A Labor Of Love – An Interview With Dos Hombres’ Meastro, Gregorio Velasco

Date:


I had the privilege of binge-watching Breaking Bad as my anxiety shot through the roof season after season. The show has become so iconic it’s difficult not to associate the lead actors — one whom was a modest chemistry teacher turned ruthless kingpin — making meth in an RV somewhere in the desert. Years later, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman have teamed up again.

Many know Dos Hombres Mezcal’s founders, prominent actors Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. However, there’s a third essential piece to the puzzle, without whom Dos Hombres would not exist: third-generation mezcalero Gregorio Velasco, who has been making mezcal in the tiny Oaxacan village of San Luis del Rio since he was eight years old.

Omaid Homayun: How did you cross paths with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul?

Gregorio Velasco: Bryan and Aaron took a week-long trip touring distilleries across the region of Oaxaca, and it is my understanding they weren’t finding anything they both really loved. They visited my village of San Luis del Rio on their very last day in the country and met with different mezcaleros in town to no avail. As they were leaving, my son approached them and invited them to our family’s operation to sample. By an act of fate, they said yes! They followed my son through a river and small hike. And as they say, the rest is history.

Homayun: What is the significance of being a maestro?

Velasco: To me, being a maestro is more than just a passion — it’s my heritage. Mezcaleros have been in my family dating back to my grandfather who started the tradition. Being a maestro has given me the opportunity to meet great individuals, make some honest and loyal friends, enjoy life, and visit places I would not have imagined before.

Homayun: Why are you passionate about making mezcal?

Velasco: Mezcal is in my heritage, in my blood. Yes, it is a passion of mine but more so it’s the ability to do something I love that connects me to my family.

Sometimes it takes me back to the time I used to hang out with my father at the Palenque, and it reminds me of the wise words he had to share when I was older. It is funny, because he used to say time does not go back, and yet here I am, aiming to make the most of the present, while keeping in mind valuable life lessons he taught me.

Making mezcal is also a great way to stay in tune with nature, with the very soil we step on; when you work the land and grow agaves, you end up relating to the seasons of the year in a very special way. There is an unspoken balance when you become aware of your place on earth and having the chance to connect with all this every day. It is just a blessing.

Homayun: What were some of the most important lessons you learned from watching your ancestors make mezcal early on?

Velasco: Hard work, always. Making sure you are aware of every tiny detail in the process from agaves being at ripe point to be harvested, to watching out for the copper stills heat and temperature. When it comes to mezcal, there is only the right timing for every step of the process.

When I was still a kid, I used to be fascinated by the cooking process of agave. In my mind I was amazed at how quickly we could transform a green recently cut agave pina into sweet, cooked agave you can eat. All this usually within three days. Unbelievable, if you asked me at the time.

Homayun: What are your earliest memories growing up in San Luis del Rio?

Velasco: One of the fondest memories I have is diving into the river with childhood friends. We would race each other across the river maybe for hours and enjoy some fresh fruit from local trees as a reward.

It was quite a challenge for a bunch of children at that time. Since we all learned how to swim in the same river, we enjoyed it without any worries until my mother came looking for us to have dinner. If we were lucky enough, she would let us have some pot coffee and pastries at the end of day.

Homayun: Why are you passionate about making mezcal?

Velasco: Mezcal is in my heritage, in my blood. Yes, it is a passion of mine but more so it’s the ability to do something I love that connects me to my family.

Sometimes it takes me back to the time I used to hang out with my father at the Palenque, and it reminds me of the wise words he had to share when I was older. It is funny, because he used to say time does not go back, and yet here I am, aiming to make the most of the present, while keeping in mind valuable life lessons he taught me.

Making mezcal is also a great way to stay in tune with nature, with the very soil we step on; when you work the land and grow agaves, you end up relating to the seasons of the year in a very special way. There is an unspoken balance when you become aware of your place on earth and having the chance to connect with all this every day. It is just a blessing.

Homayun: How do you describe the process to make mezcal?

