Mezcal and Tequila two very special drinks that have a lot in common and yet are completely different. This is the difference between these two special Mexican drinks.
Tequila and mezcal are two beloved spirits from Mexico that are sometimes confused because of their similar base component: the agave plant! There are certainly some similarities yet there are important differences that determine the unique characteristics of both drinks. In this article, we explore the differences between tequila and mezcal in terms of origins, production processes, and flavor profiles.
Mezcal and Tequila, Origin and Region
Tequila and mezcal differ in their geographic origins and regions of production. Tequila is mainly produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco. There are a few other production areas in Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. Mezcal is produced in many different regions of Mexico. However, the vast majority come from Oaxaca. Both drinks have a Denominación de Origen. Which means they can only be produced in certain regions of Mexico. This is strictly enforced by law.
Basic raw material: the agave
Tequila and mezcal are both made from agave, but the type of agave used is a crucial distinction between the two. Tequila is produced exclusively from the blue agave (Agave tequilana Weber). Mezcal can be made from over 30 types of agave. The most commonly used species is the Espadin agave.
The production process as a big difference
The production process is another important difference between tequila and mezcal. The agave hearts, or piñas, are cooked in above-ground ovens to make tequila. This creates a bright, clean agave flavor.
For mezcal, on the other hand, the piñas are roasted in underground pits. Covered with lava rocks, wood and earth, this results in a distinctive smoky flavour. Both drinks are then fermented and distilled. However, the specific methods and number of distillations may vary.
The differences in production process and type of agave result in strikingly different flavor profiles. Tequila, made from blue agave, often has notes of fruit, agave, and sometimes pepper. This gives a clean, clear taste.
Mezcal, on the other hand, is known for its smoky flavor. This is the result of the roasting process. The flavor is further defined with notes of earth, fruit and other flavors that vary depending on the specific agave variety and production methods.
Both tequila and mezcal have their own classifications. Tequila is classified as Blanco (unripe), Reposado (matured 2-12 months), Añejo (matured 1-3 years), and Extra Añejo (matured more than 3 years). Mezcal has similar classifications: Joven (unripe), Reposado (matured up to 12 months), Añejo (matured 1-3 years), and Extra Añejo (matured more than 3 years).
The differences between mezcal and tequila are as great as the similarities
Both tequila and mezcal are produced from agave plant. Although they have a similar aging process, they offer strikingly different taste experiences. This is because the differences are just as great as the similarities. Major differences are production processes, agave species and geographical origin.
Where tequila offers a bright, clean taste, mezcal presents a deeper, smoky flavor. Discovering these unique spirits can be an exciting journey for spirits enthusiasts. Deepening your knowledge and appreciation of these two iconic Mexican drinks can enrich your drinking experience.
When tasting both tequila and mezcal, it’s important to take the time to appreciate the complexity and nuances of the flavors. As with any spirit, it is recommended to drink them in moderation and enjoy the unique characteristics that each type and style offers.
So, whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur or a newcomer to the world of agave-based spirits, there’s always more to learn and discover. Cheers to the spirit of Mexico – in all its diverse, complex and delicious forms.