Neta Agave Spirits Ensamble Manuel Aquino 92.10 Proof 750ml
This very special ensemble blend is comprised of 54 different agaves grown in rocky red cascajo soil. Manuel, with some assistance from his wife, Nacha, harvested four large Madrecuixe, twenty Bicuixe, twelve Espadín, three Cuixe Verde, and five massive Tepextates from an area so rugged that they had to be carried out by hand. The Cuixe Verde used in this is ensemble a very particular local karwinskii phenotype. It appears to be the product of open pollination and from a unique seed growing from what is collected from the regionally specific Madrecuixe, aptly named as the “mother” of agaves given the diverse offspring that is born from its seed. Cuixe Verde grows extremely tall and thick, reaching over three meters in height in eight to 12 years. The plants can weigh hundreds of kilograms and yield a liter of spirits for every 6-8 kg of cooked agave. This plant does not produce seeds of its own, limiting its means of propagation to its rhizome system. There are very few farmers that have had the means or knowledge to propagate this varietal. As such, Verde is an extremely prized, but very rare cultivar. The agaves were all harvested, cooked, and fermented during the final days December 2018, and distilled just after the New Year. For the cooking process, a mix of mesquite and guamuchil was used in an oven that remained covered for 12 days. After unearthing the agave, the piñas were left to cook for four days and were then processed by machete and an electric mill. Given the colder temperatures of the season, the macerated fibers were left to dry and ferment for three days before well water was added, followed by an additional 14 days under open air before the mash was ready to be worked and distilled. The final composition of this batch was made with the careful blending of the heads and body of the distillate, known as the puntas and corázon, with the final cuts of each postura made at 40% alc.
A child of the eighties, Manuel is a relatively young master palenquero with nearly twenty years of experience under his belt. The Aquino family traces their history with agave distillation back to 1808, just two years before Mexico declared its independence from the Spanish crown and colonial rule. Descending from the rugged hills of Zoquitlán into the Miahuatlán Valley in the early 19th century, the family settled in Lachigüizo, where they spread their knowledge of the distillation techniques that called for the use of clay pots and a serpentine made from a hollowed out quiote - the central stem that supports the plant’s inflorescence. Times have changed, as have technologies, but even throughout the years of prohibition and violent oppression from the fiscal authorities, the family has never ceased to ply their trade. Manuel produced his first batch on his own at 16, but with few economic prospects at home, he took the risk that most young men in the village have taken, and left Oaxaca to find work elsewhere. Following the lead of other family members, Manuel went to Atlanta, where he lived and worked for more than a year before returning to Logoche to marry his wife, Nacha. Next, Manuel sharpened his skills at the palenque of Don Tomás before necessity brought him back to Atlanta for a short stint. Working hard and saving money for the family, Manuel made his final return to Logoche in 2004 and constructed the home where he and Nacha raise their children today. Around this time, his neighbor and uncle, Cutberto, had established his own palenque, allowing Manuel to learn more and fine tune his craft. Across the river and up the hill, his father, Celedonio, dug out an oven, acquired a handful of wood fermentation vats, and installed two copper pot alembic stills. After years of collaboration with various different family members, Manuel has started construction of his own palenque and workspace, of which he takes great pride. Manuel and family are farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs dedicated to continuity of their community and traditions.
In recent years the family has begun to cultivate and plant large quantities of Espadín, as well as Madrecuixe and a handful of other endemic species, albeit in lesser quantities. Tepextate and Bicuixe grow in abundance on the slopes and ravines of their land, but in most cases require significant effort to harvest and remove the piñas. Nacha’s hometown just to the north also provides a portion of the different agaves that end up in their hands. Manuel makes less than 600 liters of agave spirits each year, occasionally separating varietals, but often mixing them to create a traditional field blend known as a mezcla or ensamble.
Soil type: colorada, roja, cascajo, and negra
Oven: 10-ton capacity, conical, earthen oven
Mashing: Machete and mechanical mill
Fermentation: One food-grade plastic tub. 1000 capacity.
Distillation: Manuel used one 300-liter capacity copper pot still. Every batch is twice distilled and composed using choice cuts of the puntas (heads) and corázon (heart/body)