Madrecuixe | Grupo Logoche | October 2016
The maguey known locally as “Madrecuixe” is a truly remarkable plant. Similar in appearance to what is known by the same name in other parts of Oaxaca, this Madrecuixe is a distinct subspecies endemic to Miahuatlán. Characterized by a large, light-blue, spherical rosette, Madrecuixe can weigh anywhere from 60 pounds to more than 200, depending on its environment.
Cultivated for centuries, if not millennia, as a food and beverage source, Madrecuixe is renowned for its exquisite flavor as well as its genetic potential. In Miahuatlán, this particular Karwinskii varietal has the title madre, meaning mother, because the plant is capable of cross-pollination and produces seed that develops into very distinct varietals. Seed from the Miahuatlán Madrecuixe will often yield the varieties known locally as Verde (or Cuixe Verde), Tobaziche, and Coyote. One can also find agave that resemble Tobalá, Jabalí, and some Americana varietals, all born from Madrecuixe seed.
Often, the mezcaleros and growers find expressions that they themselves have never seen and cannot identify. This type of mixed outcome is so commonplace, that in order to ensure the reproduction of pure Madrecuixe, many maestros prefer to simply transplant the plantlets that propagate from the agave’s root system. However, growing from seed ensures strong and healthy plants while also maintaining the biodiversity for which Miahuatlán is so renowned.
Bicuixe | Celso Garcia Cruz | April 2017
In Miahuatlán, the maguey Bicuixe (pronounced bee-queesh or bee-quishay) is perhaps the most prevalent of the micro-endemic Agave karwinskii. While it is primarily a wild species, it could also be considered semi-cultivated as it is frequently transplanted and used to demarcate property lines and prevent soil erosion in the fields. This subspecies is far from uniform in appearance as there are multiple phenotypes and ecotypes, but one of its primary characteristics is its long and relatively thin tree-like stalk, often larger than the actual piña in size. While the Bicuixe piña has a moderate sugar content, they are small in comparison to other A. karwinskii varietals and have a much larger stalk to piña ratio, which can translate into slightly bitter notes, lending the distilled spirit an incredible balance of flavors. The Bicuixe, or Cuixe, as it can also be called in the area, plays such a quintessential role in local mezcal and agave spirits production that it could be considered the most archetypal and definitive expression of the tierras and culturas of Miahuatlán. The names of agaves in Oaxaca, and throughout Mexico, are regionally, culturally, and sometimes linguistically specific and should be treated as such. They are colloquial and can change from village to village and region to region. The Bicuixe found in Miahuatlan is very similar, and perhaps even identical to what is called Tobaziche in parts of the Ejutla valley, the Tobaziche of Santa Catarina Minas, as well as the Cirial from other parts of the Central Valleys.
This 200 liter batch from Maestro Mezcalero Celso Garcia Cruz is an incredible expression of the natural elements of the region, the flavors of the plant, and the nuances imparted by its maker and palenque. Bicuixe thrives in the rocky, reddish cascajo soil of Celso’s lands outside of Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz where these roughly 15-year- old magueyes were harvested on March 17, 2017, just days after a full moon. The practice of harvesting ripe maguey under a full moon is a traditional method employed to take advantage of the natural concentrations of the plant’s sugars, which are believed to change in accordance with moon cycles.
These 300 Bicuixe piñas were quiotudo and left caponado for over one year before harvest, meaning that the flowering stock, or quiote, was cut before inflorescence, allowing the plant’s energies to concentrate on sugar production instead of sexual reproduction. This ancient technique translates to a significantly greater yield, with more robust and profound flavors in the distilled spirit. The use of fully matured agave is rare in industrial mezcal production but is a hallmark practice of traditional mezcal and agave spirit craftsmen and women.
Jabalín | Candido García Cruz | March 2015
Known as Jabalín or Jabalí, Spanish for “wild boar”, this maguey has been classified as both A. Convallis and A. Kerchovei of the sub-genus Littaea. This somewhat prevalent agave is found in a few variant forms between southern Puebla and most of Oaxaca state, either in densely clustered groups or in solitary form, both wild and semi-cultivated. The pencas are a rich green color with a subtle yellow stripe down the inside of the leaf, and are equally notable for their very pronounced, jagged spines. While the Jabalín does have a high sugar content, it historically has not been an agave preferred for distillation, but instead prized for its durable fibers and use as natural fencing. The Agave convallis contains elevated amounts of sapogenins, the same natural compounds used for organic soap making, resulting in a challenging and very bubbly fermentation. This intimidating process continues into distillation with first -- and more than often -- second rounds yielding a liquid that is greenish in color and capped with a thick layer of soap-like foam. For this reason, the Jabalín is commonly triple-distilled, allowing for a crystalline appearance.
This experimental batch made by Candido García Cruz in March 2015 beautifully reflects the subtleties of the maguey and lands of Miahuatlán, Oaxaca. Candido has worked the palenque since he was a child, and in over 50 years of experience with agave, this was his first time fermenting and distilling Jabalín. The fifty piñas were harvested from rocky tierra colorada (a lighter red-colored soil than what is described as tierra roja) from one of Candido’s flatter parcels. After baking for four days with local acacia woods, the agave was rested for nearly a week before being chopped with machetes and passed through a small mechanical mill. Candido filled one, 1,000 liter sabino wood fermentation tank and dry fermented the Jabalín fibers for 2 days. River water was added and the wet fermentation process ran for eight days prior to distillation in a 300-liter capacity copper pot still. With help from the family, a total of 85 liters at 48.46 ABV was produced, after the alcohol levels were adjusted with shishe, the first round of distillate, that fell between 30-45% ABV. After some local and auto-consumption, Neta was able to acquire the remaining amount for this special 69-liter bottling destined for France.