Tequila and Mezcal are both spirits based on agave. Their production is a little different to one another and their flavours reflect this. Agave was first cultivated over 8000 years ago to make a fermented drink known as pulque. The Maya, the Aztecs and the Huastecs all enjoyed it, but the first distillery was in the 1500s, in Jalisco. The village later became known as Tequila. There are nearly 300 types of agave.
Mezcal is made from one of 30-odd types of agave in nine different Mexican state; Durango, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas or Zacatecas. The name mezcal is derived from the Nahuatl word for cooked agave. This means that the plant itself can carry different flavours into the drink. The piña of the agave is slow roasted, within a deep fire pit in the ground lined with rock and wood to soften the fibres and create sugars from the starch, whilst gaining its smoky flavours. The plant is then crushed in a giant stone wheel called a tahona before fermentation and distillation. The mezcal may be aged afterwards, though typically less that tequila.
0-2 months: Joven Mezcal
2-12 months: Reposado Mezcal
>12 months Añejo Mezcal
This means the flavours of mezcal can be wide ranging. The species of agave, the location and conditions of the soil and climate of growing, the firepit roasting process and the ageing leads to a large variation. Fruits, floral, or earthy flavours come through with the smoke.
Tequila is a type of mezcal, but it is made from only the blue agave, in the state of Jalisco and four other states. The piña is generally steamed in industrial ovens, autoclaves or diffusers, mashed and fermented, before distillation in copper pots. Tequila may be aged in oak barrels where flavours can really be encouraged to develop. We have written a little more about tequila here and here.
0-2 months: Blanco/Silver Tequila
2-12 months: Reposado Tequila
>12 months Añejo Tequila
We use both, although we do have a real love for Tequila. An amazing tequila is smooth and flavourful, notes of caramel and vanilla come through after the aging process. But we love to play, and make all our drinks with different mezcals that best fit the flavour profile. You can book us for a tasting session or visit us at the market to try some!