Think Mexican Spirits Are All About Agave? Try the Corn Whiskeys of Oaxaca
Many popular Mexican street foods — tortillas, esquites, pozole — are based on corn, a crop originally cultivated by ancient peoples around what is now Oaxaca, Mexico.
Pierde Almas Ancestral Corn Whiskey is distilled from native corn grown in that Mexican state. Thirty-five of the approximately 60 distinct varieties of native corn still thrive in Oaxaca, and Pierde Almas has a goal of promoting biological and cultural diversity by ensuring the survival of these indigenous species.
Pierde Almas whiskey is unaged hooch, exhibiting greener, more herbaceous flavors than the analogous moonshine of the rural U.S., and you can taste the corn. Jonathan Barbieri, an artist and owner of Pierde Almas, says that when Mexicans try his whiskey, they ask 'What's that aroma? It's so familiar!' I say, 'It's your childhood, the smell of tortillas ballooning up over a wood fire on a hot comal.'"
Sierra Norte Single Barrel Whiskey, made with native black corn from Oaxaca, is another brand to look for. Aged in wood, this whiskey is dark with buttery, caramel-like vanilla flavors. Both brands have been introduced within the past year in the U.S.
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