Campanilla

Located in the center of Mexico, San Luis Potosi provides a gateway to a handful of states and incredible environments, ranging from tropical forest to the semi-deserted lands of the Mexican Plateau. Here lies one of the most important mining settlements of the country and an incredible agave species - also subspecies - commonly known as Salmiana. With a longevity of up to 25 years, the Salmiana is amongst the most iconic agaves of Mexico.

Their flowering stock reaches up to 20 metres at the end of its natural life and Mezcal production in the area is limited to wild harvest.

 

The Campanilla Family is one of the few guardians still upholding the traditional style of production, which goes beyond the ‘Ancestral’ method established for the CRM (Mezcal regulatory council). Proudly registered as an Agave spirit, Campanilla produces micro-batch productions that strongly represent their sense of place.

 

A rare style of claypot distillation beautifully transfers minerality, agave flavor and legitimate representation of the soil. Known as ‘campanilla’, this process is now an almost extinct style of distillation.  

 

But it all really starts with the cooking process:

Due to the lack of wood in the state, the oven is different from the classic oven pit used in the majority of other mezcal producing states. A burner lies below, which is fed with Mezote (the dry bottom of agave) and dry pencas for 12-14 hours. Then the burner gets sealed and cooked with reminiscent heat for a further 48 hours. This high attention demand results in significant fuel savings since no heat is dissipated. It also adds natural unique flavors and the characteristic features of this exquisite mezcal.

 

The milling goes through two stages; the first is a classic Tahoma with a drainage system leading directly to the fermentation area, locally known as ‘charangua’. Neighboring is a circular stone tub roughly 1.5 meter in diameter. Just above hangs a twist press hammock where the grinded bagasse from the Tahona is placed for one last squeeze. All that remaining juice also falls into the ‘charangua’ vat, where natural fermentation takes place after a few liters of Pulque (Agave penca larga) are tossed in to kick-start the process. 

 

Here the process of distilling Campanilla starts.

 

A bit of fiber is added to the charging pot which stands around 70 cm tall and is 50cm in diameter. Known locally as ‘Olla de charangua’, it can hold 60 liters of fermented agave juice. This clay pot vessel is tied with metal belts to prolong its life and, along with another other three vessels, is loaded and exposed to direct fire. A second claypot vessel (locally named ‘Caperote’) has no base that works as a neck to catalyze the condensation onto the copper filled with water and the third Claypot vessel (known as Campanilla) that is suspended inside, by two counterweights. These are made out of Agave pencas which sit outside the Caperote (see picture for detail).
On the copper stills water lays static, the maestr@ has to constantly "spoon" the water to help 
condensation. The change of water happens every 20 to 30 min (according to season). After nine "waters" you will fill out the campanilla vessel and one distillation will be complete. Process loops once again to obtain second distillation.

Campanilla pot still graphic

 

 

The system resembles the Capacha vessel, which was used in prehispanic civilizations.

Campanilla claypot stills

 

Written by christian schrader

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