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20 years after its launch the legendary mezcal arrives at LCBO

Ontario’s finest bartenders and most informed tipplers were in a celebratory mood last week. Not because of the arrival of the warm weather – but that of something they had been collectively awaiting for far longer. Del Maguey, the legendary single-village Mezcal distillery with the cult following and the truck full of awards had finally been listed at the LCBO, the first provincial liquor board to carry it.

“Stigibeu!” said Del Maguey founder Ron Copper, as he raised a glass of his San Luis del Rio, at the Toronto launch for his brand at the west end tequila emporium, Reposado.

If you’re curious, stigibeu is an ancient Zapotec toast, that gives thanks to the earth, its nearly limitless riches, and all the people who tucked in for a little before you. And to be precise, Cooper had not raised a glass, but a small, mezcal-filled fired clay cup, hand made according to his own design – which is three times as wide as it is deep, so that you immerse yourself in the aroma of the spirit before you slurp it back.

And with that he is onto something good: the San Luis is intensely aromatic, with spicy, citrusy notes, rich, ripe fruit, an undercurrent of seductive smokiness. It has a mild oiliness, and an appealingly rough, smoky finish. Half-a-dozen others followed, all of them intriguing and some of them astonishing (none more so than the Tobala, made from wild rather than cultivated maguey plants, and packs mysteriously addictive cheesy notes).

“You don’t find Mezcal,” Cooper intoned, in one his more memorable toasts of the evening. “Mezcal finds you.”

Maybe. Maybe not. But certainly, we had found each other.

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