Crafting Artisanal Mezcal:
A Journey into Building Your Own Oven in Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca

In the heart of Oaxaca, Mexico, the small village of Santiago Matatlán is renowned for its artisanal mezcal production. This centuries-old tradition, passed down through generations, has evolved into a cultural gem celebrated worldwide. If you’re an enthusiast who’s dreamed of creating your own authentic mezcal, building your own oven in Santiago Matatlán is a remarkable way to get started. In this article, we will guide you through the process of constructing an oven for crafting this beloved spirit, deeply rooted in the rich heritage of Oaxaca.

The Magic of Mezcal Making in Santiago Matatlán

Mezcal, often referred to as the “elixir of the gods,” is a distilled spirit crafted from the agave plant. While tequila is perhaps its more famous sibling, mezcal holds a special place in the hearts of those who appreciate its diverse flavors, artisanal approach, and the heritage behind it.

In Santiago Matatlán, this ancient tradition continues to flourish, with local families embracing the art of mezcal production. To embark on your journey, you’ll want to understand the key components of the process: the raw material (agave), the fermentation, distillation, and, at the heart of it all, the unique oven where agave pinas are cooked to unlock their flavors.

Selecting the Agave: A Matter of Choice

The first step in your mezcal-making venture begins with selecting the right agave. Santiago Matatlán is fortunate to have an abundance of the Espadín agave, a variety favored for its balance of sweetness and complexity in flavor. Remember, the choice of agave will significantly influence the final character of your mezcal.

Building the Oven: A Prerequisite to Excellence

The construction of the oven is pivotal to the mezcal-making process. This oven, traditionally known as a “palenque,” is where the agave pinas undergo their metamorphosis, developing the signature smoky and earthy notes that mezcal enthusiasts cherish.

The Materials You’ll Need

  • Adobe Bricks: These sun-dried bricks, made from a mix of clay, sand, straw, and water, are an essential component of the oven’s construction.
  • Wood and Stone: Wood serves as fuel for the fire, while stone helps insulate the oven and retain heat evenly during the cooking process.
  • Metal Sheeting: Metal sheeting is used to cover the oven, preventing heat from escaping during the cooking stage.

The Oven Construction Process

  • Prepare the Foundation: Start by laying a solid foundation for your oven using adobe bricks and a mixture of mud and stones. This provides stability and heat insulation.
  • Build the Oven Walls: Construct the oven’s walls using adobe bricks, leaving a small opening for feeding the firewood and agave pinas.
  • Insulate with Sand: Use sand to insulate the oven’s interior walls. This insulating layer helps maintain consistent heat and smokiness.
  • Add the Fire Chamber: Inside the oven, create a designated fire chamber. This is where the wood will burn, producing the heat needed for cooking the agave.
  • Create a Roof: Cover the oven with metal sheeting, forming a rounded roof that traps heat effectively.

The Mezcal Cooking Process

With your oven in place, it’s time to start crafting mezcal. Place the agave pinas in the oven, ensuring they are evenly spaced and adequately exposed to the heat. This process typically takes several days, during which the agave is slowly roasted. The result? A flavor profile that embodies the unique essence of Oaxaca, with smoky, earthy, and sometimes fruity notes.

The Final Stages

After cooking, the agave pinas are crushed, fermented, and distilled to create the final mezcal product. The heart and soul of the Oaxacan terroir come together in each sip, thanks to the hard work and dedication invested throughout the process.

Seeking Guidance and Inspiration

Building your own mezcal oven is a profound journey, requiring dedication and a deep appreciation for the art of mezcal production. To fully immerse yourself in this process, consider learning from local mezcaleros, who carry with them a wealth of generational knowledge. Enroll in workshops and spend time with those who have mastered this craft, as there is no better way to honor the traditions of Santiago Matatlán and create your own artisanal mezcal.

In Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca, crafting mezcal isn’t just a business; it’s an art form, a heritage, and a source of immense pride. Building your own oven to create this beloved spirit is an endeavor that pays homage to the rich cultural history of the region and allows you to savor the taste of Oaxaca with every sip. While it may be a challenging and time-consuming process, the reward is an authentic, handcrafted spirit that will transport you to the heart of Santiago Matatlán with every drop.

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AVAILABLE LIMITED RELEASES:

DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS

Espadín Joven Artisanal Mezcal 51.3%
1,250 bottles produced

GUELAGUETZA

Espadín Joven Artisanal Mezcal 50.4%
250 bottles produced

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