It’s not often that we think about the stories behind the food that we eat, and less so about the spirits we drink. While there is typically a ‘spin’ or an ‘angle’ – a buzz piece meant to evoke a deeper connection to the booze that soaks our livers, and that we slam down with little regard for its true quality or character – the story behind Fortuna Mezcal doesn’t fit that mold. In brief, their story is as follows…
There are three pieces that comprise the Fortuna Mezcal story and how it’s come to be in Canada: the mescal, the medicine and the men. Fortuna Mezcal comes from four generations of artisan mezcaleros, now headed up by Ignacio Martinez, the Master Mezcalero from San Dionisio Ocotepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. Crafted from 100% Espadin Agave cut by hand, and baked in a traditional subterranean, conical earth oven, milled by the force of a mule and double distilled in a copper pot still – Don Ignacio uses only his eyes and his tongue to determine when each batch is ready for the bottle.
Walter Meyenberg helped popularize the mezcal movement in Mexico City nearly 10 years ago, opening a number of mezcalerias (mezcal bars). As if his life wasn’t already deeply involved with the crystal spirit, Walter was introduced to Don Ignacio and his mezcal through his naturopath as a recommended cure for a stomach ailment.
Michael Martin, the third partner in the Fortuna Mezcal family, came into the picture through a per-chance meeting with Walter at a bar. The two imbibed late in to the night and then didn’t see each other again until Mike coincidentally began renting an apartment above one of Walter’s bars. After much conversation and lamenting, Mike left his position with Diageo Plc. Latin America to help found the Fortuna Mezcal brand.
While I know that my account reads like another one of those manufactured media releases, this is exactly what I learned from speaking with all three last night at the Fortuna Night Party at URSA Restaurant. This was day two of Fortuna Week (February 25th through March 3rd) – a seven day spread of events held at WESLOGE, URSA, Reposado Bar, Toronto Temperance Society (TTS), The Spoke Club, La Carnita and Cold Tea. Fortuna Week is meant to expose palates to the smoky aromas and smooth taste of mezcal – a spirit that is meant for sipping, not shooting – and also contribute to the Fortune Foundation.
“This is a very personal project, one that has been my dream for the last 10 years,” Walter tells me. The Fortune Foundation donates $1 from every bottle sold to the community of San Dionisio, providing new opportunities for the locals and helping to fund research into their sustainable agricultural future. “Launching Fortuna means we can give something back to the Zapotecan community and culture, who for over 500 years have been making this awe inspiring liquid with their knowledge of the land.”
After engaging in several Fortuna rituals with the three – a sip of Fortuna Mezcal followed by a bite of orange sprinkled with worm salt, made from dried larva from the agave plant, stone crushed with salt and red chili – I’ve got a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the path that has led each one to this point. I tip back my glass and notice the pointed logo stamped on the bottom – a wheel of fortune representing the different “fortunes” life throws at you, rimmed by 77 Espadín Agave spikes for the birth year (1977) of Mike and Walter.
As I’ve come to learn, while there’s always a story… some are more compelling than others.
For more information about Fortuna Week events visit the Fortuna Mezcal website.