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Featured Artisan: Corte Vetusto

A Sacred Spirit, The Ancient Cut

On a small palenque in the town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla in Oaxaca you’ll find Juan Carlos Gonzalez Diaz, the Maestro Mezcalero of Corte Vetusto, the most highly awarded mezcal in the world.

Though Corte Vetusto has only been in official production for a few years, the expertise, knowledge, and artist’s touch that Juan Carlos brings to his mezcal was developed over generations.

Juan Carlos Maestro Mezcalero Corte Vetusto

Juan Carlos is a 4th generation Zapotec Maestro Mezcalero. The Zapotec are one of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, with a culture that dates back several millennia. Mitla, in fact, is most well-known for its archeological ruins, a sacred burial site of the Zapotec.

Juan Carlos learned the traditions, techniques, and special skills of mezcal production from watching and working alongside his grandfather and his father. Though for a time he trained as and intended to be an architect, he ultimately returned to the family legacy. He believes he was called back to the world of mezcal by the voices of his ancestors.

As an artisanal mezcal, Corte Vetusto is inherently small-batch and hand-crafted. Neither industrial processes nor scientific tools are involved in the creation of this exceptional spirit. Instead, as is tradition, every part of the process is carried out by hand, from the harvesting of the agave to the natural yeast fermentation to the final distillation in a wood-fired copper or clay still. 

mezcal palenque Corte Vetusti

Juan Carlos and his small team pride themselves on their agave selection – only the finest, most mature agave are chosen, as these yield the richest and most complex flavor. The centuries old tools and techniques they employ in artisanal mezcal production are simple but time-tested. Wielding them well requires great skill, a practiced eye, and tremendous patience.

Juan Carlos follows his ancestor’s traditions in the work, but has also, like any true craftsman, found his own voice, discovering ways to evolve within those traditions to make his own mark.  Consider his Tobalá and Ensamble II expressions: the double distillation first takes place in copper, but is then followed by a distillation in clay, a practice that is practically unheard of. 

In honoring the past, Juan Carlos has created a vision for the future with Corte Vetusto. Unlike most industrialized spirits production, which is designed to standardize a product so the same taste can be replicable until the end of time, the philosophy with Corte Vetusto is more similar to that of a fine wine. Each batch expresses something distinctive: about a particular agave's flavors, a specific moment in time, the yeast endemic to that microclimate or season, the style Juan Carlos believes is best-suited for that batch. Because of the natural variances in many aspects of the mezcal’s production each batch produced is singular and will never be produced again. In this way, every bottle is inherently limited edition.

Corte Vetusto Ensamble II against an agave plant

And this distinction hasn’t gone unnoticed. Corte Vetusto, since the year of its launch, has won multiple awards from the world’s most elite spirits competitions, including International Spirits Challenge, International Wine and Spirit Competition, and American Distilling Institute.

So see for yourself what it’s all about: discover the singular, exceptional taste of Corte Vetusto.