Guide to Mezcal

In the previous couple of years, mezcal’s turn into a somewhat of a boutique interest in the United States—and in light of current circumstances. Mezcal is everything city-abiding, cash spending trendy people like out of a soul. It’s cloud. It’s natural. Its little clump. It’s arcane (in a decent manner). Furthermore, above all, it’s artisanal.

This likely sounds equivalent amounts of engaging and befuddling, if you’re new to mezcal. So we should move down a second. Mezcal, like tequila, is made by refining the juice from the centers or piñas—of the agave plant.

Though tequila must be made of the blue agave mixture in Jalisco and a couple of different states in focal Mexico, mezcal more often than not hails from the most distant south of Mexico (read: Oaxaca). The refining process also differs on the grounds that mezcaleros broil the piñas over blazing hot shakes in earthen hills.

This is the place mezcal gets its evidently gritty and radiantly smoky flavor. Once broiled, the piñas are pounded underneath an ancient looking stone wheel pulled by a steed or jackass and afterward refined in wooden barrels or claypots. It’s all, exceptionally artisanal.

The word mezcal originates from the Nahuatl words metl and ixcalli, which taken together signify “broiler cooked agave.” Like tequila, mezcal is made by cooking agave hearts in a stove.

Does mezcal make you hallucinate?

In spite of having a comparative name and regardless of any bits of gossip you may have heard in college, mezcal does not contain mescaline. The word can also be spelled mescal, yet a few makers stay away from that variety on account of the mixed up relationship in the middle of mezcal and mescaline.

History of Mezcal

The bases of mezcal and tequila extend far into history, back before Europeans landed in the Americas. Agave has been developed for quite a long time, utilized as both an enhancing and a sweetener, and being aged into gently alcohol mixed beverages, for example, pulque, which goes back no less than 2,000 years.

At the point when the Spanish arrived, they brought along the learning of refining; and fortunate for them, they discovered a plant (agave) whose juices they could promptly distil. Tequila’s precursor was conceived. The principal mezcals showed up in the 1500s, and the refreshment spread all through Mexico over the next hundreds of years, inevitably being traded once again into Spain.

Where Mezcal Is Made?

There are three key reasons why mezcal is different from tequila:

  1. Tequila and mezcal are delivered in different conditions of Mexico (however there is cover).
  2. Tequila must be made, by law, with one mixture of agave: the Blue Agave. Mezcal can be made with upwards of 30 assortments of agave; however most are made with the Agave Espadin.
  3. The creation process for mezcal is different from tequila which prompts an unmistakably different flavor profile for mezcal.

Read more detailed description in In Differences Between Mezcal and Tequila

How Mezcal Is Made?

Mezcal, like tequila, begins with agave. Unlike tequila, on the other hand, mezcal isn’t constrained to only one mixture of agave. Five different mixed bags are normally utilized, and Mexican regulations consider numerous others too. In addition, a solitary mezcal may contain a mix of agaves, like the way a specific wine may contain a mix of grape assortments.

Around 90% of mezcal is produced using an Oaxacan mixed bag, Espadín.

One thing to search for, however, if you turn into a mezcal nerd, is an item produced using the Tobalá mixed bag of agave. Tobalá develops wild at high heights in Oaxaca; it can be developed, yet the wild form tastes better to experienced palates. The piñas are littler than in developed mixed bags. Just a little measure of Tobalá is accessible every year, so consequently, costs of Tobalá mezcals are higher than most different bottlings. Flavors are by and large earthier and sweeter than different mezcals. Likewise with tequila, the agave is gathered after, by and large, eight years. The external leaves are evacuated, leaving just the piña, or heart. The piña is cooked, however here’s the place a vital difference is presented. Most tequilas are made by cooking the piñas in huge, stainless-steel, over the ground stoves. For mezcal, by complexity, the piñas are cooked in funnel shaped pits dove into the ground. The pits, known as palenques or hornos, can achieve 15 feet crosswise over and 8 feet profound. They’re lined with stones or blocks.

The piñas are cooked more than a wood fire (oak is normal, albeit a few makers use mesquite) and secured in layers of agave leaves and earth. The piñas cook for a few days. This procedure caramelizes the sugars in the agave, and pervades a smoky smell and flavor to the agave, which persists to the mezcal, giving it a smoky quality that helps some to remember peated single-malt Scotch.

A few makers, I must include, make moves to minimize the smokiness of their mezcals, feeling that smoky spirits are trying to offer in the United States. So in spite of the fact that it’s for the most part genuine that mezcal is smokier than tequila, it’s not all around so.

