Del Que Toma el Cardinal
- Oaxaca, Mexico
Before the Mexican government laid claim to the word “mezcal,” everyone in Mexico used that one word to describe the category of spirits made by fermenting and distilling agave. Now … well, now they still use “mezcal” to describe those same spirits, whether those spirits have been certified with the Mexican government as mezcal or not. But if they use the term “mezcal” without certification, they’re putting themselves in legal jeopardy while simultaneously feeding the growth of the very same people who stole the word from them...." —Lou Bank, (more here)
Regarding the origin of the name of 'Del Que Toma el Cardinal', it emerged as follows: At a meal with some friends from different regions of the state of Oaxaca, the host with the intention to invite us a mezcal according to the very good quality told us "I'm going to introduce you a very good mezcal, this is THE ONE THAT THE PRIEST DRINKS“ (to emphasize the quality of the drink as it is said in some regions of the state). Another of the guests corrected and said that it was not said of the one that the priest drinks but that the BISHOP DRINKS. And since I consider that our distillate is better than the one our host introduced us to, I decided to put it on THE CARDINAL. That's where the name originated..." —Carlos Nava-Sanchez (Brother in law and partner of Maestro Mezcalero Don Fortunato)
Del Que Toma el Cardenal—was born in 2014 in response to the industrialization of mezcal. With mezcal’s rise in popularity, more and more of this spirit is being produced using less-traditional methods. Major brands are buying up the agave farms that had serviced the small producers, putting the future of independent Mexican spirits producers at risk.
A small group of these producers, in partnership with entrepreneurs from the city of Oaxaca de Juárez, founded Del Que Toma el Cardenal in an effort to preserve the ancestral legacy of their families and to safeguard the multi-generational wisdom that has fueled international interest in agave spirits. The producers who participate in Del Que Toma el Cardenal are from the municipality of Santo Domingo Albarradas, a Zapotec community located Oaxaca's Valles Centrales region, in the Tlacolula district. They follow a set of rules that is more rigorous than the criteria established to certify mezcal.
The Fundamentals of Del Que Toma el Cardenal are as follows:
- The cultivation of agaves is done by the same producers of Santo Domingo Albarradas and when more agave is required, it is paid at a value equal to or greater than the market to the agaveros of the region
- Only mature agave are used for production.
- The Piñas are cooked in wood ovens with stones from the nearby rivers in holes dug in the ground.
- The piñas are ground in a tahona pulled by a mule with a stone wheel.
- It is fermented in oak tubs and no chemicals are added to the process, the fermentation takes place naturally, so it takes from twenty to thirty days in its fermentation
- The distillation is carried out in a copper pot still, two distillations are carried out both for espadín and for the tobalá
- The distilled agave spirit cannot be cut with water, but it may be adjusted using the puntas and colas (heads and tails) from the same distillation
- As a rule we have to charge a fair price to our customers, we are below the price of other products even though our distillate is of higher quality than the vast majority of other brands
The resident expert overseeing Del Que Toma el Cardenal is Don Fortunato Santiago Pérez, a third generation maestro from a family of producers native to this region. It is families such as Don Fortunato's who have passed down and preserved traditional practices, including organic farming, communal work, and the search for purity, quality, taste, and texture in the final spirit.
Much like wine, these heirloom spirits reflect the place they were made (terroir), the agave they were made from (many are allowed), the source of water they were made with, and the 400 decisions that the producer made in the process. The agaves are grown in the basin of the Rio Grande, surrounded by high mountains where the temperate climate provides ideal conditions for long-growth, sugar-rich agaves. The abundance of mineral-rich water from the Santo Domingo, Santa Catarina, and La Calavera rivers plays a pivotal role in the flavor and aromas of the agaves.
The result? Spirits that reflect their terroir as clearly as they represent the culture from which they come. We are proud to welcome this cooperative agave-spirits project to our portfolio.