Fortino Ramos

For the past 40 years, internationally recognized and award-winning Maestro Mezcalero Don Fortino Ramos has dedicated himself to mastering the art of distilling mezcal. A love for the craft runs in the family: his daughter, Xitlali, works closely by his side in her pursuit to become the family’s second generation mezcalera.

Fortino Ramos signature Mtro. Mezcalero
Fortino Ramos
Photo of Fortino and Xitlali with a clip
— the beginnings


We believe in order to best serve Nature, we must listen to it and learn from it. On ancestral Miztec land in Valles Centrales, Oaxaca, our agaves spend 8-12 years reaching their ripest maturity in different parts of the arid and sun-soaked valley. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to caring for each of our varietals—Espadín, Tobalá and Salmiana vary in average size, each with its own particularities we listen to and care for. To promote biodiversity, we plant three new wild agaves for every one hand-harvested and never use insecticides, enriching the land for all species calling it home.

Message "Valles Centrales, Oaxaca" Maguey Plant in Black and White


The rigorous and precise process of harvesting the piña is entrusted to our few and fearless jimadores who call upon a centuries-old expertise to carve through the agave’s protective leaves. Once they have reached their full maturity, each agave is individually hand-harvested the jimadores, who help determine the precise moment of ripeness. Our Maestro Mezcalero Don Fortino determines the final selection of the agave, according to his knowledge and expertise, as it is the agave itself that has the greatest influence on the taste profile of each mezcal.

The spiky protective leaves and roots are cut away using a machete to leave the piña. These hearts of the agave, often weighing 80-200 pounds, are where the sugars are concentrated and give life to what will ultimately be the curious spirit of The Lost Explorer Mezcal.

The longer an agave matures, the longer it has to soak up the elements of Nature, and the richer its sugar content. There is a patience built into the process.

Cut and fresh agave pinaples Message "I give you my arms, I give you my heart"
Map of Oaxaca divided into mayoralties TLEM flag


Here, we return the piñas to the earth. Dug into the ground, conical earthen ovens lined with volcanic rock, reclaimed local wood, soil, and river stones are filled with piñas and covered with a tarp and soil. After 3 days of cooking, the piñas are then uncovered, letting the perfectly roasted agave rest and cool for 2-3 days.

Crumbs of land
Laborer preparing the oven


At this stage, the sweet-smelling roasted agaves are fully ground and macerated to break down the fibers and prepare the agave to take on full character in the fermentation stage. (We opt not to use a donkey-towed tahona as some traditional methods do because, well, there are other ways to do this that don’t involve four-legged friends.)

Neckholder with palenque address and bottle information Trunk squeezing agave into chunks Milled agave


Smoked and now with all fibers thoroughly exposed, the agave is transported to open-top oak barrels where they are set to rest in pure spring water as the wild yeasts find harmony with the elements. Fermentation occurs naturally, and these wild yeasts are unique to The Lost Explorer Mezcal palenque, another key factor in determining the character and taste of each mezcal varietal.

Maestro Mezcalero Fortino Ramos meticulously sets the atmosphere for the fermentation and monitors this closely over the following days as it matures. For Fortino, being in tune with the yeast is critical.

Laborer working on the stills
Fermentation of the mezcal falling into a glass tumbler


At the end of the fermentation process, the liquid and agave fibers are placed into copper alembic stills, where they are double-distilled in small batches to achieve the purest and smoothest expression of the agave.

According to NOM legislation, mezcal must be between 36% and 55% alcohol by volume (ABV). A key skill of the Maestro Mezcalero is knowing when and where to make the cut.

Don Fortino’s preferred bottling strength is 42% ABV, as he believes this offers the perfect balance of raw ingredients and alcohol. This is very much a signature style of The Lost Explorer Mezcal, producing a smooth, well-balanced and elegant flavor that allows the full complexity of the agave to shine through. Once Fortino is satisfied with the final liquid, it is ready to be bottled as a joven (unaged) mezcal.

Piece of paper with a blurred stamp TLEM bottle without labels and at the bottom the oven with the pineapples and the live fire. Red wax seal


Finally, each uniquely profiled mezcal varietal is presented in glass bottles, made in Mexico from recycled crystal scraps, hand-labelled, sealed with natural biodegradable cork and finished with a kiss of natural beeswax.

The Lost Explorer Mezcal is then ready to take on the world.


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