Made from the Cacahuazintle corn variety, Abasolo Ancestral Corn Whisky packs a punch. (photo courtesy of the brand)

It’s exciting to see something new being born, especially in the spirits space. So we’re pleased to note the arrival of Abasolo, which bills itself as “the first-ever 100% Mexican corn whisky.”

Master distiller Ivan Saldaña, a noted expert on mezcal, is a co-founder, along with Moises Guindi, who will be the new venture’s CEO. (This is also the team behind Montelobos, a fine mezcal, and the spicy Ancho Reyes, a chile liqueur some bartenders deploy in margaritas and elsewhere).

“Starting a new venture isn’t easy at any time,” says Guindi. “While we can’t control what is happening in the world right now, we can control how we do business, and that is all in, 100%.” He’s referring here to the fact that the brand had the misfortune to launch on Cinco de Mayo—and also to the fact that, through much of the summer, the operation will be donating its profits to Another Round Another Rally, a nonprofit raising emergency funds for hospitality workers facing economic hardships due to the current pandemic, as well as another organization in Mexico.

Which, it may be said, is making something good out of a humble start—much like the spirit itself, which derives exclusively from the modest corn plant. The makers use a process called “nixtamalization,” which they describe as an ancient process of soaking and cooking the non-GMO corn in an alkaline solution, then washing and hulling it. That’s the entire mash bill, which then undergoes double distillation in copper pot stills and is finished in oak casks.

Thus—and I do not mean to be impolite in saying this—what I think Abasolo really is has often been known by other names. Most musically, perhaps, as White Lightning. In the glass, the spirit is the palest yellow. On the nose, its powerful fruity funk is nearly unmistakable, transporting us to simpler times. Yes, by definition, this is whisky: It has been aged, and includes malted corn. But in my opinion, Abasolo is moonshine.

Make no mistake: I am in favor of moonshine. It’s currently enjoying a rather long renaissance, a legitimacy brought on by adventurous mixologists and by various makers producing it with care. Though not for the faint of heart, Abasolo is as elegant and flavorful as it gets. Coconut would play well with this newcomer, and apple cider too, I’d bet. The “hints of leather and vanilla, and …notes of black tea [and] toffee” the makers describe were hard to sort for me, on the palate, though there’s a definite honey touch there; a couple of fingers on the rocks with a lemon twist made for a bracing and cool aperitif.