At Ranch El Tinieblo we plant and harvest all of the maguey used in the creation of our small-batch mezcal. Due to the insecurities and politics of the region, the ranch’s maguey had been left to its own devices for a decade to grow wild and bountiful, while we waited for the right moment to restart this unique process.
To be sure that our mezcal is full flavoured and a top-shelf product, we wait patiently for this wild maguey to mature before harvesting.
We greatly respect the time it takes to grow the maguey and for every one harvested we plant 25 more.
The farmer who harvests the maguey is referred as the (cortador).
During the harvest our maestro mezcalero Don Baltazar’s knowledge of maguey is unparalleled, and he is skilled in identifying the mature maguey (the unripe maguey is bitter and alters the flavour) ensuring that each batch will result in the gift of a refined mezcal.
The cooking stage of the process is a social endeavour, much like cooking a meal with close friends.
At Ranch El Tinieblo the whole crew gathers around the open-pit fire and assists in the roasting of the “pinas” over wood, rocks and earth. Knowledge is shared and stories are told in a timeless process that satisfies the soul.
As nighttime falls, the pit is covered in canvas and soil and is put to bed under the starry skies of the Tamaulipas desert.
gerund or present participle: milling
To mill the maguey, El Tinieblo keeps to tradition by use of the Egyptian traction mill, or Tahona.
Historically, our mill was powered by a team of horses but our concern for the safety of both animals and ranch hands inspired us to find a new and innovative way to mill. We have since manufactured our own mechanical horse to turn our one-ton monolithic rock to crush our cooked maguey.
This has brought us to the forefront of technology in the grinding and milling stage of the artisanal mezcal process, and has had the added benefit of making it more hygienic and efficient.
El Tinieblo respects the pre-Hispanic tradition of the fermentation process, allowing the natural yeasts of the air to help ferment our mashed maguey, which rests in open-air wood vats.
This process offers a rare moment of tranquility in the usually bustling ranch as we slow down and let the bacteria do its job.
With care, we move the mash into the casks handful by handful. Although labor intensive, it is from this stage of the process that we derive the final product’s rich complex flavor of roasted maguey, caramelized sugar, roasted fruit, flowers, vegetation and earth , and freedom is derived.
The traditional wood fire double copper still distillation process at Ranch El Tinieblo is a time to give thanks and feel gratitude for the bounty by offering the first few drops of distilled mezcal to the earth.
This ritual is part of every distillation and has been carried on for generations. The Spanish conquistadors introduced this process to the Mexican natives, who believed that mezcal purified the soul by ridding the body of evil spirits.
Mezcal soon became a valuable commodity for trade among local indigenous tribes in Tamaulipas as well as throughout Mexico.
gerund or present participle: bottling.
The bottling process at El Tinieblo is as artisanal as the liquid itself. We begin with recycled handblown glass and a 1930’s printing press to stamp embossed logos on 100% cotton paper labels. Each expression is hand bottled and heat-closed by our resident bottlers.
Each bottle is also clearly numbered by batch, maguey types and alcohol content.
gerund or present participle: sipping
Drinking El Tinieblo is a unique experience that ritual dictates be sipped leisurely from a traditional jicara, veladora or any open mouth glass with orange slices and handmade insect-based salts.
This communal spirit is best shared with friends in our ever-changing array of El Tinieblo craft cocktails.