Velasco: Mezcal is a labor of love. There are five steps to the process, as follows:

  • Harvest: First, Espadin agave must be grown for at least six years before it’s ready for harvest. The leaves are cut off in the fields and the plant’s piña is dug up.
  • Cooking: The root balls (or pineapples) are chopped into quarters then placed into earthen pits of hot stones and covered with soil. Four days of baking the agave brings out their natural sugars.
  • Milling: The sweet fruit is then transferred to a round, above-ground pit, where a traditional stone wheel, usually pulled by a donkey, breaks down the cooked agave into a mash.
  • Fermentation: The mashed agave is put into wooden tubs of mountain spring water. Left to ferment over the next 7 to 10 days, the mash becomes a “tepache.”
  • Distillation: The tepache is loaded into copper stills, heated to an exact temperature, and watched carefully over the next two days as it slowly drips into a basin…the result is a deliciously smooth Mezcal.

Homayun: What is unique about how Dos Hombres is made compared to other mezcal?

Velasco: Made with Espadin agave, our Dos Hombres Mezcal combines apples, mango, local Oxacan fruits, producing an aroma of apples to perfectly balance the Espadin agave, the mango provides a hidden freshness and subtle sweetness of fruit, the local fruits give hints of “zapote” fruit all fermented in wooden barrels to produce a discreet smoky finish.

Homayun: What should people know about the difference between mezcal and tequila?

Velasco: What many people don’t know is that tequila is a type of mezcal. Mezcal can be made with up to 11 different varieties of agave plant, while tequila consists of just one.

Homayun: What is your favorite way to drink mezcal?

Velasco: Neat, sipping it. You cannot beat the experience of the full taste and aromas of authentic mezcal awaking in your mouth.

Homayun: What makes Tobala Mezcal so unique?

Velasco: Tobala’s taste comes from the Copal trees in our region which impregnate and perfume the soil where Tobala agaves are grown. Copal is a sacred tree to our village as the resin used to purify and bless the environment. Additionally, Tobala must be found in the wild and matured for at least 25 years before harvesting, so it is a rare and unique plant that isn’t easily found. Because of its ingredients and the time and effort it takes to produce tobala, it is considered sacred and detoxing to some communities. It is meant to be shared to connect with nature.

Homayun: How have the social and environmental sustainability efforts impacted San Luis del Rio? How has it noticeably changed people’s lives?

Velasco: Our village is very small. In fact, there is only one phone in the whole village! The efforts Bryan and Aaron have made for us locals are above and beyond and have greatly impacted our day-to-day lives.

  • In September 2021, they constructed and donated a water filtration system for the town.
  • They also built a cooling system to treat the water used to cool the copper stills during distillation so this water may be repurposed, to reduce the amount of water usage required for alcohol production.
  • With the launch of their new merch collection, they are donating 100% of proceeds to continue furthering these efforts in addition to building roads for our community and more.

Homayun: Why is it important to plant two Tobala plants to each one you harvest?

Velasco: Tobala must be found in the wild and matured for at least 25 years, so it is very important to plant two Tobala plants for each one we harvest so that generations of mezcalaros can continue to build a life and delicious product in our village.

Homayun: What makes the partnership with Bryan and Aaron special?

Velasco: With Bryan and Aaron, it has always been about honoring our mutual commitments and promises. For me the key of this partnership is that we always deliver. Not just myself, or even Bryan and Aaron, but also the amazing team we have supporting our day-to-day operations.

You can speak beautiful words, but if your actions do not match those words, then it all would become meaningless.

In this industry, particularly as a mezcal maestro, you get to meet different types of people, with views on how to build a brand, and many of them tend to make elaborate but in the end, empty promises.

With Bryan and Aaron, it is all fulfilled promises. And I look forward to keeping up our joint effort to bring the mezcal experience to the people out there looking to taste authenticity.

Homayun: What is a setback you’ve learned from growing this business?

Velasco: We are always learning new lessons. There is always a way for improvement, and we must keep open minds to grow.

In terms of mezcal production, when we started cooking higher volumes of agave pinas, it became crucial to keep an almost permanent watch on the conic oven while heat is on, and afterwards (after concluding the cooking of pinas). The issue is that even after you think the oven cannot be lit again, because of the high temperatures and strong wind, if you are not paying attention, fire will start again and could ruin the recently cooked agaves.



Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

Popular

More like this
Related

How to stop phone number spoofing and protect yourself from scammers

Join Fox News for access to this content...

What is Bitcoin? Key cryptocurrency terms and what they mean

As Bitcoin's price makes headlines once more, here's...