Mezcal and tequila are both agave-based spirits, which means that they have much in common. But despite their similar origins, there is plenty that sets them apart and makes each one distinct. In this blog we are going to point out what differentiates these two popular Mexican spirits.
All tequilas are mezcals, but not the other way round.
Tequila is a type of mezcal, much like how scotch and bourbon are types of whiskey. Mezcal is defined as a liquor which is based on agave, a plant which is commonly found in the hot and arid regions of Mexico and other parts of the Americas.
From the agave plant, the flower shoot is cut out and the sap is collected and fermented. Through the process of distillation we end up with the spirit called mezcal. From here, we also end up with tequila, but only if blue agave is used. So tequila is a type of mezcal, but not the reverse. Scotch and bourbon make for a good comparison, as both are types of whiskey.
Mezcal and tequila are made with different kinds of agave
Unlike tequila, Mezcal producers can choose from over 30 varieties of agave, including tobalá, tobaziche, tepeztate, arroqueño and espadín. This last one is the most common agave, making up 90% of all mezcal.
So that’s where the similarities end. Here are the key differences between these two spirits.
Mezcal and Tequila are produced in different regions
Tequila and mezcal mainly come from different regions of Mexico, with some overlap The five main tequila-producing regions in Mexico are: Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas and Jalisco. This last state is the most well known of all of them, and is where the actual town of Tequila can be found.
Mezcal on the other hand is produced in nine different parts of Mexico, including Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacán, Puebla and Oaxaca. Almost 85 percent of all mezcal is made in the last state.
Mezcal and tequila have different distillation processes
Mezcal and tequila are both made from the core of the agave plant, known as the “piña.” Mezcal is cooked inside earthen pits lined with lava rocks and filled with wood and charcoal. They are then distilled in clay pots.
Despite the adaptation of modern methods by some producers, artisanal mezcal makers use traditional methods of mezcal making. This is where mezcal gets its famous smoky quality, which is the one its distinguishing features, setting it apart from tequila and other spirits.
Tequila is produced by steaming the agave inside industrial ovens and then distilling it two or three times in copper pots.
Mezcal and tequila are labelled differently
Mezcal and tequila are aged inside of oak barrels after the distillation process is completed. But both spirits use distinct categories to define the aging.
Mezcals fall into three categories by age, ranging from joven (0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months) and anejo (one year or more).
Tequila also uses three similar categories, instead calling them blanco (0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months) or anejo (1-3 years).