The story behind Mezcal Vago may go down as the most romantic ear infection in drinking history.

That's the malady surfer-beach bar owner Judah Kuper says led him to a rural clinic outside Oaxaca where he fell in love with his nurse (and future wife) Valentina, whose father, Aquilino García López, happened to be a master mescalero.

Kuper and his pal, Dylan Sloan, launched Vago last year to showcase the young mezcals from his father-in-law and friends.

And they're further proof of the range and elegance great mezcals can embody, even as tequila's powerful rustic cousin. The entry-level Espadin is notable for restraint on the smoke that often dominates others.

Instead, I get vivid citrus, like cut oranges, mingling with anise, mint, and a creamy cocoa-nib finish that lingers on a weighty, viscous beam that's the textural essence of true agave luxury. This is a sipper, not a slammer - and so far, only poured in restaurants.

So, cheers to that earache.

- Craig LaBan
Mezcal Vago Espadin, $14 at Taqueria Feliz, 4410 Main St., Manayunk (also La Calaca Feliz and Cantina Feliz), and Tequila's Restaurant, 1602 Locust St.