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Tequila/Mezcal Reviews

Entering The Wolf Pack With Montelobos: Espadin vs Ensamble vs Tobala vs Pechuga


Montelobos, meaning Mountain of Wolves, is a pretty well-known Mezcal brand founded by Dr Ivan Saldana, in collaboration with several mezcaleros (Mezcal producers) in Oaxaca and Puebla.

Saldana, originally from Mexico, had been in the UK doing his PhD in molecular plant biology, when it struck him to study a less understood plant varietal that was nevertheless a staple in his home country - the agave. He ended up bringing tons of agave to the UK for his research work, and as a consequence even became the first to grow agave that was entirely bred in the UK. Post his PhD, he would go on to become Head of New Product Development at Pernod Ricard. Eventually he got the idea to create a brand that would shine a more dedicated light on spirits, and by extension its agricultural bases, native to Mexico. This led to the creation of the Mexican spirits behemoth that is Casa Lumbre.


Dr Ivan Saldana.


Under Casa Lumbre, Saldana would begin working with mezcaleros to create Mezcals specifically for Montelobos - this would involve Saldana working with the mezcaleros, rather than simply purchasing Mezcals off of the distillers. The brand itself would take its name from a set of mountain ranges that border between Mixe and the Zapotec regions.

By 2019, a decade after its establishment, Montelobos would be acquired by Italian drinks giant Campari.



Core to the brand's lineup are four expressions, two of which are centered on specific agave varietals - Espadin and Tobala; the third being a blend of Espadin and Tobala; with the last being a special traditional Mexican Pechuga - an Espadin agave-based Mezcal that is distilled a third time with turkey breasts, fruits and spices, that is traditionally consumed during Mexico's Day of the Dead.

Let's give them a go! Onward!

Montelobos Espadín Joven Mezcal - Review


Tasting Notes

Aroma: Mellow smokiness of almost a mash of wood cinder (like wood that’s almost to the tail end of burning) and burnt leaves. There’s a slight bit of citrus too. It’s got a dense quality to it and is quite earthy with some deeper notes of burnt soil.

Taste: The smokiness hits first with more of that burnt grass note, but this is backed up by some bittersweetness of cacao nibs. Bits of candied apples, cinnamon, cloves, dark honey. Medium-bodied with a good amount of complexity.

Finish: Alittle more vegetal here, burnt agave, white pepper. Pretty long finish with quite a deep warmth.


My Thoughts

This was pretty interesting - the fruit flavours were much more pronounced than I expected, and what I particularly liked was that it had a very natural quality to it. It didn’t feel forced or out of place, rather it was a natural fruitiness that wasn’t too out of reach from what you think of when you’re thinking of agave plants. It was well integrated and harmonised with the overall earthy flavours.

Another aspect that struck me was that this mezcal wasn’t particularly bitter which makes it much more beginner friendly - if anything it’s almost slightly sweet, the way you think about dark chocolate. I like the spices here as well that altogether gave it a nice rich flavour and a good complexity. That said, I think the palate could amp it up on the intensity of the flavour and its depth. While the flavours were strikingly tasty, it was also rather mellow and didn’t carry on as long as I might’ve liked.

Very good mezcal overall - definitely something I’d give to someone just getting into mezcals, and personally for me, something I could see myself drinking regularly.

Montelobos Ensamble Joven Mezcal - Review


Tasting Notes

Aroma: Very interesting - alot fruitier than expected. Almost tropical fruits - dried pineapples and mangoes, lightly sweet but quite estery. There’s some succulent greenness to it - cut cactus, green juicy leaves, green tropical fruit. There’s also some dried grass here. It’s not nearly as smoky, but is a little high pitched.

Taste: Very punchy! Really smoky with lots of vegetal green notes. Dried fruits again - apricots, pineapples, mangoes; backed up by honey and a touch of barbecue sauce. Clove spices too.

Finish: More apparent ashiness, white pepper, it’s alittle acrid here. Closes out quite cleanly.


My Thoughts

This was quite fruity with all these very lovely dried tropical fruits - now it’s not all that sweet, it’s actually more of a concentrated natural fruit sweetness, and much more aromatic than say juicy. This really showcases the range of what mezcals can offer - taking you to a much brighter and lighter part of the spectrum.

That said, while the fruits were obviously a big attraction, I felt that it thin out slightly and could be alot more full-bodied in flavour if some darker and denser notes were offered as well. This stays well within the brighter part of the range and never came down. Would have been alot more satisfying if the flavours were thicker and denser, which would have complemented the big flavours that were just spectacular.

Very interesting mezcal, definitely an eye opener and 100% worth trying. I actually think this would go perfect as shots or in a cocktail. 

Montelobos Tobala Joven Mezcal - Review


Tasting Notes

Aroma: Gentle smoke, there’s a more prominent bit of pears, poached pears, and also a big side of dried herbs - oregano, basil, mint jelly. Some lemon sherbet too. As it settles down, there’s a slightly thick minerality reminiscent of Evian water.

Taste: More of that rush of fresh cut succulents, rather vegetal, cucumber, clay, with this very quick touch and go of cotton candy. There’s some smokiness atop a creamy texture.

Finish: Pretty clean finish. Light bit more vegetal notes here.


My Thoughts

What definitely stood out here was the pears on the nose which were quite big and well-expressed. It didn’t quite make it to the palate, which was alittle more classic Mezcal in terms of profile, but otherwise quite vegetal and fresh. The other highlight here was the dried and jellied herbs which I personally liked alot as it had a very interesting and also earthy quality that was very aromatic.

The finish was alittle short, but plus points for how clean and approachable this was that made it alot more beginner friendly and not too wearing on the palate. This would’ve been great in Ranch Water. 

Montelobos Pechuga Mezcal - Review


Tasting Notes

Aroma: Distinctively more briny here, like opening canned meat, but also dotted with some bits of fruit - pineapples, apricots. Mellow smoke coming through.

Taste: Surprisingly earthy with angelica roots, almost herbal and reminiscent of traditional Chinese medicine, camphor, but also some leafiness, and then a light bit of that pineapple again.

Finish: The medicinal qualities persist - slight herbal sort of bitterness. There's this noticeable bit of grilled bananas but with a dash of salt.


My Thoughts

The Pechuga was always going to be the most divisive love or hate it expression simply because of how it's made which in turn imbues it with an incredibly distinctive personality - if you're someone who likes more herbal and medicinal flavours then this one's for you, but otherwise you might prefer to lean towards the more classic expressions.

That said, for a Pechuga, this was less heavy and dense whilst keeping the complexity - I didn't find that it was too overwhelming or tiresome which I've found other Pechuga's to be. This has a sufficiently thick body to support the flavours, yet wasn't so dense as to feel like herbal Chicken essence. There was also more a apparent fruitiness here that was a nice touch.

The Pechuga is always an eye opener, but with such a distinctive profile it's also not one I can imagine anyone drinking on a daily basis. Actually would work best as a food accompaniment.