The sun gods were certainly shining on the Tequila & Mezcal Fest Benelux, held for the first time in Gent from 14-15 October 2017. The two day festival certainly achieved its aim to bring tequila and mezcal lovers together. Many brands showcased their products alongside artisanal Mexican stands.
When we arrived at the venue, Eskimofabriek, we received a tasting glass and were told all tastings were free. A dangerous proposition but one we didn’t see abused. This was no doubt due to the quality of the drinks, as much as the good sense of those attending.
Going from stall to stall over the following hours, we were impressed with the knowledge of the hosts. All of the tequila stands had at least three different classifications – blanco, reposado and añejo. The differences between these categories, and between the tequila brands, was a wonder for the senses. While all tequila is distilled from blue agave in the Mexican state of Jalisco, different production methods mean a variety of tastes. Tequila matured in French or American oak barrels and second-use barrels that formerly contained bourbon or cognac: it was all on display.
The stalls were excellent at explaining their unique methods and the history of their brands. Visitors were spoilt for choice with over 30 stalls from which to sample! Cabo Maya tequila had some excellent videos and multimedia depictions on a tablet at their stand. Animas had detailed tasting notes for their three mezcal varieties. To help us appreciate the flavours even more, a couple of master classes were held by several of the festival partners. We attended an outstanding session given by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila that told visitors about tequila in an engaging way. Having such knowledgeable experts explaining their passion was certainly a highlight of the event.
Expat from Mexico bringing tequila to Gent
Some of the stalls may have been familiar to those living in Gent; Riazul tequila and Mala Idea mezcal are distributed by Agave Selection, a company based in Gent, which also organised the event. Their expat founder, originally from Mexico, was the subject of our Expat Portrait article, and TheSquare.Gent also received a tequila bottle from the Tequila & Mezcal Fest Benelux organisers to raffle out to our readers.
Mezcal, snacks and Agave beer
Mezcal was, of course, the other agave drink on display at the festival. I was not as familiar with this spirit and had not necessarily enjoyed it the last time I tried it, making me wary of what to expect. I needn’t have worried though as I encountered wonderful and unique flavours. This left me with a much greater appreciation of this increasingly popular drink. Unlike tequila, mezcal can be produced from more than a dozen varieties of agave. This diversity results in a wide range of mezcals that were being served at the festival.
Another highlight was the food. Gent restaurant La Mestiza joined three other Mexican food aficionados from Brussels and Flanders to feed the hungry masses and the food was superb. Bar staff were helping those wanting a break from the straight spirits. They served up cocktails and beer, including beer with agave!
Mariachi bands and a visit from the Mexican ambassador
The Mexican ambassador stopped by to officiate the event and there was an excellent ambiance in the room. Couples started to dance and people sang along to the music, while families ate their tamales and tostadas.
Off the back of this year’s successful event, we look forward to attending next year! The festival will take place on 13 and 14 October 2018, and we have already put it in our calendar. So should you, if you enjoy tequila or mezcal or want to discover these drinks for the first time. If you can’t wait, you can check Agave Selection’s website to see where you can sample and buy their tequila and mezcal products in Ghent. Our thanks to Agave Selection for organising the event. And letting us experience a little slice of Mexican culture in Gent.
About the author:
Having travelled to Gent many times as a visitor, Duncan Gardiner moved from Australia to Gent with his wife in 2016. He makes the commute to Brussels and back every day for work. This gives him plenty of time to read and learn Dutch! Having lived in France and travelled extensively in Latin America, he enjoys languages, literature, history and travelling.