The art of distilling has taken me on some interesting adventures. I must say, I see distilling more as alchemy over chemistry, rather than the other way around. Cultural alchemy, to be precise.
For the past five years, I've been immersed in distilling ancestral grains. I have been working with indiginous small-holding farmers from across the state of Oaxaca who grow the same native corn their forefathers invented over 350 generations ago. Five years ago, unable to compete with the cheap corn inundating Mexico from the US, these farmers were giving up on planting this heritage grain. The same thing was going on in the Sierra Mixteca. Once the region was a bread basket for wheat production, but over the past thirty years, the Mixtec people have been unable to bring their heirloom grains to market because they could no longer compete with industrially cultivated grain. I'm now working with three farmers who have begun again to sow the wheat of their grandmothers.
Our production is currently limited to about forty cases per month. All our grains are cultivated, harvested, threshed and winnowed by hand. Literally. And we are distilling in 300 liter copper pot alembics that take their own sweet time.
Maíz Nation has three amazing liquids for sale in México. The first is a Ginebra Mixteca, a truly regional gin that is mind-blowingly smoothe; distilled from Mixtec Native corn and antique wheat with wild, mountain juniper berries and local botanicals. The other two are distilled from native corn from villages in regions as diverse as the coastal plain of Oaxaca, the Sierra Mixteca, the jungles of la Chinantla and 3,000 meters above sea level in the Sierra Juárez. One is clear and unaged. Without the influence of oak on the liquid, you can taste the many varieties of native corn that this crazy landscape produces. The other is a barrel strength, three-year-old, American oak-aged confluence of Ancestral and Contemporary.