Mezcal

Mezcal is a category of spirits on the rise, with more distillers in Mexico turning to mezcal, and more mezcal being exported than ever before – though it is still dwarfed by sales of tequila. Mezcal is a spirit that can be distilled from any agave plant. This is why all tequila is also technically a type of mezcal, as it is made from the blue agave. However, mezcal today commonly means a spirit made from any agave except for the blue agave, which is reserved for tequila. In practice, only about 50 or 60 of the 300 species of agave in existence are suitable for spirits, but it’s the method preparation – which involves roasting the agave pinas over an open fire – that makes mezcal much smokier than tequila, both on both nose and palate. It’s not unlike a whisky from Islay in Scotland. Most mezcal comes from the state of Oaxaca, though it can also be made in several other smaller regions of Mexico. Joven (young) mezcal is the most common; it is unaged and bottled immediately after the legally required two distillations. Reposado is aged for at least two months in holm oak or white oak barrels, while añejo or añejado is aged for at least twelve months in holm or white oak barrels. Mezcal can be bottled at anything from 72 to 110 proof. The best will be labelled as 100% agave; those that contain up to 20% non-agave spirits are known as a mixto.

Top Mezcal Posts:

A Field Guide to the Agave Used For Mezcal
Del Maguey Iberico Mezcal
Ilegal Mezcal

El Buho Mezcal

Review: El Buho Mezcal

By Christopher Null | October 6, 2012 |

Made in Oaxaca, this mezcal is made from espadin agave plants and roasted with mesquite for a full week in a fire pit before being crushed (by a burro!) and pressed for the juice. The fermented mash is twice distilled in an alembic pot still before bottling, unaged. The smoky nose reveals little about what’s…

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Zignum Reposado Mezcal

Review: Zignum Reposado Mezcal

By Christopher Null | July 15, 2012 |

A new product from Casa Armando Guillermo Prieto, Zignum Mezcal is made from green Espadin agave. Silver and reposado expressions are currently hitting the market. An anejo will arrive later this year. We sampled the reposado, aged more than two months in oak barrels. Very lively and fresh, the medium gold color looks too good…

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Review: Mezcals of Agave de Cortes

By Christopher Null | July 10, 2012 |

It’s not every day you meet a 6th generation palenquero (mezcal maker), but that’s exactly what Asis Cortes, pictured below in my kitchen, is. Cortes and his family make mezcal in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Some of it is only available in the country, and in addition to its own the company also exports…

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Review: Craft Distillers Mezcalero Release #2 San Baltazar Guelavila

By Christopher Null | July 24, 2011 |

First a primer on how most mezcal makes it into the U.S.: Some American gets on a plane and road-trips through Oaxaca, Mexico, tasting his way through artisan distilleries until he finds something he loves. That American then becomes an importer, and in the case of really good mezcal, sometimes only a few hundred bottles…

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Dispatches from Aspen Food & Wine Classic 2011

By Christopher Null | July 21, 2011 |

“Is this your first Classic?” It was a question I’d hear more than once over the three days I spent in Aspen last month at what has become the pre-eminent annual food and wine event in America. Emphasis on food. In a single evening I encountered Mario Batali, Jacques Pepin, Jose Andres (who personally prepared…

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Review: Ilegal Mezcal – Complete Lineup (2010)

By Christopher Null | June 28, 2010 |

Puritans, be advised: Two Ls or three, Ilegal Mezcal is certainly legal, although the rustic labels and wax-sealed cork stoppers may make you think otherwise. This small batch mezcal from the Oaxaca region of Mexico is hand numbered and produced in very small lots (typically under 2,000 bottles per lot). All 100 percent agave, of…

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Review: Oro de Oaxaca Mezcal

By Christopher Null | June 16, 2009 |

Nothing about Oro de Oaxaca Mezcal screams “premium.” It’s got a cheap bottle (with plastic cap), primary-color logo, and mystery bag of “chile” attached to the neck (more on that in a moment)… and of course it’s also got a worm sunken to the bottom of the bottle. Ignore all that and tuck into a…

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Review: Maria Mezcal Anejo

By Christopher Null | June 3, 2009 |

Mezcalapalooza continues with this mezcal, a 100% agave anejo, aged one year in oak, and bottled at 80 proof, sans worm or other insect. Maria’s “Mezcal de Oaxaca” is quite unique. Though it offers traditional aromas of smoke laced with agave, the body is something else. Tart like a cherry, it is both sweet and…

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Review: Mijes Mezcal Joven

By Christopher Null | May 27, 2009 |

No other way to put it: Mijes’ (also known as Mixes on some bottles, see below) mezcal bottles are unmistakeably eye-catching, shaped vaguely like a drunken snail or perhaps a brain that’s been run over by a truck. Inside, Mijes’ premium joven (a blend of new and old spirit, filtered back to clear) mezcal/mescal (100%…

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Review: Scorpion Mezcal – Silver, Reposado, and Anejo 1 Year Old

By Christopher Null | May 23, 2009 |

Mezcal (aka mescal) gets quite the rap. To set you straight, mezcal is made from a number of different types of agave (whereas tequila is only blue agave). The agave (or maguey) is roasted in a wood-fired pit for several days (whereas with tequila the agave is generally cooked in ovens), then fermented — a…

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