Not to be confused with Tequila, Mezcal is a distilled spirit also made from the agave plant. The difference between the two is that Mezcal is made from a variety of different types of agave grown throughout eight regions in Mexico, whereas Tequila can only be made from the blue agave plant, which is grown in the Jalisco region. Mezcal must contain 80% agave as a minimum but premium producers use 100%.
Industrial mass production methods result in low quality Mezcal. Producers of premium Mezcal use artisan methods to create high quality spirit. The hearts of the agave plant are baked in underground pits lined with smouldering volcanic rocks and the agave is crushed using a Tahona wheel before fermentation in wood or stainless steel vats before distillation in copper pot stills.
What to expect
Mezcal has a characteristic warm, smoky quality to it. White Mezcal is aged for less than two months and is colourless. Reposardo is aged in wood casks for between two months and a year and has a pale, amber tint. Anejo is aged in wood for at least a year and the liquid is a rich, gold colour. Some Mezcals have a worm in the bottle, although these are generally mass-produced for marketing to tourists and the quality of the spirit can be low.
Did you know?
The worm you see in Mezcal bottles is the larva of a moth that feeds on the agave plant. Some claim (wrongly), that this is hallucinogenic.
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