You may or may not be familiar with what a mezcal is or what differences and similarities it has with tequila. You may also have been told myths about these two Mexican spirits. Well, we are here to teach you the facts about tequila and mezcal!
Firstly, all tequilas are a type of mezcal and not the other way around. By definition, a mezcal (traditionally spelled mescal) is a distilled spirit deriving from the fermentation of the agave plant, which is what tequila is. However, tequila can only be produced using 100% Blue Weber agave. Mezcal can be produced from 28 difference varieties of agave in any ratio, including the Blue Weber agave.
Tequila by definition must be processed and produced in the Jalisco state of Mexico and in smaller parts of four other Mexico states. Mezcals on the other hand must be produced in or around the city of Oaxaca and some areas of the states of Guerro, Durango, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas.
The production process for each varies as well. Tequila commonly uses above ground ovens called autoclaves to cook the agave pinas (the ripe bottom portion of the plant) in preparation for fermentation. Mezcal, though some companies use autoclaves, traditionally use a smoldering underground fire pit which is laced with volcanic rock. Fire heats the rocks up while the pit is filled with the pinas to cook for up to 3 days. This results in the common smoke flavor mezcals are known for. Mezcals traditionally use bamboo piping for distillation while tequila uses the more common copper and stainless steal.
Both tequilas and mezcal use three major categories that differentiate by the time aged in wooden barrels. Abacado or blancos are clear and usually un-aged or aged less than 2 months. Reposados are aged for a minimum of 2 months but less than a year. Anejos are aged for longer than 12 months. The longer the age, the smoother the spirit becomes.
Mezcals usually carry a rumor with them that it must have a “worm” sitting in the bottom of the bottle. This is completely false! The “worm”, which is actually a caterpillar larva, was placed in mezcals some time ago as a marketing tactic and serves no real purpose. Mezcals these days usually do not use the worm, especially premium brands. Tequila bottles never have a worm it in.
You are now educated on the basic differences of mezcal and tequila! If you are still confused by anything you have read we recommend tasting both spirits side by side. You will undoubtedly taste the drastic difference between the smoky, hearty mezcal and the sweet mellow tequila!