Mezcal is not the same as tequila


Mezcal is not the same as tequila, and the two should never be confused. Technically, tequila is a form of mezcal, more properly known ...

Mezcal and Tequila

Mezcal is not the same as tequila, and the two should never be confused. Technically, tequila is a form of mezcal, more properly known as "mezcal de tequila."

The Mexican state of Oaxaca is the official home of mezcal and a traditional center for mezcal making in Mexico, producing 60 percent of the country’s mezcal. Mezcal is another name for the maguey plant. Additionally, mezcal is the generic name for all spirits distilled from the agave, as well as the name of a regional beverage, similar to tequila, but made mostly in the state of Oaxaca. Mezcal is also native to the states of San Luis Potosí, Michoacán, Jalisco, Durango, Morelos, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Mezcal is made from the agave plant, often referred to as maguey. Its production, according to most recent evidence, pre-dates the Spanish Conquest. Many of today's facilities use the same age-old technique, although some of the tools of the trade have changed. Clay pots originally used for manufacturing and storage have been replaced with copper serpentine for distillation, and oak and glass for aging and transporting.

Most mezcal is produced in the state of Oaxaca, where it is estimated that there are about 5,000 production facilities. Fewer than 150 of these are members of the regulated association. Most are tiny mom-and-pop operations serving a local community and its hinterland. Some produce the spirit for distribution primarily in the city of Oaxaca, and a handful cater to the export market. In all, there is a broad range of quality in terms of smoothness, flavor nuances and smokiness. In fact, the well-entrenched tradition of Oaxacans discerning personal palate-worthiness of different mezcals manifests itself not through sampling store-bought designer bottles with smart labels, but rather through acquiring multi-liter receptacles from towns and villages in different regions of the state.

There are three major reasons for the diversity of mezcal. Firstly, as is the case with grape varieties in wine production, there is a range of agave suitable for mezcal production. Secondly, there are microclimates yielding plants with subtle differences based on, for example, soil composition and length and quality of growing season, again similar to what we find regarding vineyards. Finally, there is significant variation in the means of production as determined by the Mezcalero, or brewmaster. Each decision is crucial in determining the quality of the finished product, beginning with choosing the precise time when the plant is ready for harvest.



Mezcal and agaves: Mezcal is not the same as tequila
Mezcal is not the same as tequila
Mezcal and agaves
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