For Pensador we have worked with Artenogenes to create a unique combination of Espadin and Madrecuishe. The fruit forward, bright Espadin enhanced by the sweet minerality of the Madrecuishe to create a mezcal which is delicate, balanced, and deeply complex.
Significantly this is not a post-production blend, as is commonly found in whisky. In Pensador the two varietals are united from the very beginning of the process, creating what is known as an Ensamble. This method ensures that the flavours are fully integrated and gives rise to flavours which cannot be found in either varietal taken individually.
Pensador is an artisanal mezcal produced using traditional methods which remain largely unchanged since the 16th Century. These techniques have survived through the years by being passed from father to son in long lines of mezcaleros. Each generation has made subtle adaptions to bring different nuances to the flavour of their mezcal, but the primary instruments and tools of production are unchanged. The results are mezcals with great individual charater, but which are extremely laborious to produce.
The labour begins in the fields. Before they can be made into mezcal, agave must reach full maturity. For Espadin this takes roughly 8 years while for Madrecuishe it can take as long as 12. During this time Atenogenes tends to the plants, hand pulling weeds and planting a cycle of other crops (beans, maize & squash) to maintain nutrients without the use of pesticides or fertilisers.
Once the agave have reached maturity the leaves, or pencas, are stripped with a machete leaving only the heart, or pina. These pinas can weigh up to 100kg and have to be hauled out of the field and loaded onto a horse drawn kart before being taken back to the distillery, or palenque. Once back at the palenque a fire is built in large hole in the ground. This is the roasting oven, or horno. The fire is piled with rocks before being covered with bagasse - the fibrous side product of mezcal production. The pinas are then laid on the bagasse and buried in a mound of earth. For the next 5 days the fire and smoke will slowly cook the pinas, caramelising the sugars and developing the signature smoky flavour.
Once cooked through the pinas are dug up and left to rest for a number of days before being crushed by a horse-drawn mill-stone known as a tahona. The crushed, juicy remains are then mixed with fresh well water and transferred to open-top wooden vats. Over the next couple of weeks (dependent on ambient temperature) natural airborne yeasts ferment the mixture to create a mash at around 6% ABV. The mash is then passed twice through 250l copper pot stills heated on an open fire. For further details of each batch please see our blog, Pensamientos.
Over-all, from harvest to bottle, each batch of Pensador takes 2 months to produce, the hand bottling and labelling taking it closer to 3.
So when drinking Pensador, please, take your time.