on the face of the señora in the foreground. [NOTE: I have worked with Miguel for several years in Mexico, have collaborated with him as a part of the Steering Committee of People and Plants International for almost a decade, and have known him since he was a graduate student at NYBG. He wrote this while working on his dissertation. A real joy to be in the field with him (thx for the towel, Miguel)]. 


When the Assembly Is Over

This is what it looks like in the meeting room at Acateyahualco, Guerrero after all of the inventory data for Agave cupreata has been presented, all the comments have been discussed, and all the cokes and cookies and mescal have been consumed (see Meeting in Acateyahualco). Don't know who left their hat.

Am off to the Delaware Water Gap tomorrow for a family vacation. No internet. But lakes, and rivers, and waterfalls, and great hiking. Back in a week.


Measuring Maguey

This is what you need to inventory Agave cupreata in the dry forests of Guerrero, Mexico. A handy GPS/walkie-talkie (see GPS+Two-Way Radio), a transect rope with knots tied at measured intervals to correct for slope, a Silva Ranger compass with clinometer, a little bit of flagging, and a tally sheet for recording the data (see Field Equipment). [NOTE: The five crews can do a 10% inventory of the entire mescal production area in one day. Used to take them a week. These guys are good].  


Other Side of the Camera

Here I am talking to the mescal group in Acateyahualco, Guerrero (see Mescal Re-Visited and Meeting in Acateyahualco) about the inventory data that they have been collecting over the past five years. I know it's really important to document these interactions, and that video can be more engaging than still photos in some cases - but I really hate to be on the other side of the camera. Especially with my crummy Spanish. 



Murciélagos, or bats, are the main pollinators of the Agave species used to make mescal. In addition to the graphs and data tables that were on the walls of the meeting room where the mescaleros presented their work (see Mescal Re-Visited), the monitoring teams had also drawn several posters about the importance of bats. Wonderfully whimisical and informative. Three of my favorites are shown below with approximate translations of the text:

Pollinators of Agaves: The Maguey Bat. Through pollination, the maguey bats insure the genetic diversity of the agaves and reduce their vulnerability to pests and disease. The fruit bat eats fruits. Take care of all of them.

We have to take care of bats because they benefit magueys through pollination and also in the production of fertilizer (guano) and the control of pests. There are also bats the suck the blood from livestock and transmit disease. We should be very careful with them because they are dangerous.

Take care of bats and other pollinators. With posters in public places in schools, clinics, and stores. Or talking with friends and your children about how you shouldn't bother bats. Don't put insecticide on fruit trees.

[NOTE: Those are my black Converses shown in the lower right of image 1 and 3. The wind was blowing the posters away before I could photograph them].


Mescal Still

Mescal still at Acateyahualco in Guerrero, Mexico. The fermented Agave mash (see Mescal) goes in on the right and is cooked, cooled, and the resultant distillate drips out into the plastic jug on the right through the green funnel. Flowers and blue cross are a nice touch. [NOTE: A high resolution copy of this image can be dowloaded here. Nice desktop image for your computer - especially for mescal aficionados].


Mescal Re-Visited

Great meeting yesterday with the mescal producers in Acateyahualco, Guererro (see Mescal). Five years ago I showed them how to monitor their Agave populations to avoid over-exploitation and to ensure future supplies of mescal. They have been doing this every year since. They know exactly how many seedlings, and juveniles, and adults they have in the surrounding dry forests, and exactly how many they can harvest each year. The number of small plants in local Agave populations has actually gone up.  Very proud of these guys. [NOTE: Image above shows a mescalero from Acateyahualco testing the alcohol content of his product. Can be as high as 72%. Whew. Powerful stuff].


Tiny Bubbles

Experienced mescaleros (see Mescalero and Experts) in Acateyahualco (see Meeting in Acateyahualco) gauge the quality of their product (see Mescal) by pouring the newly distilled mescal into a calabash cup and looking at the density of bubbles. I asked if this was a measure of alcohol content and was told that it was not. I was also told that if you do the same thing with commercially-produced mescal - made from Agave grown in plantations - you don't get any bubbles. Interesting. [NOTE: Image above shows mescal with "an average quantity" of bubbles. Really superior mescal would fill the cup with bubbles, I was told].   


Ivan Ibánez

Ivan Ibánez, student at the Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero in Chilpancingo, shows the mescal producers in Acateyahulaco (see Meeting in Acateyahualco) his Bachelor's thesis on the population structure and dynamics of Agave cupreata (see Mescal). I was an external advisor on this project and attended his thesis exam in February of last year. Nice piece of work. [NOTE: And, yes, that's a cup of mescal - locally made, sustainably produced mescal - in Ivan's right hand].