WHAT IS MEZCAL?
Mezcal is a type Mexican hard liquor made from roasting, grinding, and distilling agave hearts. It’s a close cousin to Tequila, but the roasting and brewing processes are not the same so a different flavor is produced in the end. Many Mezcals have a very smoky quality with a lot of herbal or citrus flavors.
In order to raise the alcohol content, Mezcal is distilled twice. It’s generally not aged very long before it is bottled, although a select few brands might be aged for as long as 12 years in wooden barrels. It’s not uncommon for Mezcal to be bottled directly after brewing or left to aged for just 6 months – 2 years before bottling.
According to Mexican law, an agave liquor can only be labeled as Mezcal if it comes from one of the eight authorized regions in Mexico and is produced using certain methods. There are other types of agave liquors, although they are required to have different names and cannot be referred to as Mezcal even if the taste is the same as some of the popular brands.
BEST MEZCAL BRANDS
Del Maguey is what’s called a “single village” Mezcal because all of the farming, roasting, distillation, etc. is done locally in one village. There are Del Maguey Mezcals available from a wide range of villages, each with its own special flavors based on the local agave type and roasting practices. In general, a lot of Del Magueys have very complex herbal, citrus, and meaty flavors that swirl around for a pleasant back and forth mix of flavors. There is generally a higher alcohol content in this brand than with other Mezcal brands.
This Mezcal is somewhat unique as it is made without being roasted over wood, taking away the smoky flavor that a lot of other brands have. This is a smoother brand, but don’t be fooled into thinking it isn’t just as strong as the rest. This can be a good brand for cocktail recipes if you don’t like the smoky taste mixed with other flavors.
The name of this brand, Ilegal, is a story by itself as it used to be smuggled around to different Mexican states and other countries. If you’re looking for a drink with more of a kick, take the Joven version. Beware, because the Ilegal Joven has a mix of flavors that some might think are very strange with hints of meats, pepper, vegetal tastes, and smoke. The more aged Añejo Ilegal Mezcal gives off a citrus and honey taste followed by a spicy finish that goes well with a meal.
Pleasantly smoky and creamy all at once, Sombra is roasted in such a way that it possesses an incredible herbal scent that leads to the light taste of smoke and roasted vegetation. It’s a fiery Mezcal with a great flavor that works well for an outside gathering and drinks around the fire pit.
Pierde Almas Espadin
This is a very aromatic Mezcal with great flavors of smoke. It’s perfect for some cocktails that ask for smokier liquor. When you take a sip of this brand, you’ll feel the smoke in your mouth and nose. All of the flavor comes from the Espadin agave that’s used to brew this drink, one of the most popular types of agave for high quality Mezcal and Tequila alike.
You can find a bit more of a refined taste from this Mezcal brand. It comes in Joven and Reposado for a variety of flavor. The Joven has a hint of tobacco flavors that go well with the intensely smoky finish. Los Amantes Reposado is a smooth, floral liquor that has taken on some of the flavor of the oak as it was aged. Most of the Los Amantes Mezcal has a slightly lower alcohol content than you find in brands such as Del Maguey, making it a good drink to sip lightly or to use as a base for a cocktail featuring other liquors.
CHOOSING THE BEST MEZCAL
Mezcal comes in a lot of different brands that have their own unique flavors. As you try different types you might learn to recognize the traditional flavors that come from the various regions or types of agave.