NETA - Destilado de Agave

We first met Niki Nakazawa during harvest 2018 at Lucy Margaux (Adelaide Hills - Australia), who at the time had just wrapped-up consulting on the mezcal program for the Noma pop-up in Mexico. Her intentions were to get her hands dirty, making wine to better understand the similarities it has with the agave spirit – indeed both beverages draw clear parallels from their incredibly diverse worlds.

NETA (which translates as 'truth' or 'real deal') was established by co-founders Niki Nakazawa, Max Rosenstock and Yuskei Murayama. The trio works primarily with several small, family farmers/distillers from the community of Logoche, in the district of Miahuatlán, Oaxaca. Situated at the southern tip of the Central Valleys and the foot of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains. An area that is well renowned for producing some of the finest agave spirits anywhere in Mexico – owing to the strong character of its people, its diverse landscapes, and the rich agricultural and culinary traditions that have been maintained throughout generations.

Celso and family

Some mezcaleros follow their ancestors’ traditions to the letter, while others experiment to carefully fine-tune the laborious process in accordance with their own tastes, observations, and relationships with the natural world. The maestros follow traditional methods: they cook their magueyes in conical earthen oven, the mashing is done by machete and mill, fermentation occurs with native yeasts in cypress wood tanks, and double distillation is made in copper pot stills. No two productions can ever be the same as environmental conditions, the use of well or spring water, natural yeasts, and soil types all contribute to their nuances just as much as the touch of their maker – the definition of 'terroir' par excellence!

We feel fortunate to work with these extraordinary spirits from some of Oaxaca's tight-knit rural communities. They would never be found outside of their place of origin if it was not for the hard work and integrity of the passionate bunch behind NETA. The current releases focus on single-varietal agaves, that represent the flavour and landscape of Miahuatlán, as well as field-blends or 'ensambles' – the most traditional type of agave spirit and, inherently, the most sustainable in its production.

Don Tomás García Cruz


Espadín 'Capón' (46.1%) - 432ltr produced - November 2020

Elder brother of Celso and Cándido (see below), Don Tomás was born in 1950, on the same land he and his family proudly maintain today. For more than five generations, the family has been respected as a power-house of local production, as well as the keepers of knowledge and expertise in Logoche and the district of Miahuatlán.

While the ubiquitous varietal espadín (species Angustifolia) may not be endemic to Oaxaca, its relatively quick maturation time, ease of reproduction, and high yield has made it a favourite of growers and distillers in Miahuatlán. However, with little regulation and control on a state or federal level, the region has been left with very few organically grown and mature espadín plants, making a batch of this size and quality something of a rarity these days.

Together with his sons, Nícolas, Juan, and Eliazar, Don Tomás dedicated 50 piñas to the crafting of this November 2020 batch – due to the fluctuating temperatures in this cooler time of year, experienced palenqueros are aware that their late autumn and winter productions will generally have longer fermentation times than their hot and dry spring-made counterparts, often producing high-tone flavours and a more lifted balance.

Don Tomás works with 'quiotudo' agaves (also known as 'capón'), meaning he cuts each plant’s flowering stalk (quiote) before it has a chance to fully develop (approximately reaching one-meter high) – a laborious method which concentrates the agave’s sugar in the piña, increases yield, and develops a richness of flavour not found in agave 'de guía' – harvested right before the quiote emerges.

This espadín is a wonderful celebration of the family's work and a true reflection of the lands and hands behind the liquid.

01_Vine_Trail_Neta_Mezcal_Espadin Espadín and its quiote – the stalk that shoots up when ready to reproduce

Cándido García Cruz


Tequilana (49.9%) - 220ltr produced - March 2015

Cándido has followed in the footsteps of his forefathers, farming and distilling agave his entire life. As per his brother Don Tomás, he works with agaves 'capón' (see espadín section) to produce mezcales with deep and bold flavours.

The tequilana plants in this production come from stock that was originally acquired in the mid 1990’s through local mezcalero associations – in the context of increased contact with middle men and representatives of the Tequila industry. Despite existing regulations around the use of agave from outside the territories established in the Denomination of Origin of Tequila, Oaxaca became a source of raw material in times of agave shortages, spurring the movement of clones to Oaxaca, where they could be grown cheaper and brought back to the industrial factories of Jalisco. While the majority of these crops were sold back to Jalisco, local producers kept some for themselves after quickly taking note of the sweet flavour of the cooked agave and the high yields of the starch-rich varietal 'blue weber', referred to in Oaxaca as tequilana, tequilera, tequilero, or azul.