After the simmered pines are expelled from the pit, they’re smashed utilizing a stone pounding wheel. The mash is blended with water. Customary maker’s utilization existing yeasts noticeable all around and on the agave to begin the aging procedure. Mechanical makers have a tendency to utilize business yeasts. The customary technique takes longer in light of the fact that it obliges time for the normal yeasts to grab hold.

After maturation, the wash is then refined in copper alembic stills. Most mezcal is refined twice, some of the time for whatever length of time those 24 hours for every refining, except a few brands are triple-refined.

At the point when talking about different spirits, for example, rum, whiskey, and Scotch, I said that distillers frequently mix spirits from different barrels to make an item that is reliable from group to bunch. Numerous mezcal makers, then again, are functioning accordingly little volumes that they don’t have enough item available to mix barrels. This implies that every group has its own special character unmatched in other batches.

Types of Mezcal

Like tequila, mezcal is sold as either 100% agave (Type I) or as mix to (Type II). However, though a mixto tequila is 51% agave, mixto mezcal is obliged to be 80% agave. (The remaining sugar in the blend is normally stick.) If you need to make certain you’re getting Type I, search for the words 100% Agave on the name.

You may also see something many refer to as “crema de mezcal.” This is mezcal enhanced with natural product, nuts, agave nectar, or different flavorings. Del Maguey makes a packaging made of 80% mezcal and 20% agave nectar, for instance.

Categories of Mezcal

Like tequila, mezcal can be matured for different measures of time, and its class reflects how old it is:

  • Joven is youthful mezcal, dependably either unaged or matured under 2 months.
  • Reposado signifies “rested,” matured in oak for 2 months to 1 year.
  • Añejo signifies “matured,” and these are somewhere around 1 and 3 years of age.
  • Extra añejo is additional matured. In tequila, additional añejo is a formal legal classification of soul. In mezcal, this classification has yet to be formalized, yet you may even now see mezcals showcased along these lines. It just alludes to a brand that is over 3 years of age.


A developing number of mezcal brands are accessible now in the U.S. Here are a couple of the most widely recognized:

  • Del Maguey: Importer of “single town” mezcals. Every mezcal DM offers originates from a different Oaxacan town, thus everyone is remarkable in character and flavor. Del Maguey offers a few Espadín mixed bags, and in addition one restricted release Tobalá.
  • Fidencio: Made in Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca. Fidencio offers 5 mezcals from 3 agave varietals: 3 of its mezcals are produced using Espadín developed on the Fidencio home. Moreover, Fidencio offers a Tobalá and Madrecuixe (another agave varietal), both of which are scavenged wild in the mountains of San Baltazar Guelavila. At present, Fidencio offers just joven bottlings.
  • Ilegal: The name cleverly indicates the historical backdrop of the brand, which was at first snuck out of Oaxaca into Guatemala. Ilegal offers a joven, reposado, and añejo.
  • Scorpion: Bottled with a scorpion rather than a hatchling, Scorpion offers a joven, reposado, and three periods of añejo—a 1-year-old, 5-year-old, and 7-year-old. Scorpion also offers two constrained version Tobalá mixtures.
  • Sombra: Made in San Juan, Oaxaca. Also all Espadín. Sombra is as of now accessible just as a joven.

What Does Mezcal Taste Like?

At the point when the vast majority taste mezcal, the quick reaction is “its smoky”, and that would unquestionably be remedy. Some more than others, however smoky by the by. In any case, as you get into mezcal, and invest more energy with it, you begin to find that there is a considerable measure more nuance and intricacy underneath that smoky front. With the assistance of my companion Ivan Saldana, we are going to get in more profound.

As an aside, there is an idiom in the mezcal world that goes… “mezcal is a gained taste, however a taste worth securing.” I accept this is basically said due to the smokiness. Yet, interestingly, I am discovering that this is by all accounts less and less precise. I have acquainted mezcal with MANY individuals, and truly, it is just around 1 or 2 individuals out of each 10 that don’t like it on the first taste. So I don’t know if palates are changing and individuals have turn out to be more acclimated to remarkable spirits, yet I progressively find that the vast majority like mezcal right out of the entryway.

Alright Cheech, back to smoky. Ivan Saldana is an agave plant and agave distillates pro, furthermore fellow benefactor of Montelobos. He is a genuine Mezcal PhD, unlike yours genuinely. Sorry Dr., the handle is not available to be purchased. At any rate, Ivan has as of late set up a site called Anatomy of Mezcal. It is an extraordinary mezcal preliminary, and I especially like the way he goes into the taste profile of mezcal. For instance, in a few mezcals, you may get the essence of bananas. Be that as it may, where does that flavor originate from? The agave? The broiling procedure? For sure? This is the thing that Ivan separates for us, and what I discovered to be really cool.

