For nearly a decade, a small group of artists, musicians, writers and travelers has been drinking Ilegal Mezcal, a handcrafted brand of Mexican artisanal liquor with a notorious history that includes smuggling and weeklong parties in a clandestine bar in Guatemala. Ilegal was born out of John Rexer’s bar, Café No Sé, an eclectic international watering hole in colonial Antigua, Guatemala. Ilegal has texture and is not diluted and polluted by an industrial process, says Rexer. It’s like old hand-tooled leather versus cheap pleather. It’s seductive. People from all walks of life understand the difference. It’s a way of thinking and wanting to live as much as it is fine liquor. Ilegal is made in Oaxaca by a fourth-generation mezcalero with a passion for keeping a 500-year-old tradition alive. Pure Espadin agave is baked in earthen pits, stone ground, naturally fermented and distilled twice in small batches. The process is an art form and the result is a beautifully balanced spirit with just a kiss of smoke, making it ideal for cocktails or as a sipping spirit.
Far less smoky than most Mezcals, this is a smooth and velvety Mezcal that could easily pass for a slightly brash Tequila. Zesty with huge agave character up front, then a tangy lemon and citrus finish. The body is moderate and a touch hot, but it’s refined and easygoing.