There was a time when tobala was considered a rarity with mezcal hunters. We've been told that the scarcity of growing wild and being a thorny, mean little bitch to harvest make it a special occasion-worthy mezcal. Now, having sampled a jabali mezcal for the second time, this one from Rey Campero (my first was from El Jolgorio) I can confess it's the vegetable suddenly topping my shopping list.
As its title suggests-named after a fierce wild pig, like tobala, it is not a friendly harvest.
Jabali is reputedly even smaller than the demure tobala. And just as spiky and pissed off at visitors.
There are very few jabalis to be found in the U.S., but it is now on my bliss radar.
I imagine its rarity is in direct proportion to the fact that they produce stunning liquids, in the correct hands. (I can't imagine a factory/commercial attempt at a jabali unless drizzled into a cute package and satanically priced for Congressional consumption.)
Without further digression:
AT first, subtle, soft aromas of pear and a hint of spicy mint leaves. An obvious lack of smokiness, rather, the aroma of a sweet, well-worn leather jacket. With time, the aroma shifts to a pungency of geranium leaf and Chinese 5 spice. Lovely floral notes persist as mineral shrouded spices emerge. I am reminded of a cup of hot atole on a chilly morning in a town in Chiapas. On the palate there is a rich, comforting viscosity. Fat and oily and not alcoholically hot (96.6 proof) for even an instant. The influence of terroir is apparent, dirt driven and deeply organic. Dried, ground chile pods and rusty, baked clay. A spiralling mouth carnival, where the blinking dark shadows of overripe guava and decomposing banana skin swirl the tongue like a dirty turnip tilt-o-whirl on a Mexican midway. I'm going on this ride again. RIght now.