Although the stewardship of local species and micro-endemic cultivars takes priority, farmers in Logoche continue to propagate small amounts of these 'imported' agaves out of genuine curiosity and passion, as well as taking pride of crafting them into spirits arguably finer then anything bottled under the appellation Tequila.

The particular plants used for this batch were from the first generation of tequilana to be reproduced and grown in the red soils of Cándido’s 'tierra cascajo'. Cándido crafted this lot in 2015, and won’t be producing any more spirits from the agave tequilana for another few years, making this rich and bold destilado a real rarity (220ltr).


Tobalá (45%) - 100ltr produced - February 2022

For generations, the tobalá that grows in the valley and forests of Miahuatlán has been used as a source of food, drink, and medicine. With the introduction of distillation in the colonial period, tobalá has become increasingly revered for its flavour profile and medicinal properties. While tobalá has commonly been classified as species Potatorum or Seemanniana, studies from the last decade have confirmed that wild plants are more than often hybrids between the two families, resulting in nearly infinite morphological expressions – this phenomena is known as a 'species complex'.

Don Cándido and family worked this small batch of Tobalá using plants provided by magueyeros from the village of San Lorenzo Mixtepec (Miahuatlán), located further east of Logoche, and snuggled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur. While production season is generally limited to the hot and dry Spring months, there exists a belief that the full moon of January provides for a decent yield. That may not have necessarily been the case in this instance with 100ltr produced from nearly 2,800kg of agave – but the family finessed a remarkably delicious spirit with fragrant and complex citrus aromatics!

Celso García Cruz


Bicuixe (47.3%) - 200ltr produced - April 2021

The bicuixe (species Karwinskii), or cuixe as it can also be called in the area, plays such a quintessential role in local mezcal production that it could be considered the most archetypal and definitive expression of Miahuatlán. While it is primarily a wild varietal, it could also be considered semi-cultivated as it is frequently transplanted and used to demarcate property lines and prevent soil erosion in the fields. Bicuixe is far from uniform in appearance as there are multiple phenotypes and ecotypes, but one of its primary characteristics is its long and tree-like stalk, often larger than the actual piña in size. While the bicuixe piña has a moderate sugar content, they are small in comparison to other Karwinskii varietals and have a much larger stalk to piña ratio, which translates into slightly bitter notes, lending the distilled spirit an incredible balance, lovely rusticity, and lifted herbal aromatics.

Celso García Cruz has been involved in the family business since he was a child, but it wasn’t until returning from eight years of military service in northern Mexico that he dedicated himself to cultivating and distilling maguey. His wife Felipa is also of strong mezcalera heritage, she and their children help with nearly every batch they produce at their palenque. The family works together unearthing the cooked piñas, chopping and mashing the agave, and watching over the old sabino wood fermentation tanks. Celso distills around 1,000 liters of agave every year, batch sizes range from a miniscule 20ltr to around 400ltr, depending on the quantity and variety of agave he uses.

Finished in May 2019, Celso with the help of his family, followed his signature recipe, harvesting 300 piñas of wild growing bicuixe plants from their rocky 'cascajo rojo' parcels, all of which were carefully selected for their ripeness. The maestro maintains the practice of resting his freshly cut agave for several days before and after the cooking process, a method for maximising flavours and yield.

This batch is the fifth Neta release of a very special annual production from master distiller Celso. Nearly 300 piñas of mixed guía and quiotudo (see espadín section) wild bicuixe were harvested around full moon from a rocky parcel known as La Mina – this stretch of land shared by the family of Celso, his brothers, and nephews, consistently produces some of the most robust and sugar-rich agave in the area.

07_Vine_Trail_Neta_Mezcal_Bicuixe Wild bicuixe

Ramón and Wilfrido García Sánchez


Barril (47.1%) - 100ltr produced - June 2021

Brothers Ramón and Wilfrido represent the next generation of maestros in Logoche – respectively born in 1987 and 1989 – they stepped into their grandfather’s palenque as teenagers to make their first batch in 2004.

