The state of Oaxaca, in the far south of México, is a unique mix of cultures and history. Inhabited by several indigenous societies throughout its 7,000 year history – including Zapotec, Mixtec, and Aztec – the physical presence of the indigenous population is a major asset for the preservation of native tradition. Infused with Spanish culture and language resulting from colonization (15th C.), Oaxaca is a true melting pot and a bastion of biodiversity.
A variety of culinary, artistic, religious and commercial cultures are all reflected in Oaxaca's vibrant markets, selling everything from crafts to chocolate, bread to baskets, blankets to clothing and beans.
Oaxaca de Juárez – the capital of Oaxaca – is located inland, in the center of three great valleys, at an altitude of 6,500 feet. Geographically, Oaxaca is diverse, with mountains, plains, valleys, tropical jungles and the Pacific Ocean all creating many differing growing zones for many varieties of agave. An agave’s environment - soil type, elevation, exposure and how much water a given agave picks up - has an impact on the sugar content and thus potential quality of the final distillate.
Geographically, Oaxaca is the most diversified state in México. The Valles Centrales (Central Valleys) - home to Oaxaca de Juárez and Santiago Matatlán - is a geographical and cultural region in the heart of Oaxaca. Consisting of three river valleys between three mountain ranges: the Sierra Mixteco, the Sierra Juárez and the Sierra Madre del Sur, the valleys form a kind of Y. The northwest arm is the Etla Valley, on the east is the Tlacolula Valley and to the south the Ocotlán Zimatlán or Grande Valley. The largest community in the region, and the largest in the state, is the city of Oaxaca.
Averaging 5,000 ft. in elevation, the Central Valleys have a semi-tropical, semi-arid climate, with rain falling mostly in the summer months. With year round sunshine and moderate temperature, the Central Valleys are ideal for the growth of agave.
Thirty miles to the southwest of Oaxaca de Juárez lies the town of Santiago Matatlán. Home to nearly all of the top mezcal producers, S. Matatlán is regarded as the "World Capital of Mezcal." Traditional, rustic palenques are located throughout the town and agave fields dot the rolling hills and mountains on the horizon.
The artisan mezcal producers of Matatlán work hard to preserve the traditional methods and show enduring respect for the land that provides the agave – a plant that has been intertwined with indigenous cultures for thousands of years.