Labeling is a problem. Let me explain. as is the case of Pierdas Almas +9 Botanicals. In the United States, one of the relics of the prohibition era laws written mostly for the ease of regulation than for the benefit of the customer is that “Officially,” a spirit may only be classified as one thing. So it doesn’t quite matter whether that spirit is technically both a Mezcal* and a Gin**. It can only be officially classified, and subsequently labeled as one thing.
Given that Pierdas Almas are a renowned Mezcal distiller, they decided to hitch their fates to the spirit category they’re known for. But folks, make no mistake about it. When you take a classic Mezcal, which starts with roasted agave hearts, fermented, then distilled, before taking a final distillation pass in a copper still with nine familiar botanicals. Chief among them juniper, but also classic gin notes like angelica, coriander, and citrus. This is clearly a gin. And a Mezcal. It’s both. It’s a beautiful mashup that defies neat categorization; you’ll find on the Mezcal shelf in your local liquor store, but this is a gin.
Gorgeous smoky nose, with a lots of signature Mezcal character. Hints of jalapeno pepper, pine branches on campfire, and a curious note of caramelized candied citrus rind. Perhaps more mezcal than gin, but you can tell there’s something a hint beyond your usual mezcal. Mezcal drinkers are likely to find a lot to like here; fans of gin but not mezcal are likely to find it more the latter than the former.
The palate is where the two worlds collide in epic fashion. Juniper, anise, and fennel contribute to an early bouquet that is herbal and soft, with a particularly pronounced pine-edge to it. The anise really comes through mid-palate, but is complemented and held back a bit as you start to get some of the smokey and cooked agave notes. Hints of cooked red pepper, tarragon and delicately blackened basil leaves. The finish is briny, reminding me of smoked oysters. A great deal of character.
I suggest not tackling this like you’re usual gin. Treating it as it’s own thing. Explore the worlds of the Margarita. You’d be surprised how the gin botanicals nicely highlight what might have been an ordinary drink. As for the gin world, the Martini stands out to me, though I keep the ratio a bit drier to keep the herbs from the Vermouth from overpowering the botanicals from the gin, er I mean Mezcal***. I started at 10:1, and suggest you go from there.
Overall, Pierdas Almas +9 Botanicals is unique, worthwhile and the perfect introduction to gin for mezcal drinkers. But the price is more mezcal than gin, and at nearly a hundred bucks per bottle, this might be a high price to pay for experimentation.
There’s nothing else like Pierdas Almas +9 Botanicals. But more than just an experiment, it challenges the baseline assumptions about what divides the categories of spirits. It’s probably 60% mezcal, 40% gin, and because of that, the unique flavor profile probably means that if you don’t like both categories, you probably won’t like this. It’s one of the most unique offerings in the gin world right now, and it’s incredibly well executed. Try it neat, it’s more of a sipping tipple than a cocktail-ready spirit. Recommended in its category, and it’s the only one in its category.
* An alcoholic spirit distilled from any of the over 30 varieties of agave plant. The name means “oven-cooked” agave, and must be made in one of eight regions, among which Oaxaca is the most important. It is this baking/cooking of Mezcal which gives them their signature smoky flavor. All tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila.
** Gin, legally must contain or derive it’s primary flavoring from juniper. But you read this blog, so you probably knew this.
*** No one heard that, right?