The brothers collected seeds from a micro-endemic and wild growing species Angustifolia outside of Llano Grande (Miahuatlán), and they've been propagating this very unique agave back home in Logoche – it is known as barril (for its barrel-shaped piñas), but has absolutely no relation to the large Karwinskii types commonly found throughout Ejutla and the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. Despite having been identified as an Angustifolia, this maguey is unique in its own right, and is distinct from the ubiquitous espadín.


The family has planted these barril agaves in different parcels, but the 20yo magueyes harvested for this batch come from a clay-rich, red earth stretch known as El Llano. Perhaps it was the two decades the magueyes spent growing in the field, or something related to the intrinsic qualities of the plant, but the aromas and flavours of this small production are incomparable to anything else from the region.


Miguel Osorio Gutierrez


Ensamble - Tepextate, Jabalín, Coyote, Madrecuixe (49.4%) - 80ltr produced - June 2021

"El Grillo" is a much loved and respected member of his community. From his mother's side, Miguel Osorio Gutierrez descends from one of the founding families of Logoche – palenqueros who settled in the area for the purpose of clandestine distillation of the diverse and wild agaves that grow in hills and ravines. Full of jokes and well humoured, Miguel is also a skilled chef and gifted artist whose multiple talents are sought after throughout the region. He is a weaver of the 'cucharillo' leaves that compose arches and decorative ornaments for weddings, where he is also often invited to deliver the cleverly worded 'versos' sung at said events. When there is a death in the community, it is Miguel who arranges the 'tapete de arena', a sand-painting left at the altar.

Despite not working out of his own palenque, Miguel grew up in what were (at the time) shared production spaces, where a multitude of individuals arrived to socialize and process their agaves. Thanks to his years of working with different magueyes and multiple generations of skilled producers, Miguel's experience and knowledge are profound. Over the last decade, he has been planting an impressive amount of agaves on his land, these various species are only beginning to mature now. In the meantime, his productions remain small, crafting three or four batches a year, totaling around 300ltr annually.

This predominately wild-harvested field blend (or ensamble) combines nearly equal parts jabalín (species Convallis), coyote (species Lyobaa), madrecuixe (species Karwinskii), and tepextate (species Marmorata) that were harvested from red earth hillside. The aromas and flavors are quintessentially indicative of the region, where the endemic agaves used in its composition interplay wonderfully with the land and water of Logoche. The crafting of ensambles forms part of a long-standing regional practice that regularly produces the deepest and most complex destilados one can find.

Only 105 bottles were produced, exclusive to the U.K., and available through Vine Trail.

07_Vine_Trail_Neta_Mezcal_Jabalin Jabalín

Hermógenes Vásquez

Hermógenes and his son Jorge

Ensamble - Tepextate, Sierra Negra (48.6%) - 85ltr produced - October 2021

Hermógenes and his wife, Paula Aquino Sánchez, both descend from a long line of palenqueros from the villages outside of Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz. Carrying on the family tradition of growing agave, they plant espadín, tobalá, bicuixe, madrecuixe, and other local varieties on the lands that surround their ranch in Logoche. The family always work in congruence with natural and lunar cycles, and their maguey matures alongside their annual crops of corn, beans, and squash.

Their unique field blend (ensamble) incorporates two extremely different species endemic to Miahuatlán. Made with nearly equal parts (in term of juice) of the very rare cultivar sierra negra (species Americana), and tepextate (species Marmorata), this is an aromatically expressive marriage that defines both of these agave varietals in their own right.

During the days surrounding the full moon of October 2021, Hermógenes and family harvested three large 15yo sierra negra (capón) cultivated on their parcel called Piedra Lisa. They were cooked and mixed with 12 (even older) wild tepextate collected from the steep and extremely rocky ravines just below Piedra Lisa.

Tepextate often grows alongside red copal trees
Paula Aquino Sánchez

It is interesting to note that in Oaxaca, the once cherished but slow growing Americana cultivars (like sierra negra) were displaced by the 'imported' espadín. A situation in which many magueyeros decided to abandon the slow maturing Americana types in favour of the high-yielding espadín, which would allow the magueyero to harvest nearly twice the amount of agave mass and profit during the same time period.

