05 Apr The Evolution of Vida — Part 2
Scaling Up While Preserving Tradition
In November of 2016 Del Maguey broke ground on a project to scale Paciano Cruz Nolasco’s palenque in San Luis del Rio without compromising the traditional methods of production. Throughout this project we have collaborated with Paciano and his family, scientists, engineers and architects in order to develop a facility that maintains the artisanal methods of making Mezcal while incorporating aspects of modern technology to render the operation sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Our first challenge was to meet a growing demand for Vida while maintaining the cornerstones of traditional Mezcal production. For Del Maguey that means being mindful of the following aspects of production:
- Sustainable planting, growing and hand-harvesting only completely ripe magueys
- Roasting the maguey in a conical, earthen horno on heated stones fired by wood
- Ambient natural fermentation in open top wooden tinas using only local yeasts with no inoculation or additives to enhance the process
- Distillation by hand including agave fibers in small, direct fire alembic stills
In order to scale in an artisanal manner we have replicated production by increasing infrastructure. At the completion of this latest project Paciano’s palenque in San Luis del Rio will have a total of four hornos (roasting pits), three electric molinos, 92 wooden open-top fermenters, and 18 small, 300L copper alembic stills.
For those who are fans of Paciano you will notice that with the completion of this project San Luis del Rio will be using electric molinos. As we began to scale, simple computing showed us that in order to meet the growing demands for VIDA we would need dozens of horses as well as dozens of workers for their care. Several years ago the Mexican government issued gas powered desgarradoras (shredders) to minimize this labor-intensive work. While functional and well within the norma for artisanal Mezcal production, we wanted to keep moving towards a more environmentally friendly solution.
Working with engineers, we set our sights on creating an energy efficient, clean air electric molino as an alternative to gas-powered motors and overworked horses. In addition to preventing the release of fluorocarbons, early results indicate that they may also increase yields from the maguey, decreasing the amount of raw material needed for each liter of Mezcal and lessening the stress on the burgeoning demand for agave.