FAQ: Mezcal

FAQ: Mezcal

Holy smoke!! This is cool, hand-crafted stuff!

Forget what you think you know about Mezcal.

What is Mezcal?

Mezcal defined as: “A Mexican alcoholic beverage, 100% maguey, obtained by means of the distillation of juices fermented with Mexican yeasts, whether spontaneous or cultivated, and juices that have been extracted from the mature cooked heads of magueys harvested within the territory included in the Denomination of Origin, Mezcal.”


The following are some of the most important rules regarding Mezcal:

• Mezcal must be made from 100% agave. Agave pines can take 10 years or more to reach maturity and when they do they usually weigh between 25-100 pounds each at harvest. And contrary to popular belief, agave is not in the cactus family. They are actually classified in their own category called Agavaceaeas, which is part of the lily family. As long as it was grown in the Denomination of Origin areas, any species of agave can be used.

• There are 4 Categories of Mezcal: White, Matured in Glass (newest class and very uncommon), Reposado, and Anejo.

• The alcohol by volume must be between 36% to 55%. By the way, the higher the alcohol content is in a particular Mezcal, the less intense the notes will be perceived.

• Label must include: the class, category, species of agave (a recently add rule), and length of aging.

• Unlike tequila, it is prohibited to export Mezcal in bulk form.

How is Artisanal Mezcal made?

To me, premium Mezcal is the very definition of artisanal. It is small production, handcrafted and it follows the same process today that has been used for hundreds of years.

There are basically only 4 things you need to make artisanal Mezcal: agave, water, indigenous yeast and firewood. Keep in mind that this entire process basically happens on a farm, overseen by a Master Mezcalero.

Here's the gist of the production process:

• The pinas, which look like giant pineapples, are cooked in an earthen, underground pit. The pit is usually made about ten feet wide and ten feet deep, and dug out until it is cone shaped down to the bottom.

• The entire pit is then lined with volcanic rock, and a fire is made in the bottom with wood. Variations occur in the smoke notes according to the type of wood, amount used, and size of the ovens.

• As the fire burns the embers heat up the volcanic rocks to the point of ultra-hot. At this point, the pinas are then put into the pit and covered with about a 10-12 inches of soil.

•  This pit “oven” then begins to smoke, cook, slightly char, and caramelize the pinas over a cooking process that takes a few days.

• After the pinas are cooked they are unearthed and removed.

• The agave then needs to be crushed. Traditionally, this is done with a tahonas, which is a horse or donkey pulling a large stone wheel around in a circle. The wheel rolls over and crushes the cooked pinas in the center of a short, round concrete slab.

• The crushed agave is then combined with water, and allowed to ferment. Distillation of artisanal Mezcal can only be done in single, small batches in clay pots or copper stills. No autoclaves or stainless steel are allowed.

See what I mean when I say artisanal?
What is the difference between Mezcal and Tequila?

There are three key differences between Mezcal and Tequila:

• The production process for mezcal is different from tequila which leads to a distinctly smokey and complex flavor profile for mezcal.

• By law, Tequila must be made using only 1 variety of agave which is the Blue Agave.  Mezcal can be produced from more than 30 varieties of agave. However, most are made using only the Agave Espadin which is the most prevalent agave variety found in Oaxaca Mexico (the mecca of Mezcal).

• Mezcal and Tequila are produced in different states within Mexico even though some of these states overlap.


Check out our favorite Mezcals below!


I’ll leave you with a saying in the Mezcal world that goes… “Mezcal is an acquired taste, but a taste worth acquiring.

Eddie Almonte, CS



Ancona's Private Barrel (APB) program rolls on. Our first barrel of 2017 arrives this month! Stay tuned for more info.

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Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal (750)
Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal (750ml)

The village of Chichicapa is two hours south of Oaxaca, separated by a mountain range, only accesible by dirt road. The pueblo elevation is about 7,000 feet. The mezcal produced from Chichicapa has a relatively light nose, yet... Read More

Price:   $86.99
Del Maguey Vida Mezcal (750)
Del Maguey Vida Mezcal (750ml)
Grown Organically 

VIDA de San Luis Del Rio is an artisanal, Organic Mezcal from Del Maguey, at an entry-level price point and broader availability. Launched in 2010, it is highly mixable and has arrived to much anticipated industry acceptance... Read More

Price:   $46.99
El Jolgorio Espadin Mezcal (750)
El Jolgorio Espadin Mezcal (750ml)

Agave Espadin is the most prevalent species of agave in Mexico and reaches maturity earlier (5-10 yrs) than most other agaves. It also grows to be relatively large with a high sugar content, making it perfect for mezcal production.... Read More

Price:   $110.99
El Jolgorio Nuestra Soledad Mezcal La Compania, E Jutla (750)
El Jolgorio Nuestra Soledad Mezcal La Compania, E Jutla (750ml)

"Nuestra Soledad Mezcal is made from 100% Espadin Agave from La Compania, Ejutla. It's bright, refined, and elegant on the palate."
--Producer's Notes

Price:   $62.99
Fidencio Mezcal Clasico (750)
Fidencio Mezcal Clasico (750ml)
Biodynamic Grown Organically 

Organic and Biodynamic
Fidencio Clasico is distilled twice in a traditional, wood fired, simple Alembic. This still is very similar to the stills used in Cognac. After the second distillation, we add a touch of water, and bottle... Read More

Price:   $41.99
Los Nahuales Mezcal Bianco Joven (750)
Los Nahuales Mezcal Bianco Joven (750ml)

Bottled one batch at a time: from delivery of the agaves, it takes a month from delivery to finished mezcal. The mesquite used to roast the agaves gives the mezcal a light smokiness. Fresh, full-bodied, soft, and unusually complex... Read More

Price:   $61.99


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