Mal Bien Papalote 48.1% – Refugio Calzada & 50.3% – Ciro + Javier Barranca

Two Maguey Papalote, Side by Side

Two more samples from the large Mal Bien black tape tasting I participated in. (kindly ignore the 3rd sample bottle in the picture and read the review of that Zacatoro next!)

Both of these were created with similar production methods and I wanted to see just how much hand-of-the-maker influence there might be when comparing the two. I haven’t been disappointed yet with any of the black tape producers and I expect these both to be well made spirits.

Full details on these batches can be found over at Mal Bien.

Papalote 48.1% – Refugio Calzada

Some wonderful olive brine notes on the nose. A bit lactic and spice rub like a yogurt marinade. The alcohols are very forward to me. Oxidized green apple. Lime. Citrus chemical cleaner scents. Lots of spices – dried ginger and coriander. Watermelon rind. As it sits, more pleasant aromas come out as the alcohols mellow in the glass.

On the palate that olive brine carries over like pickled red onion. Savory flavors like adobo beef. Oyster sauce. Chinese 5 Spice, star-anise. Roasted red meat. The texture is wonderful and the flavors pair very well with one another. Some herbs hit from the back of the palate, cilantro and mint. It’s a shawarma with tahini sauce and roasted vegetables.

The finish comes as a bit of a let down. The roasted meat flavors are gone with wood and charcoal replacing them. More mineral rich earthy flavors and a bit of a metallic tin or iron flavor. Way on the back end of the finish, after all of the other flavors subside, is a delicate floral, rose water-esc flavor.

I rather enjoy the depth and transition this mezcal goes through in the glass. As time progressed in my sample, flavors evolved and became more vibrant and cohesive on the palate. I just found myself enjoying the last few pleasant sips, taking in everything. Don Cuco has created an incredible mezcal.

Papalote 50.3% – Ciro + Javier Barranca

The nose is full of Lemon, grasses and hay. There’s a touch of salinity but overall very clean and floral like fresh linens. Some plum wine fruity fermented alcohol flavors. Funky flavors come out as it rests. Cranberry and Brie.

Very neutral flavor on the palate that builds up lots of clover and allspice heat and flavors. Sweet shortbread flavor balances out the heat. Proof is nearly non-existent. Very easy to sip and enjoy. Dried tea, sage and rosemary. Fresh grilled vegetables. Baked starchy potato with herb butter.

Very short finish unfortunately. Some mild sulfery smoke comes through with familiar spices. A touch of fruit lightens things a bit but the grass notes shine through. Bold black tea with plenty of botanicals and herbs.

This can only be described as clean and appealing. It’s very well made but not something I could say is exceptionally unique. I would prefer the zacatoro over the papalote from Barranca. It has more of a unique character that gets lost here with the papalote.