Sorting Mezcal


Any certified mezcal will list the scientific name of the plant using the term Agave, while the common name used by the community and the producer is Maguey. For example, Maguey espadin is Agave angustifolia.
The name Maguey can be used to distinguish local variations of scientifically related plants. For example, in the community of Santa Catarina Minas, Oaxaca, several subspecies of Agave karwinskii grow: Maguey marteño, san martin, san martinero, barril, largo, tobaziche, tripon, madrecuixe, etc. Some of these names may refer to the same agave plant, but different producers have their own slightly different names. Some of these other names are used by manufacturers to describe slight differences in height, width, pencil size and color, where the magic grew, etc. For example, if an agave grows on a certain hill, it can be a marteño, but if it grows near a stream, it can be a san martinero.

Agave .

Agave is the plant used to make Mezcal. For certified mezcal, the agave name refers to the scientific name of the plant. Local names often used in different mezcal communities refer to Maguey. For example, Maguey espadin refers to Agave angustifolia.
While tequila can only be made from one type of agave (Agave tequilana weber), mezcal can be made from any type of agave. While there is no official count of how many different types of agave are currently used in Mezcal, it is generally said that there are more than 40 different varieties of Mezcal. This wider use of agave equates to a wider range of taste, aroma and sensation.

Although Agave angustifolia (Maguey epsadin) is almost always cultivated, most other agave varieties are generally considered wild, semi-cultivated, or semi-wild. Wild agave is scattered throughout Oaxaca and other regions of Mexico. A semi-cultivated or semi-wild agave is usually started from seed or saplings in a nursery, before being planted outdoors or on a hillside estate, which can mimic wild yields. Some cultivars, such as Maguey tobala and mexicano, can also do well when grown in long straight rows, such as Maguey espadin.


Copper utensils. Copper pots and stills are commonly used in the mezcal distillation process. Alcohol molecules have a unique chemical reaction when they come into contact with copper. The interactions found in mezcal's copper derivatives are similar to those found in Scotch whiskey production. For this reason, many Scotch whiskey lovers prefer copper mezcals.
Copper vessels are placed in a masonry base made of clay, rock, and sometimes brick. A closed wood stove is used to heat the distillate. Most copper pots use condenser coils that are immersed in large tanks of cool water.

Clay pot. Clay pot distillation is common in areas such as Santa Catarina Minas and Sola de Vega, Oaxaca. Clay pot creations are smaller than copper pots and are known for providing a soft, colloidal texture with a crisp mouthfeel. Unlike copper pots, clay pots do not use a condenser coil. While the clay pot is still running, steam from the heated distillate in the lower pot rises into the upper chamber. At the top of the upper chamber is a copper plate where cold water is often poured. The vapor condenses at the bottom of the plate and accumulates on the plate in the upper chamber. The plate collects condensate from the column.

Cooling/Refreshing (Refrescador) Refrescador distillation is typical of the area around Miahuatlan, Oaxaca, and has also been adopted by some producers from other regions. It still looks similar to the copper element except that it is surrounded by a stainless steel cylinder. The cylinder is filled with water, allowing the top of the column to cool, which acts as a condenser that sends the alcohol vapor back into the boiler before reheating and leaving it still in the condensing coil. This distillation method essentially allows two distillations to be performed in one pass.

Steel utensils. Steel vessels are not often used in mezcal production. Some larger industries have begun using steel stills to distill mezcal, but this practice is not common in the world of artisanal and traditional mezcal. Larger, more standardized batches can be distilled using steel stills. There are some small-batch mezcals made in steel vessels, but they are rare.