For most North Americans tequila and mescal are two distinctly different Mexican spirits. In reality, tequila is a type of mezcal. The best analogy may be brandy and Cognac or Armagnac. Both Cognac and Armagnac are brandies, but originate in to distinctly different regions, and taste discernibly different.

Mescal, Mexico’s national spirit, must be produced from the maguey plant and only in seven states (Oaxaca, the largest producer of all, Sonora in the northwest, Nayarit northwest of Mexico City, Guerrero southwest of Mexico City, San Luis Potosi north of Mexico City, Durango, and Telmantepec.

Jalisco, known as the tequila state, produces the famous spirit from the blue agave a.k.a agave tequilana weber.

There are hundreds of agave, but the majority grow in Mexico and a few neighboring Central American states.

Mezcal is produced from various agave (derived from the Greek word that means noble).

Santiago de Metatlan is the mezcal capital of the world.

The following magey plants are used to produce mezcal: Agave rhodacantha (Telmantepec);Agave durangesis (Durango); Agave augustifolia (Oaxaca); Agave inaeguidens (Jalisco); Agave karwinskii (Oaxaca); Agave salmiana crassispina (San Luis Potosi); Agave potatorum (Oaxaca); Agave marmorata (Sonora): Agave maximiliana (Nayarit); Agave cupreata (Guerrero); and Agave Americana oaxacensis (Oaxaca).

Maguey matures between six and eight years. When the plant is mature it is harvested, trimmed, and cooked in specially designed pits for three days, then cooled for one week. This process helps convert starches to sugar. Following, this, maguey is chopped (mechanically of in old fashioned mule-driven troughs fitted with stone wheels).

To this mass 10 per cent water is added then the mixture is places into 1000 – 2000 liter capacity wooden watts. Yeast culture addition starts the fermentation that lasts for 30 days. The fermented maguey mixture known as tepache is distilled in copper alembic stills twice at 40 – 50 per cent ABV.

Mezcal may be aged for two months, or up to seven years. The longer it is aged the smoother it becomes.

Mezcal must contain a minimum of 80 per cent agave, whereas tequila contains 51 per cent of agave tequilana weber from the state of Jalisco on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. This is because there is a shortage of agave tequilana weber due to unprecedented demand, which distillers failed to anticipate.

Meczal, pending on the agave employed and the soil on which it is grown, tastes different, much like wine.

Anejo, labelled mezcal, must be aged a minimum of one year in 350 liter capacity barrels.

Reposado two months to one year.

Joven less than two months.

There are hundreds of mezcal producers, but only a few stand out.

Del Maguey is famous for its single village mezcals. Each has a distinct flavour much like single vineyard varietal wine.

Chichicapa (from plantations at 2000 meter altitude); San Luis el Rio (2400 meter); Santo Domingo Albarradas (2450 meter); Minero (displays a fruity floral nose); Tobala (hints of mango and cinnamon); Pechuga (basil, lemon, smoke); and creams de Mezcal blended with 80 per cent San Luis del Rio mezcal and 20 per cent unfermented agave juice.

All of the above are derived from agave Americana oaxacensis grown in Oaxaca’s villages taste distinctly different, with smooth and delicious flavours. Of course they come with high cost, but in my opinion well worth the expense if you are looking for refined and flavourful mezcals.

For more information about these mescals contact Roland and Russell vpavicic@rolandandrussell.com).

There is one mezcal listed on L C B O’s general list. It is a fine mezcal presented in asquare and tastefully designed bottle. It can be sipped after a fine extended meal or employed in cocktails.

Mezcals with worms exist and may contain the agave snout weevil or caterpillar. They are widely available in Mexico for tourists, but hardly for serious drinkers.

It is time to enjoy mezcal in all its glory, distinct flavours, and smooth textures.



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