That Damn Virus
Yes, that Damn Virus. Covid, Corona…I hate you!
Naturally, it is having an effect on the world of mezcal. It’s like an uninvited guest at a house party. Refuses to leave, ruins all the fun and kills people. I’ve been to some pretty intense parties in my time.
Interestingly, and incredibly unsurprisingly…retail sales of alcohol have increased markedly during these wacky times. In particular, spirit sales have sprung up by around 30% in the good old US of A.
I mean what else is there to do while you are stuck home-schooling the kiddies? I’m sure half of my teachers were drunk when they were teaching me. It’s not an easy job even if you are qualified to do it. I certainly can’t imagine what it would be like to be an Average Joe office worker who is expected to teach the offspring whilst sober!
So, considering that mezcal sells a huge portion of its product to the US…things must be going OK, right?
Well, no. Not really.
Here’s the thing. The big boys are doing just fine. Large, commercial operations are flourishing. They have brand recognition, advertising power and cheaper prices on their side. In other words, people are buying mezcal, but they are getting the more accessible and less costly ones.
I guess that’s understandable…if you had to budget between putting food on the table for the family or buying a handmade, delicious mezcal you would obviously have to go for the…the aahh…wait, I’ll get back to you.
As you can see, the challenge here is for the small, independent producers. The typically family-run businesses located in remote, rural locations. The operations that are in fact the very soul of the mezcal industry. I guess it’s a microcosm of what’s happening all around the globe during these times. Whilst the likes of old mate Jeff Bezos plunder the world, small businesses are finding things more difficult than it is to admit to your wife you were wrong.
It’s a sad situation.
The small operators specialise in selling their wares to mezcal fans that are always keen to try much more complex and exciting products. The stuff that has been developed through generations of experience, whilst always looking to experiment with new ideas. Many mezcaleros currently have limited, special edition mezcals ready for sale…alas, for now – there is no market for them.
In order to sell their mezcal, the independents rely hugely on tourism to their area. Oaxaca in particular is a huge attraction for mezcalheads. Many of the businesses bring in the vast majority of their sales from visits and tours to their palenques (locations where the mezcal is produced).
Tourism to these areas is now basically at zero, meaning that not only are the producers struggling, but so too are their employees and families. In addition, there is a huge knock-on effect on all other touristic ventures which rely on the drawcard that is mezcal to pull people and business in.
What can be done to confront this challenge?
Well, a group of mezcaleros have banded together to create something called Mezcal Futures.
Sounds exciting right? It’s like investing in Futures Stocks on the investment market only it’s much better. Rather than potentially receiving lots of money in the future, you receive top-notch mezcal. Sign me up now!
It’s actually a great idea.
You can go onto the Mezcal Futures (very basic) website and purchase all sorts of varieties of artisanal mezcal from the best local producers – and they will keep it at their palenque until you are able to collect it.
This system creates a much needed injection of cash into the businesses and gives us all an excuse to make a trip to go and collect the goodies. OK, it’s kind of a long trip for some…but for those that are intending to travel to Oaxaca in the future it all makes great sense. Mind you there was a time that I thought wearing a chunky gold ear ring made sense.
Even for those not likely to be in a position to purchase…it’s worth having a look at the link below as it has a rundown of how each mezcalero produces their product and gives a good feel for the independent mezcal industry.
We are off to Oaxaca in December and just maybe I’m going to have a few Xmas presents waiting for me!
You can take part in the Mezcal Futures program buy buying a bottle or two here.
I should note that I don’t have any connections to the sellers on this website, but it is highly recommended by this blogger who has an excellent blog and reputation in the industry. – Mezcal PHD.
There have been some other positives to come out of this awful virus-affected period.
A number of creative and tech-savvy businesses have been conducting virtual tours and tastings. They have been able to introduce their products to a larger than usual group of people which has actually been of great benefit to their businesses. Word spreads quickly on social media and there is now a new group of people with a wider understanding of mezcal. That can’t be a bad thing.
One of the brands at the forefront of this push to use technological means to bring mezcal to the world is La Luna Mezcal, right here in mighty Michoacan.
Click here – La Luna Mezcal – to checkout their website and go ahead and join an online tour! Their mezcals are excellent.
There is also a new trend by some to utilise smaller bottles for mezcal, meaning customers are more likely to feel they can afford to experiment in buying different types online.
As you can see it’s not all doom and gloom.
We will overcome that damn virus.