Different Types of Mezcal: The Complete Guide

Mezcal is slowly but steadily rising in popularity. Its diversity, not only in the varieties of the states that produce this unique spirit, but in the different agave types that are used in its ancestral production process it’s what makes this spirit a unique and smoky voyage. 

Let’s journey together into understanding the various types of mezcal and their unique characteristics.

Agave Types Used in Mezcal Production

While tequila is exclusively made from one type of agave, mezcal is made from more than a dozen different agave varieties. 

That’s not the only difference between the two most famous spirits from Mexico, if you crave for more distinction check our post on tequila vs mezcal.

And for those curious about the different agave types used in mezcal production, you can check our types of agave page. 

Types of Mezcal

There are mainly 2 types of Mezcal, Mezcal Artesanal and Mezcal Ancestral. 

To be categorized as one or another, Mezcal has to have the following specificities in terms of cooking, milling, fermentation and distillation methods:

Mezcal Artesanal

Its elaboration must comply with at least the following four stages and equipment:

(a) Cooking: the cooking of the maguey or agave heads or piñas must be done in a pit or an elevated masonry ovens.

b) Milling: this process must be done with a mallet, tahona, Chilean or Egyptian mill, trapiche or grinder. 

c) Fermentation: these processes must take place in cavities in stone, soil or trunk, masonry basins, wooden or clay containers.

d) Distillation: to be categorized as Mezcal Artesanal, the distillation process can be done with direct fire in copper boiler stills or clay pots and clay, wood, copper or stainless steel pot stills.

Mezcal Ancestral

Next, we have Mezcal Ancestral. This is mezcal in its purest form, following ancient production methods that have been handed down through generations.

Its elaboration must comply with at least the following four stages and equipment:

a) Cooking: the cooking process of maguey or agave heads, piñas, can only take place in pit ovens.

b) Grinding: this process has to be done with a mallet, tahona, Chilean or Egyptian mill.

c) Fermentation: the fermentation of the mezcal must take place in cavities in stone, soil or trunk, masonry basins, wooden or clay containers, animal skins..

d) Distillation: the distillation process of the Mezcal to be categorized as Mezcal Ancestral has to be with direct fire in clay pots and clay or wood pots.

Mezcal Classes

Moving on to the classes of mezcal, there are six classes of Mezcal according to the NOM (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas):

Mezcal Blanco or Mezcal Joven

We start with mezcal blanco o joven. This mezcal is known for its fresh and vibrant character. Its flavor profile captures the true essence of agave.

This type of Mezcal tends to be colorless and translucent and is not subject to any type of further processing.

Mezcal Reposado

This type of Mezcal must remain between 2 and 12 months in wooden containers that guarantee its innocuousness,

Mezcal Añejo

This type of  Mezcal must remain more than 12 months in wooden containers that guarantee its innocuousness.

The Mezcal Production Methods

Now, let’s delve into the diverse methods used in mezcal production.

The Traditional Clay Pots and Fermentation Vats

Traditionalists favor clay pots and fermentation vats, preserving the time-honored techniques that have been used for centuries.

Modern Techniques: Stainless Steel and Pressure Cookers

On the flip side, modern techniques involve stainless steel and pressure cookers, speeding up the production process.

The Distillation Process: Copper Stills and Column Stills

Distillation is a critical step in mezcal-making. Copper stills and column stills are used, each contributing to the final flavor profile.

The Pit Oven: Heart of Mezcal Artesanal

The pit oven is at the core of crafting mezcal. Agave hearts or piñas are roasted here, infusing the mezcal with earthy and smoky notes.

Aging Mezcal: From 12 Months to 30 Years

Aging mezcal is an art in itself. Depending on the aging period, you can experience a range of flavors, from the youthful exuberance of 12 months to the deep complexity of 30 years.

Best type of Mezcal: Choosing the Right One

Mezcal Calories Information, enjoy it with responsability

Remember, there’s no one “best” mezcal. It all comes down to personal preference. Whether it’s a casual gathering or a special occasion, choose the mezcal that suits your taste and the moment. To claim one mezcal as superior to another would be unjust.

In closing, I hope this guide helps you navigate the diverse world of mezcal. Explore, taste, and savor the rich tapestry of flavors that mezcal has to offer. Salud!