In a recent Forbes article, food writer Shayna Harris discusses the difficulties of small producers of mezcal to navigate several rough circumstances that came down on them at once in the past year. “Between the pandemic, an unprecedented frost in Oaxaca, and an ongoing drought,” she writes, “incomes have dropped dramatically” for many mescaleras, to about half of where they were before. What makes this troubling is that mezcal sales continue to soar in the US.
Harris spoke with Yola Jimenez, founder of Yola Mezcal. Yola Mezcal is rare in that there are only a handful of women-owned mezcal brands in the U.S. “The problem that mezcal is having right now,” Jimenez explains, “is that there are brands growing exponentially and need supply. They were buying from lots of small producers and making a homogeneous flavor that they can bottle. A lot of larger companies were buying from smaller producers. During the pandemic they started their own distilleries and hiring workers, without buying from small producers.”
Harris concludes that “the opportunity in mezcal is for Big Alcohol—and for celebrities like George Clooney— to recognize the opportunity to incorporate the artisan producers who created mezcal into the global supply chain in sustainable ways, rather than to exclude them.”