Tobala, Mezcal, El Jolgorio
Traditional mezcal forms an important part of rituals, ceremonies and festivities—known as “jolgorios”—in the rural and indigenous Zapotec villages of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Created by the Cortés family, El Jolgorio is widely acknowledged as one of the finest collections of agave spirits available. The ever-changing lineup of mezcales represent the most rare expressions the family bottles: wild, semi-wild and cultivated agaves, rare pechuga distillations, and small batches rested in glass for three, six, or as much as eighteen years before release.
From batch to batch, an individual variety of agave will generally be sourced from different mezcaleros, in different regions, reducing the pressure put upon any one community’s agave population and spreading the financial benefits among families all over Oaxaca – but the unmatched quality of El Jolgorio mezcales remains the same.
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One of the smallest varieties of agave used to make mezcal, Tobalá is often referred to as the “King of the Wild Agave” due to both its nature and its history.
Historically, Tobalá was the most common variety in Oaxacan mezcal after Espadín to be distilled in unique batches on its own. Before the modern “mezcal rush” mezcal was typically more of a field-harvest approach: whichever agave were reaching maturity would be co-fermented and distilled together. Tobalá, however, was seen as offering something special, and was often reserved to be distilled alone and in smaller amounts.
This is in turn because of its nature: Tobalá generally grows at high elevation in the shade of trees or other larger agave. Its small size and lower sugar yield, even after 10-18 years of growth, means that it often delivers as little as a third to a half a liter of mezcal per plant. That scarcity made it all the more precious, and the legend of Tobalá was born.
A rare treat by any measure, Tobalá today represents only around 2% of the agave growing in Oaxaca.