¡Hey Hey! Agave / 23 + Asis Cortés

October 17, 2020 4 min read

¡Hey Hey! Agave / 23 + Asis Cortés

23 + Asis Cortés

Mezcal Family History

We are pleased to welcome Asis Cortés to the show. Asis comes from 6 generations of Zapotec mezcal producers and maguey cultivators in Matatlan, Oaxaca. This podcast is an excellent opportunity to learn about the history of mezcal culture and production from the perspective of a person whose family has been producing since the 1840s.

Asis has been involved in several mezcal projects over that past 15 years. Many of them you may be familiar with: Agave de Cortes, Nuestra Soledad, El Jolgorio, and Origen Raiz. Asis is also the founder of Mezcalogia, Ofrenda Oaxaca, Puro Burro Sunset Bar and the branding agency, Stratos.

This conversation highlights his latest project Mezcal Dixeebe. A collaboration with his father Valentin, developed to honor their ancestors and amplify the connection between agave plants and their culture.

Asis explains how the introduction of adulterated mezcal in the 1980’s and ’90s created a serious problem for his family and other mezcal producers in the region. This proved to be a devastating, protracted event for the communities in and around Oaxaca and caused his father to stop producing mezcal for a time. Adulterated mezcal also called Conejo (rabbit), was mezcal that was altered by adding non-agave spirits or worse, synthetic materials, pushing down the price, and making it very difficult for authentic producers of 100% maguey distilled mezcal to sell their product. This is one of the events that instigated the creation of the D.O and N.O.M and eventually the CRM.

We cover many topics as they relate to Asis’s experience as an entrepreneur, brand developer, mezcal educator, and prolific advocate for the preservation of his culture; the culture of mezcal. This is a podcast not to be missed!

Associated Articles:

Mezcalistas: Asis Cortés’ second act

VoyageLA: Meet Eric Giardina and Asis Cortes of Puro Burro in Oaxaca


ruta de mezcal de la familia cortes

1. Ruta de Mezcal - the mezcal route of Asis's Grandfather. Historically, mezcal was produced to sell within the community and surrounding areas. Abuelo Jose's route was roughly 80-90 kilometer round trip.


Familia Cortes

2. Asis and his grandfather, Jose Cortés (2015)

3. From left to right: Asis, Asis' paternal grandparents: Crispina Hernandez and Jose Cortés, Asis' mother, Irma and his father Valentín

4. Asis and his maternal grandmother, Maria and Asis' brother, Geovani Cortés (2019)


Familia Cortes

5. Gregorio Martinez and Valentin Cortés. In 2016 they produced a pechuga together for El Jolgorio

6. Asis’ mother Irma, his maternal grandmother Maria, and his Aunt Eli (2019)


Primera Feria del Mezcal, Oaxaca Mexico 1997

7. The first Mezcal Fair in Oaxaca City (1997)

8. Valentin Cortés (2013)


Campo de la Familia Cortes

9. Valentin Cortés in his agave field. These agaves are A. angustifolia (Espadin) and are around 2 yrs old in this pic (2017)


Capo de la Familia Cortes

10. The same agave field as in image #9. This pic was taken in May 2020 when they were harvesting the hijuelos


Asis y Valentin en el palenque Santiago Matatlan Oaxaca Mexico

11. Valentin and Asis Cortés standing by their horno (2017)


valentin cortes en su palenque trabajando

12.,13. Valentin and Asis uncovering the roasted agave in the horno (2017)


Origen Raiz Familia

14. Asis, Don Jorge Saravia, Doña Lula Saravia, Don Valentin, Eva, Daniel and Nayeli - the Origen Raiz team in Durango (2019)


Familia en oaxaca provando Origen Raiz

15. The Cortés family at an Origen Raiz tasting at Ofrenda

      Pictured left to right: Valentin, Irma, Asis, Asis' wife Mar, Geovani, Marisol and Daniel


16. Bildo Saravia with Ignacio Grijalva Santiago. Ignacio is Valentin's long-time friend who relocated to Durango from Oaxaca three years ago to be the mezcalero for Origen Raiz 

17. The wild, beautiful landscape of Durango, taken on the Rancho el Ojo property where the vinata is located


Durango - Origen Raiz

18. Sotol plants and A. durangesis (Cenizo) growing wild on the el Ojo property


agave en durango - origen raiz

19. A. durangensis (Cenizo) and what looks like a type of A. karwinskii in the background


Vinata el Ojo - Durango Mexico - Origen Raiz

20. The horno at the Origen Raiz vinata located on Rancho el Ojo


Origen Raiz -  Cooking Agave

21. Maestro Mezcalero Ignacio Grijalva Santiago

22. The horno at the Origen Raiz vinata (notice the difference in the oven style from Valentin's in Oaxaca image #11)

 cooked and fermentation at origen raiz

23. Expertly stacked cooked maguey

24. Tahona in action at the Origen Raiz vinata

25. These are tinas (the fermentation vats) at the Origen Raiz vinata. They buried them about one meter in the ground to prevent the fermentation process from going dormant due to the cold weather. This was in 2016, since then they have been adapting their technique by adjusting water temperature in the tinas


origen raiz - valentin y ignacion - pechuga

26.,-31., Preparing the ingredients for a pechuga distillation at Origen Raiz. The recipe includes deer meat and a variety of fruit. The volcanic stones used in the horno are locally sourced from the land.


agave going to full flowering quiote in durango mexico - origen raiz

32.,33. An agave that has gone to seed at Rancho el Ojo in Duranago

34. Flowering Nopales 


Durango landscape - Origen Raiz

35. The breathtaking terroir of Durango at Rancho el Ojo. You can see the volcanic stones all over the ground

 Ofrenda - Oaxaca Mexico

36.-39. Ofrenda is a petite hotel in the heart of Oaxaca, owned and operated by Asis and Eric Giardina. They just opened Puro Buro Sunset Bar, a mezcal bar founded by Asis and Eric about two blocks away from Ofrenda (not shown here) 


Dixeebe in process

40. Don Valentin, Asis and Daniel on the campo in Oaxaca. These are the most recent photos from the family campo taken a few weeks ago. This is a field of espadin agaves (photo credit: Tony White)


Dixeebe in process

41. Dixeebe Tobala with a A. potatorum (tobala) in the backround (photo credit: Tony White)

42. Working in the fields of the campo (photo credit: Tony White)


Dixeebe in process - Familia Cortes

43. Don Valentin, Asis and Daniel (2020) (photo credit: Tony White)


Dixeebe - Santiago Matatlan Oaxaca Mexico

44. The Cortés family at the official presentation of Mezcal Dixeebe



All photos courtesy of Asis Cortés unless otherwise noted

Sabrina Lessard
Sabrina Lessard

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