Mezcal Review – Los Siete Misterios Doba-Yej.
One of the main problems with mezcal is finding a good mixable one that doesn’t break the bank. The usual choice is the widely available Del Maguey VIDA but my long time favourite has been Los Siete Misterios Doba-Yej. It’s a bit of a mouthful but we can break it down a bit. The first part is the brand name (the seven mysteries) and they market a range of quality mezcals that are mostly in the €100+ range. Which we won’t be mixing with, will we? Good. However their entry level offering is a really good assertive mezcal that, at least in my neck of the woods, is affordable enough to mix with coming in at around the same price – or often a little less – than the ubiquitous VIDA. Doba-Yej is a local name for the most common form of agave – espadin – so it’s not quite as exotic as it sounds. If you’re new to the wonders of mezcal, the species of agave is to mezcal what grape varieties are to wine and espadin is the sauvignon blanc of the agave world. We really wouldn’t expect anything fancier at this price. I particularly like the eye-catching and slightly gnarly label designs and appreciate the simple bottles with a good wood-on-cork closure. But then things get complicated.
The Mezcal Lottery.
Now the really weird thing about this mezcal is that it changes from batch to batch with bottlings from different mezcaleros in different villages. Nuts heh? But really it shouldn’t be that surprising as this kind of mezcal is an extremely small scale (dare I say artisanal?) operation, usually involving no more than a handful of guys and a donkey. Los Siete Misterios are giving us access to that world at a fair price while making it a bit easier to track by changing the label with each bottling and printing plenty of information on the producers, methods batches and bottlings. Unfortunately this doesn’t help too much given that it’s often necessary to buy mezcal online as it’s not deeply stocked (if at all) by most European bottle shops. Some online sites are not yet very knowledgeable about mezcal (it’s still a pretty recent phenomenon outside of Mexico) and therefore are not that diligent at keeping the picture and data up to date. This makes Doba-Yej something of an interesting lottery but the good news is that even though there’s a lot of variation the contents of the bottle are mostly solid mezcals and good value.
I first discovered Doba-Yej in 2015 and it was love at first sniff but I noticed a big difference when the 2016 batch showed up. It had a powerful and slightly synthetic smell of pear drops and briny flavours that were up front and in your face and I was kind of disappointed by the lack of subtlety. All the stranger at the relatively low (for mezcal) strength of 42%. It was still a decent mixer but I was worried that the high tide mark for affordable mezcal had come and gone. While I’ve never sipped of the 2017 batch* I’m happy to report that the 2018 is much more to my liking. The nose is of dusty dry wood and the flavours are much more together and a lot less shouty even though it’s back up to 44% ABV. The smoke is there and there is a nice pepperiness too but all in a nicely rounded way. Sadly I didn’t keep any of the 2015 batch (although luckily I still had the empty bottle) as at that time I was unaware of the changing nature of this brand but my memory is that it was a very well integrated mezcal with decent smoke, fruit and brine flavours. I also note that production seems to be increasing with much larger batches (1200 bottles in ’15, 2003 in ’16 and 4500 in ’18) and the bottles no longer being individually hand signed and numbered. Mezcal is being changed by it’s own success but it’s reassuring to see that this isn’t always for the worse.
Now this has been a lot of waffle but I’m getting to the point now and that point is that Los Siete Misterios Doba-Yej is an interesting and affordable mixing mezcal if you’re the type that can embrace a bit of randomness. For now I’m happy to recommend the 2018 batch from lot DBY01/18 with the skeletal lady waving an agave bible in the air but if you come across any remaining bottles of the 2015 batch (skeletal pirate dude, 44.3%) snap them up immediately! I’d suggest passing on the 2016/17? batches (banner-carrying priesty-looking stiff) if you intend on sipping it but for mixing it’s still pretty acceptable. On the other hand you might be the type that values consistency over excitement in which case Del Maguey VIDA will never let you down.
For obvious reasons I can’t grade all batches** of Doba-Yej at once but the 2018 lady-Yej gets a well deserved:
*If there even was one; I’ve certainly seen no sign of any.
**I should also point out that it is at least possible that there are different batches within each year and labeling but in my (limited) experience there has been consistency within each year.