Review: Abasolo Aims to Put Mexican Whisky on the Map
The inspiration behind the corn whisky is both 4,000 years old and quite new
What we’re drinking: Abasolo, a just-launched whisky made from 100% cacahuazintle corn.
Where it’s from: Based in Jilotepec de Abasolo, about 1.5 hours outside of Mexico City, Abasolo is part of the Destileria Y Bodega Abosolo, the first ever distillery dedicated entirely to the production of Mexican whisky (they also produce a corn liqueur). The spirit hails from the same team behind Montelobos mezcal and Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, two very popular spirits that debuted within the last decade. “When we launched Ancho Reyes in 2013, I think it made all of our partners wonder if we could do even more with the native raw materials in Mexico,” says Camille Austin, Abasolo’s director of advocacy. “And one of most fundamental materials here is corn.”
Why we’re drinking this: First, while Mexican whisky is a thing, there are very few people producing it, and no one doing at any sort of scale (or in a dedicated whisky distillery) — until now.
Abasolo also has a lot of unique properties: It’s distilled entirely from non-GMO Cacahuazintle corn, which undergoes a roughly 4,000-year-old process called nixtamalization, where the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution (usually a lime bath), washed and then hulled. It’s the same process used before corn is ground into masa and made into tortillas or other Mexican staples.
As well, the corn and the distillery are located in a fairly high altitude — one of the roughly 10 highest whisky distilleries in the world, according to the Abasolo team. Having transformed former horse stables into open-air warehouses for the barrels, you’re getting a spirit distilled (twice, via copper pot stills) from an indigenous and succulent strain of corn in a climate where the liquid is rapidly expanding and contracting in the barrels thanks to the area’s wide temperature fluctuations.
The liquid is then aged for 24 months in 200L second-use American oak barrels — the majority of them via Buffalo Trace (with a Level 4 char).
How it tastes: This is a different animal from bourbon (which, you know, is also corn-based). It’s young (24 months) but I think additional aging might hurt this — right now it’s a bright flavor with hints of vanilla and rounded out by a creamy mouthfeel. Had you called this a roasted corn liqueur, I’d have believed it.
The Abasolo team likes their whisky either neat or in a variation of an Old Fashioned (utilizing their own corn liqueur and topped with a dried corn husk leaf), but Abaloso is also ideal for any sour or citrus-forward cocktail.
Fun fact: While tequila leads Mexican drinking culture, the second-most consumed spirit in the country is whisky. But about 98% of that consumption is whisky hailing from Scotland or the U.S.
Where you can get it: Right now, Abasolo is either on shelves or about to be available in California, Texas, Arizona, New York, Illinois and Florida, with a retail price of $40. (You can order it via Astor Spirits here).
Note that through August 1st, Abasolo is also giving 100% of its profits to Another Round Another Rally, which raises emergency funds for hospitality workers who are facing economic hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.