Sustainability is a very hot topic in the world of mezcal, and one I’m asked about with increasing frequency. Here’s a short read on how we approach it:
The first thing to point out is that Sin Gusano is primarily a consumer education project. We run pop-up bars with a calendar of social events and operate MAS (Mezcal Appreciation Society), which is a ticketed small-group tasting event, with immediate plans to evolve into a subscribers club (a UK first). Our branded box sets of agave spirits are en extension of the education, and our supply chain is entirely different to other brands.
The second thing to point out is that I do not believe mezcal is something that should be consumed in vast quantities.
All our spirits are personally sourced, from very small-scale family operations. We don’t buy from anywhere I haven’t personally visited, to meet with the producer and check out their production. In most cases the family will be harvesting semi-cultivated agave from their own land, using a natural water source, and only producing what they need for their family and their community to get by. We’re a million miles from issues like monoculture of over cultivated crops that exist in the mass-produced end of the industry.
We only buy small batches (typically 40 litres each) of really interesting and varied spirits, from all over Mexico. At this point I think I’ve bought batches from 15 different producers in 3 different states. In most cases their product has never left is local community before – it’s certainly never been anywhere near the UK. None of this is sustainable in the sense that you could come back for more of the exact same thing a few months later, because each batch is different – that’s what’s exciting about artisanal mezcal. But they are sustainable in their size of production and use of resources. It’s sustained itself for hundreds of years already.
The point is we tread very lightly in each community, taking away a sample and a story for the road for the purposes of education. We don’t ask producers to adjust their craft (often handed down many generations) in any way, or to upscale production. We also always buy at local prices, rather than driving a discount for a large purchase.
Sin Gusano is still quite small scale, but this model allows us to spread our investment around – sometimes to multiple producers within the same community. Environmental sustainability is a hot topic at the moment, and a worthy one, but it’s also really important to have an eye on social sustainability. I spend about a quarter of my year in Mexico, mainly travelling around mezcal country. Every mezcal producing village has multiple producers. For an external investor/brand to parachute in and pick just one to work with on a large scale, increasing their wealth (not to mention use of local resources) overnight, can bring its own problems to these close-knit communities.
There are brands out there doing great things, like compressing bagaso (used up fibres of the agave plant) into natural bricks to build houses. And there’s some brands doing not such great things. But Sin Gusano is a different and truly unique project. Our driving forces are a genuine love of Mexico and Mexican culture, and a real appreciation for the diversity that exists in mezcal and the communities that make it. The aim is to educate consumers to the point that they go on to make the right buying choices – whether that’s to buy from us, or from another brand with a genuinely quality product and the right ethos. We live in a consumer-based society. It’s consumers who hold the key to a properly ethical and sustainable industry.
As for our boxes themselves, they are made from fully recyclable corrugated cardboard. The box seal is actually hand made in Oaxaca from fibres of the agave plants used to make the mezcal. Each box is built by hand in London and where possible even hand-delivered. £5 from the sale of each box goes back to Oaxaca (on-top of already having paid for the product of course) in the form of a charity donation, or a small bonus to our producers or their community.
Enjoy our clean spirits with a clean conscience!