Mujeres del Mezcal: Top 5 Women-Led Mezcal Producers

This article was originally posted by The Tasting Alliance.


Mezcal enthusiasts are a conscientious consumers who care about supporting the palenques (distilleries) upholding the 500-year old traditions of this hand-crafted agave beverage. And even though they have dominated the behind-the-scenes production of Mexico’s national spirit for centuries, women are increasingly becoming the outward face of mezcal—a belated, but nevertheless inspiring movement worthy of amplifying. After all, legend has it that a female deity, Mayahuel, is the goddess of agave!


If you are looking to do good while drinking well, explore these award-winning, women-led mezcal brands that are diversifying this dynamic spirits sector. While each has her own signature style, they all share a dual purpose of producing more balanced, approachable mezcals and promoting the role of women in this still overwhelmingly patriarchal sector.



(Photo: Izo)


Izo


A sleek bottle, hand-applied black labels, and onyx tops set the stage for a exceedingly smooth, earthy, and subtly smoky mezcal. Making her way to Durango by way of her native Vancouver, co-founder Linda Belzberg channeled her passion for Mexican culture by launching a collection of agave spirits including several Mezcals. Sustainable, complex, and a standout for its expression of Cenizo—the dominant agave in Durango—IZO is a brand that melds a modern aesthetic with hand-crafted tradition.


Encantadora


Founded by entrepreneur and self-described “enchantress” Alexa Iacovelli, Encantadora Mezcal Cristalino is a trailblazer in the Mezcal category. Innovative and exacting, the former manufacturing company executive pioneered the use of charcoal filtration technology to remove color normally imparted in the mezcal from barrel aging. The result of this blend of Espadín and wild Tepeztate agaves is a sparkling — crystal, if you will —expression that is smooth yet complex.


Doña Vega


What began as a passion project, soon developed into a pursuit of perfection for former public relations executive Sonya Vega. A hyper-focused mission to create balanced mezcal—one that is bold yet not overwhelmingly smoky—has resulted in a modern and creative take on workhorse agave espadín and wild tobalá. A female-owned and operated enterprise, Doña Vega mezcals are crafted in Santiago de Matatlán, Oaxaca by a maestra mezcalera who, along with Sonya, is committed to making mezcal more accessible and approachable.


Mano y Corazón


Zayury Jimenez faced gender discrimination from her grandfather’s mezcal business partners after she attempted to continue his legacy upon his passing. Undeterred by this still-widespread attitude toward women, Zayury secured independent funding and launched her own brand in Oaxaca, a move that allowed her to truly follow her mission of empowering women and preserving nature and tradition. She now employs a team of hardworking females including maestra mezcalera Maura Manzano and her husband who craft a velvety, crisp, and robust espadín mezcal.


Yola


Outspoken for gender equality, YOLA’s founders, Yola Jimenez, Gina Correll, and Lykke Li, fiercely promote autonomy and economic independence for women in Oaxaca. At all levels of production women are the driving force of this dynamic brand: their all-female hand-bottling facility offers a fair, direct wage to their workers, while their handcrafted and organic 1971 Mezcal Espadín is distilled under the guise of maestra mezcalera Guadalupe Bautista and her husband. Paying homage to her family’s tradition, YOLA Mezcal is made from a recipe passed down by Yola’s grandfather and from agaves harvested from a family farm in San Luis del Rio purchased in 1971.

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