As you may know, the essence of a mezcal is affected by numerous variables from the sort of agave utilized, to where and how it was developed, to the creation process – and there is profundity to each of those regions also. In this way, I am going to separate each of the essential parts of the kind of a mezcal.

The greater part of the beneath is taken specifically from Anatomy of Mezcal – so full credit to Ivan for conveying this to every one of us (I will put all obtrusive copyright infringement in quotes). What I like about Ivan’s piece is he discusses 4 unmistakable gatherings of flavors and where they begin really taking shape of a mezcal. The 4 flavor groupings are: (1) smoke, (2) cooked agave, (3) green agave (uncooked), and (4) bacterial congeneric aging (I let you know he was a PhD). We should plunge into each.


Fragrances and flavors originate from the wood used to warmth the stones in underground pits or kibas. Smoke flavors originate from atoms discharged amid burning and are frequently communicated in the mezcal as notes of stew pepper, chocolate, fiery debris, wood and flame. The higher the liquor substance is in a specific mezcal, the less extraordinary the notes will be seen. Varieties happen in the smoke notes as per the kind of wood, sum utilized and size of the broilers. Mezcals utilizing steam as a cooking technique despise the commitment of these notes.

At times you will hear individuals say that a mezcal possesses a flavor like an open air fire. It may be a fledgling mezcal consumer who is essentially unaccustomed to the smoke, or it may very well be a not really adjusted mezcal that is truly smoky. Yet, next time you taste a mezcal, consider the smoke. It is safe to say that you are simply tasting smoke? Alternately is more slag? Wood? For sure? There are subtleties and differences. I have tasted a few mezcals where the smoke tastes more like a sometime later mixture than something procured amid the earthen pit cooking. So whenever you taste stew pepper, chocolate, powder, wood or flame, realize that those tastes are generally gotten from the cooking pit. Not all smoky taste is created equally. Appreciate the differences.

Cooked Agave

During the cooking procedure of agave piñas there are compound responses. Proteins are consolidated with sugars, discharging aggravates that effectively impact the kind of mezcal. In regular artisanal mezcals, moderate, underground cooking will deliver sweet and cooked notes like those of walnuts, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cooked pumpkin, chestnut sugar, nectar and caramel, among others.”

So at whatever point you taste a sweetness in mezcal it more often than not exudes from the cooked agave and the cooking procedure. Obviously, the measure of sugars in a plant change generally which is one motivation behind why different mixtures of agave, once transported to their higher calling as a mezcal, can taste totally different regardless of the fact that delivered in precisely the same style. For instance, I by and large discover tobalas, and some other wild agave mezcals, to be sweeter than espadin mezcals. So the tastes I normally get from the cooked agave are more cocoa sugar and nectar instead of walnuts and peanuts. In any case, that is only my sense of taste so consider what YOU are tasting, and it may be altogether different.

Green Agave

Agaves are plants with unprecedented sweet-smelling and flavor mixes, most prominently the terpenes and fundamental oils. Pretty nearly 30 terpenes that survive cooking have been identified in agave distillates. These plants contain fats in the fingernail skin and cell dividers, which in alcoholic arrangements, for example, mezcal, are changed over into esters. A few notes from the crude agave include: anise, citrus, green and botanical scents. Vanilla notes can come specifically from the agave, as it is a characteristic compound, with no commitment of maturing or wood taking part as fuel in the generation process. In the mouth, green notes can also confer sharp flavors normal for mezcal.”

So agave plants, and hence mezcal, have terpenes. Yet, what are terpenes? Terpenes are the essential constituents of the key oils of numerous sorts of plants and blossoms. For instance, the fragrance and kind of jumps, as often as possible utilized as a part of brew obviously, originates from terpenes. The terpenes present themselves in the mezcal in flavors, for example, anise, citrus, and botanical notes. You will routinely taste these flavors in mezcal. Regularly, I depict a mezcal as vegetal, and for me, that is the green agave – like right around a verdant taste however youthful and new.

Bacterial Congeneric Fermentation

The aging procedure proselytes sugars to ethanol (basic liquor)… In most created mezcals, long maturation times (up to 10 days) and the nonattendance of included yeast causes a ton of microbes to be effectively included in the arrangement of mixes affecting the tangible experience of the item… (wild yeasts) give another layer of intricacy to the last item instead of the selective utilization of included yeast. The outcome is the development of mixes with fruity notes. A few flavors and fragrances average of bacterial maturations are banana, pineapple, ready red and dried natural products, and in addition different notes like nail clean and white gas. Fats in the mezcal can also convey calfskin and creature notes.”

