Ever since my 2018 summer trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, I pay close attention to news and new products regarding the smoked-agave liquor dubbed mezcal. It’s always interesting to go to bars with mezcal collections and check out what they have. I try to make it a point to talk to the bartender about their mezcal cocktails and its popularity among customers.

More often than not, I get similar answers about its ascending popularity and how most consumers who try mezcal-based cocktails enjoy them. According to a January Insights from Nielsen titled “Tops of 2018: Tequila Drove Spirit Category Growth in 2018,” mezcal, a smaller sub-category of tequila, posted the highest growth rate in 2018.

Mezcal increased 17.8 percent in on-premise dollar sales, while also increasing 34.1 percent in off-premise dollar sales, according to the Insights.

Statistics like these make me excited about the future of mezcal as it is a timeless liquor with a rich historical and cultural background. As its popularity only continues to rise, mezcal aficionados are taking full advantage and giving the smoky, earthy spirit its own event.

Taking place Sept. 12-14 was the first International Forum Vive Mezcal 2019. Located at the Cultural and Convention Center of Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico, the event was designed to boost the production, distribution and sale of the spirit.

The three-day forum was projected to bring together more than 12,000 people including producers, entrepreneurs, investors, distributors and other attendees for workshops, activities, business meetings and cultural reform.

Ninety-two percent of the mezcal’s total production is generated in Oaxaca, making Oaxaca City the ideal, go-to place for the event. Having spent most of my trip in Oaxaca City, it’s cool to see this event come to life so others can experience the history and culture behind mezcal.