Over the last decade or so, the families in Logoche have focused their cultivation efforts on the revitalisation of rare agaves which are now being reproduced and cultivated from both seed and clone. The conservation of these often hyper-regional magueyes is important in the maintenance of healthy and diverse ecosystems, but for many, it is also an attempt to preserve the 'gusto histórico' of local flavours and savoir-faire – the 'historical taste' aka 'goût de terroir'!

Aniceto García

Aniceto and his brother Martial

Ensamble - Madrecuixe, Bicuixe, Barrilito (49%) - 128ltr produced - May 2022

Aniceto García, or Cheto, as he is amicably known, simply makes some of the finest agave spirits that exist anywhere; he descends from a legacy of palenqueros longer than oral history remembers, and the ethereal qualities of his spirits are time capsules. Based in San Luis Amatlán (20min drive from Logoche), a natural spring bubbles in front of the house and below his palenque, providing water for the making of his stunning mezcales – as opposed to the community of Logoche where well water is commonly used.

This spectacular ensamble was made with equal parts of three distinct subspecies of the Karwinskii family endemic to Miahuatlán. The maguey known regionally as bicuixe is the most prolific wild agave in the region, while the madrecuixe remains an iconic cultivar from San Luis Amatlán. The barrilito used in this batch, which only grows about one-meter in height, is an extremely rare genotype that is seemingly only found in a small stretch of lands SE of San Luis Amatlán – an area long recognised for the quality of its mezcal, and a wealth of diversity of sugar-rich agaves (of both cultivated and wild types).

In early April 2022, Aniceto roasted a mix of 'en guía' and 'capón' agaves during a five-day cooking process. The magueyes rested for 12 days before the piñas were broken down with a machete and the traditional wooden mallet known as 'mazo'. Cooked to a caramelised perfection, the fibres and juices required a four-day dry fermentation before spring water was added for a six-day wet fermentation, with periodic inspection of aromas and flavours.

Aniceto follows a recipe for distillation using the same materials and techniques shown to him by his grandfather: a copper boiler pot and cap, fitted with a refrescadera cooling jacket. Unlike some other methods in the vicinity, Aniceto fills the refrescadera with cool water three times during each round of distillation, or postura. A select cut of high proof liquid from this first round, which he refers to as "shishe macizo", is separated and used to lower the final alcohol content of the heads and hearts cuts selected from the rectification in the second distillation. Around three liters of shishe macizo was separated and used to compose a total of 128ltr at 49%.

01_Vine_Trail_Neta_Mezcal_Madrecuixe Madrecuixe
Maestro Aniceto harvesting a wild Tepextate

Tepextate (50.7%) - 60ltr produced - September 2022

20 piñas of wild tepextate 'en guía' were selected in the rugged hills above Aniceto's ranch, where the chalky, limestone terrain is populated by cacti, copal, and a diverse mix of flora and fauna.

Tío Cheto – as he’s known by friends – is aware of the tips and tricks to working with the maguey found locally. Resting times for tepextate are crucial, and he allows little time to pass between harvest, roast (cooking), and maceration.

Tepextate ferments quickly in general, but Cheto’s mashing of cooked agave with a wooden mallet allows for collection of extra juices and requires the use of less water – therefore facilitating a faster fermentation time. Saying that, this particular batch was made during the monsoon rain season that sees lower temperatures and greater concentrations of water in the agave; the mash ended up requiring slightly longer dry and wet fermentation time than usual for Aniceto – he was ready to distill nine days after uncovering the cooked agave and it produced one of the finest mezcal we’ve ever tasted: high-tone herbal flavours with grilled jalapeño, wild garlic, and fresh tobacco leaves, this is incredibly lifted with a balanced, dynamic mouthfeel – an ethereal umami bomb!

We were lucky to source the whole production: 78 bottles exclusively for the U.K.

The Process

Candido and Celso getting the piñas ready for cooking ...
... in conical earthen oven
A few cooked magueyes ...
... to be chopped with machete
Milling in preparation for mashing
Wild fermentation
Distillation of the wild ferment
Mezcal bien servido, salud!
1_Vine_Trail_Neta_Mezcal_Oaxaca Landscape of Miahuatlán