Mezcal vs Tequila - Everything you Need to Know

Mezcal vs Tequila - Everything you Need to Know

Mezcal vs Tequila

Everything you Need to Know 

If you've found yourself pondering the distinctions between mezcal and tequila, you're not alone. These two agave spirits are quite popular at the moment, but outside of their motherland Mexico, the nuances are still lost on the world. While they certainly share some similarities, they also possess unique characteristics that set them apart. Let's take a journey into the world of mezcal and tequila to uncover what makes each one special.

What's the Buzz About Mezcal?

Mezcal, while new to some of us, is often hailed as the "spirit of Mexico". It has been crafted for centuries with traditional methods that have been passed down through generations. Believe it or not, Mezcal is the wider term for Mexican spirits distilled from the fermented juice of the agave plant. Tequila on the other hand is one type of mezcal.

One of the most distinctive features of mezcal is its smoky flavor, which comes from the way it's produced. Also, unlike tequila, which must be made from the blue agave plant, mezcal can be produced from various agave species, each contributing its own nuanced flavors to the final product.

The production of mezcal begins with harvesting the hearts of the agave plants, known as piñas. These piñas are roasted in underground pits lined with volcanic rocks and filled with wood and charcoal. The slow-roasting process, which can last several days, imbues the piñas with a rich, smoky essence that sets mezcal apart from tequila.

After roasting, the piñas are crushed, fermented, and distilled in small batches, often by artisanal producers who adhere to traditional techniques. Mezcal is renowned for its complex flavors, which can range from earthy and herbal to fruity and floral, depending on the agave variety and production methods used.

Decoding Tequila: Mexico's Most Famous Spirit

Tequila, Mexico's most famous export (yes, it’s not tequila if it’s not from Mexico), has gained worldwide acclaim for its smooth taste and versatility in cocktails. Unlike mezcal, which can be made from various agave species, tequila must be produced exclusively from the blue agave plant, primarily grown in the Jalisco region of Mexico.

The production process for tequila begins with harvesting mature blue agave plants, which are then trimmed to reveal the piñas at their core. These piñas are cooked in large ovens or autoclaves to extract their sugars, a process that typically results in a more straightforward flavor profile compared to mezcal without exposure to smoke.

After cooking, the piñas are crushed, and the extracted juices are fermented and distilled. Tequila is classified into different categories based on aging: blanco (or silver), reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. Blanco tequila is typically unaged or aged for a short period, resulting in a crisp, vibrant flavor profile, while reposado and añejo tequilas are aged in oak barrels, imparting color and notes of vanilla, caramel, and spice.

What are the key differences between Mezcal & Tequila?

Production Methods: Mezcal is traditionally made using artisanal techniques, including underground pit roasting, while tequila production often involves modern industrial processes.

Agave Varieties: Mezcal can be made from various agave species, offering a diverse range of flavors, whereas tequila must be produced exclusively from blue agave.

Flavor Profiles: Mezcal is known for its smoky, complex flavors with a wider range depending on the agave plant, while tequila tends to have a smoother, more straightforward taste, with aging imparting additional depth and complexity.

Cultural Significance: Mezcal holds a special place in Mexican culture, often associated with rituals and celebrations, while tequila has become synonymous with partying and festivities around the world.

Becoming an expert in agave varieties

No amount of reading can do these delicious spirits justice; to become an expert, one must taste. For a side-by-side comparison of the different flavors of agave, here’s a list of our favorite bottles of Tequila and Mezcal that we carry at Dara to showcase the range and versatility of the agave varieties and the spirits they produce:

Blue: All tequila is made with Blue Agave, but what makes a good tequila good begins with the age of the plant when harvested. The Codigo 150 Blanco begins with fully-matured agave (no less than 7 years), which is cooked in stainless steel ovens, fermented utilizing an organic family baker’s yeast, and distilled twice in stills handmade by the distilling family themselves.

Blanco is unrested, i.e., it never touches barrels, so that the rich flavor of agave can be fully appreciated.

Espadín: The most commonly used agave variety in mezcal production, Espadín accounts for the majority of mezcal on the market. It offers a balanced flavor profile with notes of smoke, fruit, and earthiness.

Corte Vetusto Mezcal Espadin

Tobalá: Considered a premium agave, Tobalá grows wild in the mountainous regions of Mexico. It yields mezcal with complex flavors, often described as floral, herbal, and slightly sweet.

Corte Vetusto Mezcal Tobalá

Arroqueño: Known for its large size and long maturity period, Arroqueño agave results in mezcal with bold, robust flavors, including earthy tones, tropical fruitiness, and a touch of smoke.

Corte Vetusto Ancestral Arroqueno