Born and raised in Durango, Mexico, IZO co-founder Gaston Martinez experienced the rich connection of a community established on the shared values of preserving the land and gathering in celebration of everyday moments to savor the rewards of a job well done.
“In my family and culture, Mezcal was always a symbol of celebration and the pure enjoyment of life - now, I’m proud to share the clean, smooth flavor of our naturally-produced agave spirits with the world.”
IZO’s recipe for lasting success begins by updating a uniquely old-world approach with a steadfast commitment to modern sustainable measures.
Prioritizing renewable local resources, our team relies on independent water sources, solar panels, and eco-conscious methods that preserve the wild beauty of our land for future generations.
Our traditional process begins on the high-altitude desert mesas of Durango, Sonora, and Jalisco.
Every premium batch of IZO spirits features wild-grown agave or desert spoon, hand-harvested and slow-roasted to perfection by skilled Mezcaleros.
IZO carries on the proud legacy passed down through generations of skilled Mexican Mezcaleros - those trained in the unique art of agave spirit distillation. Under the watchful eye of Master Mezcalero José Gonzalez, the IZO team brings to life the long-held dream of co-founder Gaston Martinez of sharing the smooth, clean taste of traditionally-crafted, premium agave spirits with the world. From harvest to bottle, from “ground to glass,” every step of the process is meticulously controlled, resulting in a finished product that speaks to centuries of Mexican tradition and a proud heritage worth savoring.
The first step in our process is the hand-harvesting of the sun-ripened agave or desert spoon plant growing wild on the high-altitude mesas of Durango. It can take up to 10 years for Cenizo agave to mature, but it is essential to allow the entire process to unfold in order to achieve the full, exotic flavors of each plant. The flower (known as the “quiote”) is cut five to six months before the plant is harvested, ensuring that the agave heart (or “piña”) becomes enriched with natural sugars. Through years of experience, our skilled Jimadores are trained to recognize which plants are ready for harvest and will produce the finest spirit. Navigating a sharply-sloping terrain, they perform the arduous task of stripping the large, thorny leaves from selected agave plants to expose the inner piñas. The heart is then cut into manageable pieces, which are strapped to one of our sturdy burros to carry down to our trucks, which then transport the hearts to our distillery for cooking.
According to traditional methods, our distillery (or “vinata”) features four in-ground ovens, each designed to hold up to 12 tons of agave hearts and lined with volcanic rock. Hand-selected Oak logs - sustainably sourced from fallen trees found in the surrounding countryside - cover the dirt bottom of the lava pit. Then, lava rock is layered on top of the Oak, allowing the wood to burn rapidly and heat the volcanic rock. Once the flames have died down, the hand-harvested Cenizo agave hearts are stacked on top of the smoldering Oak and lava rocks. Ground piña pulp is then layered atop the agave hearts, and the entire pit is covered with a burlap tarp and a layer of dirt. The agave hearts are left to bake for 3-6 days, becoming soft and absorbing the “smokiness” of the wood until their juice is ready for extraction.
After smoking, the agave hearts are carefully removed and placed in the grinder, releasing the sweet nectar within. Prioritizing sustainability, the remaining fibrous material is set aside for use in the lava pits or used as renewable bedding for local livestock. The extracted agave nectar is transferred to fermentation tanks, to which our Master Mezcalero adds filtered well water in order to create a proper balance of sugars for natural fermentation. To preserve the pristine quality and flavor of the plant, no leaven or additives are used in this process. Once fermentation is complete - a closely-monitored process that varies depending on aspects such as the type of agave, harvest location, and outside temperature - the liquid is transferred to a designated tank for distillation.
The naturally fermented liquid is transferred 2,500 liters at a time into our first distillation tank made of stainless steel and lined with copper. Within 4-6 hours, “aguavino” - the precursor to Mezcal - is produced. This liquid is then distilled a second time during a day-and-a-half long process in which our Master Mezcalero removes the high alcohol/ methanol “heads” and low alcohol/ methanol “tails” to produce a more consistent, pure spirit. For Mezcal (52% alcohol by volume), the resulting liquid is rigorously pressure-filtered twice through a microfiber reverse-osmosis filtration system, purifying and polishing the spirit before it is allowed to rest for 1-2 weeks. Filtered well water is then mixed with the finished Mezcal to create our Mezcal Joven (42% alcohol by volume) and our Mezcal Joven (47% alcohol by volume); exceptionally clear agave spirits with remarkably consistent flavors and bouquets that exude delicate notes of herbs, fruit and spices.
The finished IZO spirit is bottled, hand-corked, and hand-labeled by our team of craftsmen. A great deal of time and thought went into our modern aesthetic, as we believe each bottle should convey the story of a hand-crafted spirit made with heart and soul by our IZO family. The shaded smoke rising from the bottom of the bottle represents the subtle smokiness of our award-winning Mezcal. The hand-applied labels, black on both front and back, allow the sunlight to shine through and reveal the spirit’s pristine, almost blue-tinged clarity. Our earthy fire pits are evidenced in “volcanic rock” imprints you can see and feel as you gently run your hand across the label. The Onyx cap, sourced locally from Durango, is specially designed to be assembled with the stopper at our distillery. Even the colors and font on each of our letter-pressed labels are carefully selected to convey the meticulous preparation and complex flavor of an IZO collection that is uniquely smooth, subtly smoky, and made to sip.
Ensamblé, is our Mezcal created by baking, grinding and fermenting together two different types of agave indigenous to Durango, Cenizo and Lamparillo. Sotol is made from the Desert Spoon plant, known as Dasylirion, which is actually not an agave, but from the same genus as Asparagus. Each is produced in a similar manner as our Mezcal Joven, but each has its own very distinctive flavor profile and unique aroma.
Mezcal Reposado and Mezcal Añejo are produced through aging our Mezcal Joven in American Oak barrels. Mezcal Joven rested for two months becomes Reposado, whereas Mezcal Joven aged for a year results in Añejo. In the aging process the liquid turns amber as it absorbs the color, flavors and aroma of the wood. The profiles are magnified with the soft floral aroma of banana, green apple and orange, which embodies vanilla, oak and walnut within the elegant, velvet taste of fruit.