Mal Bien Mezcla 5 Magueyes 49.32% – Ciro + Javier Barranca

Papalote, Zacatoro, Espadín + Magueyes Desconocidos

This ensamble was composed primarily of the 3 varietals well-known in the region: papalote, zacatoro, and espadín. Two other rare, wildly cultivated, agaves were also added. According to Mal Bien their descriptions sound like A. Americana varietals.

Roasted and fermented together with a cook time of 4-5 days and roughly a week fermentation time in ayacahuite pine tanks. Twice distilled on copper alambique stills with the final flavor composition and proof adjusted with heads and tails.

This batch yielded 102 bottles, selected by Hi-Time Wine in California. More info on Batch #0321JB can be found on Mal Bien’s tech sheet.

Tasting Notes

An unmistakable clean, antiseptic quality on the nose. Banana leaf, palm fronds, and avocado oil. With even the briefest of rest times, the harsh alcohols fade away. Distinct dark cocoa powder aroma and cream-filled truffles. Tropical fruit peels and waste – Mango, peach, and lime. It’s a sweet nose but think of the more bitter notes from those fruits like peels, pits, and skin left over from your cutting board. Some sweet starchy vegetables like pumpkin and summer squash. Lastly, there’s a touch of seaweed and brine that ties it all together.

The palate is a sweet and fruity sip with a large dose of chili oil. The velvet texture has this mezcal clinging to your palate. Lots of fresh green veg – Cabbage, asparagus, green beans, and salted tomatoes. Sweet cream butter and hominy. Musk melon and honeydew. Yeasted fruit bread flavors with honeycomb, craisins, and dried currants. A woody element in the background reminds me of 2×4 pine lumber with a sap pocket. An earthy sweetness is how best I can describe it.

The “clean” component is back and the wood elements create a drying effect on the finish. It’s not as bad as other mezcals that have this quality but it certainly is not a favorite flavor profile. Thankfully it doesn’t last long and instead, you are left with a more palatable dried fruit flavor. Pineapple, raisins, dried coconut flakes. Mineral-rich water with calcium and slate flavors. The final characteristic of this ensemble is a slowly caramelized sweet onion flavor. It’s bright and sweet but brings a sharp bite that is much needed on the finish.


I sat on this review for a couple of reasons. The bottle was absolutely dreadful to me on the first pour. Chemicals and cleaning agents were so harsh that I felt like I had wasted my money. I decided I was going to let this bottle sit for a bit before returning to it and I’m glad I did. I set aside a 2oz sample to return to at another date while I left the bottle with about 200ml remaining in it.

When writing out my notes, I compared what the sample brought vs my opened bottle and the results surprised me. Letting an ounce sit out for about 10-15 minutes gave me similar results to the opened bottle. Some qualities did change a bit but overall the experience was nearly identical.

This isn’t my favorite batch from Javier but I enjoyed the composition more over time. The sweet vegetable elements really played favorably with the briny, salted bagel-like flavors. It took some time to open up to it and I may stick to the Zacatoro in the future but this was a fun ensemble to experience.