The U.S. agave boom hit right as Comal opened its doors in 2012. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to bring in new exciting products from Mexico and highlight specific selections, but recently we have begun featuring some of our favorite producers. For the next four months, we’re highlighting a total of twelve expressions from four different tequila and mezcal producers: Carlos Camarena of Tapatio, Jaime and Gustavo Muñoz of Los Nahuales, Jacob Lustig of Don Amado, and Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo of Casa Noble. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jacob Lustig (a Berkeleyite himself!) in his Oakland home.
We live in an age where we want to rush through everything, but why not take some time to sit with one another? That’s Jacob. I am greeted with a huge hug and the traditional Latino kiss on the cheek as I step into his home. I would never guess he had many more meetings following mine, let alone that he’s leaving in a couple days for an extended trip to multiple cities. “Convivir,” he tells me – something people in Oaxaca take time to do but here in the States, we just rush around for all the answers. No time for one-on-ones.
Jacob grew up locally, even went to Berkeley High for part of his schooling. In his early teens however, he began spending part of his time in Mexico. College directed him more in depth to Oaxaca, and he finally began working directly with the Arellanes family while writing his dissertation in the early 90s. Although he doesn’t market his product as “environmentally-conscious,” this is something he is involved in, one of the reasons he uses significantly less wood for distillations for instance.
While Jacob is full of knowledge like this, so is the Arellanes family – it’s something that amazes me every time I visit the Don Amado palenque (mezcal distillery). The family doesn’t only take pride in their work but also takes time to understand the demand of mezcal on a global level, as well as the effect it has on the earth: the trees, agave itself, and how to make their operation sustainable. Their large nine clay-pot distillery traditionally includes distillations of espadin agave, an agave they harvest after approximately eight years. Unlike other distilleries I’ve visited, this is a full-family affair; even Jacobo is part of it!
And for Jake as well as the family, the eleven generations the family has been making the same product doesn’t mean they must stick with the same methods. Instead, they view the time and practice as historical permission to try something new. For the first time in their family’s tradition (that they know of), Don Amado mezcal introduces two copper stills, as well as distillates from agaves such as largo and arroqueño, as well as a their version of a pechuga (a third distillation of their espadin with fruits and spices to create their own vegetarian version of this celebratory mezcal).
I invite you into Comal for a taste of this wonderful and thoughtfully crafted artisanal product. Convivir!