FOODIES WEST.COM         

  MONTELOBOS MEZCAL


with Iván Saldaña, PhD.

OAXACA, MEXICO

My relationship with mezcal is about unfolding agave
into the expressions that are able to be captured in the best
possible manner. For me, it’s balance.


September 2017 Issue | Vol. 5, No. 15 



















 
 
 
 


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Montelobos Mezcal with Iván Saldaña | Oaxaca, Mexico Interrupt most anyone about to take a sip of mezcal to inform them that the spirit about to touch their lips comes from an ancient line of succulent monocotyledonous plants native to hot and arid environments of North America that have masterfully evolved by producing a variety of protective chemicals to thrive in an harsh environment full of herbaceous predators, and they probably could give a flying flip. Nor would the map of the agave’s protein-coding genes impress them. Unless this person about to take a taste of said mezcal was Iván Saldaña. Saldaña, no stranger to the agave species, grew up in Guadalajara, some thirty-one miles south of Tequila. His father co-founded one of the first companies to produce agave nectar, and his uncles worked in the tequila industry. For his postgraduate work in biology studying how plants cope with environmental stresses, he traveled to University of Sussex in Great Britain to study the agave’s molecular biology on a granted funded by the Mexican Council for Science and Technology. “The agave plants,” Saldaña said, “these are twelve-million-year-old plants that have incorporated a tremendous number of adaptations that are unique in order to be successful in a place like a desert where water is so scare and sugar is so scarce. My research was about the evolutionary solutions the agave developed in order to become successful in an environment like that.” Saldaña had eighteen agave plants shipped from Mexico to the university’s plant stress unit to study how they coped with difficult circumstances. Not everyone thought this was the brightest idea. “One professor was saying to me,” Saldaña repeated the unheeded advice, “Why don’t you study resurrection plants? Those plants can go in the desert for weeks without water and, when it rains, get reborn.” These types of models did not interest him. Saldaña stuck to his decision to study the agave. His studies paid off. But not necessarily in the traditional way of a professorial lifestyle.