The Mixteca Alta region has a multi-millennial history of settlement, conquest, and conflict. An interesting juxtaposition to the gratifying sense of calm and serenity that washes over the village of San Pedro Teozacoalco upon arrival. Perhaps the remoteness adds to this sense of calm; it takes nearly four hours to reach the village from Oaxaca City, on not terribly pleasant roads. Yet there it is, sitting at the base of a high valley, green foliage and colorful flowers on every corner. And of course papalome, a beautiful maguey in shape and stature, named after the nahuatl word for butterfly.
Del Maguey has the honor to curate a papalome expression from Teozacoalco through our relationship with Fernando Caballero Cruz, El Bigote. El Bigote, The Moustache, wears his moniker well. Beneath his black cowboy hat and sharp, darting eyes, lies what can only be described as a Sam Elliott, movie star quality moustache. Stepping into the workspace where he crafts his mezcal is different than other palenques. There is a couch, and a curated bookcase. Nothing is out of place. In the act of transforming tons of agave through firepower, horsepower, and manpower into a consumable product, floors and surrounding areas are not always easy to keep maintained. And most do a splendid job keeping things tidy. But Fernando keeps his place especially spotless. He harvests his wild papalome in the hills above the village, and with his son Fernando Jr. they make a few batches a year. The terroir in this expression is unmistakable, the yeasts in the area always produce distinguishable lactic notes. Life has not always been peaceful in the area, history can attest to that, but when sipping on papalome in a palenque with a small library, surrounded by birdsong, flowers, and majestic maguey, it certainly is hard to imagine that Fernando El Bigote has not found peace.