21 + Rion Toal
Maestros del Mezcal
Rion is a co-organizer of the civil association Maestros del Mezcal in Oaxaca. He is the host of the podcast of the same name, Maestros del Mezcal, as well as the founder of Of Spine and Vine an importer and distributor of rare beverages.
We discussed how Maestros del Mezcal promotes and advocates for the protection of traditional mezcal in Oaxaca and the surrounding states in Mexico. This social project has been in existence for over two decades but was officially formed in 2009. The association provides financial and technical support to producers to help improve their palenques, replant agave in danger of extinction, and reforest trees used for fuel in the production of mezcal. They also hold public tasting events that promote traditionally produced mezcal and are importing some of these expressions under the label Maestros del Mezcal.
The association is behind the proposition "Ley de Desarollo Sustentable de Maguey-Mezcal", which is a proposed law aimed to manage all aspects of traditional mezcal production in Mexico. Currently in preliminary stages within the governmental process, its scope would essentially supersede the CRM and put in place new standards for the regulation of traditional mezcal as defined by the proposition.
Rion has been living in Oaxaca since 2009. His vast knowledge of agave plants in the region is remarkable, we learned so much! Of particular interest is the species called Lyoba, which is predominantly found in the Tlacolula region and is commonly referred to as “coyote”. We also discussed the map he created that depicts the agaves endemic to the regions of Oaxaca. He’s working on making a print version available - in the meantime, you can see it here.
1. Maestros Del Mezcal Encuentro Nacional (the first national event or summit produced by the organization)
2. The first Encuentro
3. Esteban "El Tigre"
4. Mezcal Campanilla from San Luis Potosi
5. Guerrero Encuentro
6. Reina Sanchez
7. Abel Alcantara and Felix Hernández
8. Sin maguey no hay mezcal (without maguey there is no mezcal)
9. Reina Sanchez, Ulises Torrentera, Felix Hernández, and La Senadora Claudia Corichi at a Maestros Del Mezcal symposium
10. Felix Hernández speaking at a Maestros del Mezcal event
11. Protesting in Santo Domingo / Sin maguey no hay mezcal
12., 13., 14. Community members showing support for the proposed law (Ley de Desarollo Sistentable de Maguey-Mezcal)
15. Maestros del Mezcal branded bottle
16. Early photo of the Maestros
17. Concepcion Hernandez Jimenez (Conchita) with a cuixe agave (A. karwinskii)
18. Abel Alcantara
19. Verde agave (A. salmiana) in Durango
20., 21., 22. These are images of the Lyoba agave which is a species predominantly found in the region of Tlacolula and is commonly referred to as “coyote”
Rion explains: “An important distinction to make is that there are “coyote” plants in Miahuatlan / Valles Centrales that are definite hybrids (mostly of karwinskii and potatorum) and not Lyoba. The Lyoba is thought to have started as a hybrid and then stabilized."
23. Conchita with a coyote agave
24., 25. Other coyote agave hybrids
26. A. salmiana agave in Oaxaca
27. Pure beauty!
+ All images courtesy of Maestros del Mezcal, A.C.
Lorena Terán Ibarra is the director of Copita Project for El Buho Mezcal where she leads the regenerative agriculture and educational programs.
Initiated by the founders of El Buho, the Copita Project seeks to replenish and preserve the balance of the natural environment while planting cultivated and semi-cultivated agaves.