With mezcal, broiled agave is being matured in outside vats utilizing airborne yeasts. As the agave matures, the flavor profile and smells change (think decaying organic product) and these inevitably confer certain tastes to the last item – mezcal. So if you taste bananas or pineapple in your mezcal, thank the microorganisms!

Taste Test

Other than the above proposed flavors, you may discover numerous different impacts that you notice, sense, or taste in a mezcal. In addition to other things, the kind of still which is utilized as a part of the refining process, the sort of vat utilized as a part of aging, and the stockpiling compartments for refined mezcal can all impact the taste.

For me, the things that I most regularly get from mezcals are warmth, flavor, anise, broiled agave, sugar, earth, slag, flower, and vegetal (off the highest point of my head). Be that as it may, there are numerous more flavors to be discovered and you will observe that you taste altogether different things from the individual tasting right by you.

We should investigate a couple of my top choices and see what I can identify in every container (no judgments here as I think these are every incredible mezcal – simply chasing for flavors), and classify the discoveries by the four classifications above.

Siete Misterios, Arroqueno

  • Smoke. Delicate smoke and wood with a touch of chocolate.
  • Green Agave. Very little in this classification.
  • Cooked Agave. Yummy cocoa sugar and caramel.
  • Fermentation. A touch of ready banana.
  • Other. An extremely charming naturalness, maybe shape the earth pot refining. Also, this mescal is extremely thick in feel – like a succulent Chardonnay.

Ilegal Anejo

  • Smoke. Light smoke with clues of stew, warmth and fieriness.
  • Green Agave. Very little in this classification… perhaps a touch of citrus.
  • Cooked Agave. Rich vanilla and caramel.
  • Fermentation. Very little in this classification.
  • Other. Since this is matured in wood, you without a doubt get some of those impacts which also confirm themselves in the vanilla and caramel tastes too.


  • Smoke. Simple wood and smoke.
  • Green Agave. Very little in this class
  • Cooked Agave. Bunches of sweetness of broiled agave with caramel and chestnut sugar flavorings.
  • Fermentation. Matured banana, mango, and natural product.


  • Smoke. Light and tender smoke
  • Green agave. Doubtlessly taste those terpenes living up to expectations with some anise. Vegetal.
  • Cooked Agave. Unpretentious sweetness with vanilla notes.
  • Fermentation. Very little in this class.

These are fine mezcals, actually, incredible. I am certain that you will reach different conclusions now and again as you taste these brands, however that is the thing that makes it fascinating and fun. Each mezcal is really one of a kind keeping in mind makers attempt to keep up the same taste profile, you will habitually discover inconspicuous differences from group to clump of the same brand. Much as you would with containers of wine.


Those are the fundamentals. I knew as much not long ago, when I went to Casa Mezcal, a three-story Oaxacan social focus, eatery, and mezcaleria in the Lower East Side. There I met Pedro, a friendly and seriously knowledgable barkeep who clarified how mezcal has more in a similar manner as fine wine than with tequila—in any event as far as specialty. In Mexico alone, there aresome 9,000 makers of mezcal, the lion’s share of whom offer by regional standards and in little bunches. There are also around 200 different types of agaves, each of which has its own unmistakable flavor.

So when selecting a mezcal, its essential to look at the palenque (refinery) as well as the types of agave utilized. While the accentuation put on age is not as solid as it is in wine, you will discover a range. Joven mezcal is unaged. Reposado or añejo are matured. All are scrumptious.

The more inquiries I got some information about specific varietals and palenques, the more he encouraged me to go to Oaxaca and see the procedure for myself. On the back of a receipt, he composed “Los Amantes” and the name of its proprietors, Guillermo Olguín and Ignacio Carballido. “Simply let them know you were here and you can perceive how they make mezcal,” said Pedro, as he poured me an essence of Los Amantes Joven. One taste prompted another and another, and the following thing I knew I was arranging a trek to Mexico with a sniffer in my grasp. I held back before occupying a lodging, if simply because I need to accomplish more research on which palenques to visit.

In any case, you don’t generally need to go to Oaxaca to find out about mezcal. A standout amongst the most superb things about the mixture of the Gods is that you can locate a brilliant container for around $50 pretty effortlessly. With Pedro’s help, I identified five of my top choices (and one I’m passing on to attempt) that you can either request or purchase at a decent alcohol store. On the other hand you could travel to Oaxaca and find considerably more.