8 + James Schroeder
/ Understanding Mezcal
In this episode, we speak to the author James Schroeder about his book: Understanding Mezcal. Jay has written a comprehensive guide explaining the confusing and complicated world of agave spirits. This book is a must-read for anyone who loves sipping mezcal!
Each of the nine chapters contains concise and detailed information about aspects of mezcal and mezcal production in Mexico. He does his best not to overwhelm us with too much scientific language and manages to impart upon the reader a clear understanding of each element in the process of cultivating, producing and distributing mezcal.
There are chapters explaining agave plants and their scientific and common names. Jay dives into the mechanics of distillation, still types and the science of fermentation. He explains the DO, CRM and the different social structures that exist in Mexico, and how current market pricing affects agave distillates globally and what that means for producers and consumers. There is something for everyone in this book, much like there is a mezcal for everyone!
In our conversation, we go into great detail about several of the topics in his book. For anyone who has already read the book, this is a must listen, there is nothing quite like hearing an author further explain subjects you love and find interesting. For those of you who haven’t read the book yet, it might help to have a preliminary understanding of the production process in order to follow along with the discussion.
Buy the book for yourself, give it to a friend, and know that you are supporting a passionate author, an incredibly talented small publishing house and creative studio, and our agave spirits community.
Jay's list of Agave Species (Link)
1. Understanding Mezcal / James Schroeder (link)
2. Agave Inaequidens (Jalisco)
3. Dasylirion Plant
4. Agave Karwinskii
5. Cultivated Agaves
6. Bulbil (genetic copies of the mother plant that grow on the branches of the plants quiote)
7. Rhizome Hijuelos (genetic copies that shoot out from the rhizomes of the mother plant)
8. Tio Rey with wooden canoa fermenter (Sola de Vega, Oaxaca)
9. Fermentation of Agave Inaequidens (Jalisco)
10. Fermented Mash
11. Faustino from Del Maguey (San Baltazar Chichicapam, Oaxaca)
12. Yeast cell (p.46 / illustration by Polly Jiménez / image courtesy of Prensa Press)
+ Article discussed on the podcast about yeast and fermentation (link)
13. Clay pot still diagram (p.60 / illustration by Polly Jiménez / image courtesy of Prensa Press)
14. Clay pot stills (Santa Caterina Minas, Oaxaca)
15. Copper pot stills (Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca)
16. Ejutla style copper pot still (Ejutla de Crespo, Oaxaca)
17. Stainless steel still head (Madera, Chihuahua)
18. Economic breakdown of a bottle of mezcal (p.106 / illustration by Polly Jiménez / image courtesy of Prensa Press)
19. Clay pot stills with water troughs (Santa Caterina Albarradas, Oaxaca)
20. Todos Santos (Image courtesy of Quiote/Todos Santos)
21. Quiote (Image courtesy of Quiote/Todos Santos)
22. Jay and Andre Barnhill (Image courtesy of Lou Bank)
+ All images courtesy of James Schroeder unless otherwise noted
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.