Last Modified On:
November 16, 2023

Mezcal vs Tequila: What's the Difference?

What's the difference between mezcal and tequila? Our blog post breaks down the distinctions between mezcal vs tequila from the production to aging process.

3 minutes

If you're a fan of agave spirits, you've probably come across the terms mezcal and tequila. While both of these spirits are made from the agave plant, there are key differences between the two that set them apart. In this blog, we'll be exploring the nuances of mezcal vs tequila, and uncovering the unique characteristics that make each spirit special. So, grab your cocktail shaker and get ready to dive into the world of mezcal vs tequila!

Understanding The Agave Spirits

When it comes to agave spirits, mezcal and tequila are the heavyweights of the industry. Mezcal, the maverick of the two, is the OG, with its production dating back centuries. Originating in the state of Oaxaca, mezcal is crafted in small batches by mezcaleros, the skilled producers of mezcal. On the other hand, tequila is the mainstream spirit, associated with the state of Jalisco and produced on an industrial scale.

The Origins of Mezcal and Tequila

Mezcal and tequila both have their roots in the agave plant, but mezcal is the true original. Mezcal production has been a part of Mexican culture for centuries, and the spirit is deeply tied to the traditions of Oaxaca. Tequila, on the other hand, is a relatively new spirit, gaining popularity in the late 19th century. It is named after the town of Tequila, located in the state of Jalisco, where the spirit is predominantly produced.

They are both popular Mexican spirits, but they come from different regions. Tequila is produced in Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas regions of Mexico. On the other hand, mezcal can be made in Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas. The zacatecas state is one of the key regions for mezcal production. While both spirits are made from agave plants and have a smoky flavor profile, mezcal is often considered to be a more complex and artisanal drink due to its unique production process.

The Agave Varieties Used in Tequila vs Mezcal

One of the key differences between mezcal and tequila lies in the types of agave used to produce each spirit. Mezcal showcases the diversity of agave varieties, with producers utilizing agave types such as espadin, tobala, and mezcalero, among others. This variety of agave types contributes to the unique and distinct flavor profiles of mezcal.

On the other hand, tequila is loyal to the blue weber agave, also known as agave tequilana. This is the only variety of agave allowed for tequila production, and it is carefully cultivated and harvested in the tequila-producing regions of Mexico. The blue weber agave gives tequila its signature flavor, and the plant is an integral part of the tequila industry.

How Mezcal and Tequila Are Made?

Now let's take a closer look at the production process of mezcal vs tequila, and how the two spirits are made.

The Unique Making of Mezcal

Mezcal production is an adventure that involves a unique process which is an art form in itself. The journey begins with cooking the agave, which is achieved through an earthen pit oven, giving mezcal its characteristic smoky flavor. Once cooked, the agave is crushed and the juice is extracted, then fermented and distilled to produce mezcal.

Interestingly, each mezcal producer adds their own personal touch, such as the actual name of the mezcalero, resulting in a diverse range of tastes and aromas found in mezcal. With so much variation in production methods and ingredients used, it's no surprise that every bottle of mezcal brings with it a distinct experience for the consumer.

The Traditional Method of Tequila Production

Tequila is a popular spirit that is produced on a larger scale than its cousin, mezcal. The production process involves harvesting the blue agave and cooking it in pressure cookers, which significantly reduces cooking time when compared to the traditional method used in mezcal production. After cooking, it is crushed, fermented, and distilled to create tequila's smooth and mellow flavor profile. Tequila producers have mastered the art of large-scale production, making it a preferred choice for many cocktail enthusiasts.

Difference Between Tequila and Mezcal: The Role of Terroir

Now, let's talk about terroir and how it influences the taste of mezcal vs tequila, and the unique characteristics terroir brings to each spirit.

Terroir Influence on Mezcal's Taste

Terroir, the environmental factors that impact the growth of agave, plays a significant role in the flavor of mezcal. The variety, the production region, and the type of mezcal all contribute to the nuances and complexities of mezcal's taste. Mezcal is known for its notes of smoke, earth, and floral undertones, which are influenced by the terroir of the agave plant.

How Does Terroir Affect Tequila?

While terroir is not as prominent in tequila production, the growing conditions of the blue weber agave can still impact the spirit's flavor and aroma. However, the tequila industry focuses more on the production process and aging techniques to shape the final product, rather than relying heavily on terroir. This is why tequila is often associated with a clean and crisp taste, showcasing the nuances of the blue weber agave.

Aging of Mezcal vs Tequila

Aging is an important process for both mezcal and tequila, and it plays a significant role in developing the flavors and aromas of the spirits. Let's delve into the aging process of mezcal and tequila, and how it affects the taste of each spirit.

Mezcal Aging and Its Effects on Flavor

Aging mezcal is an art, and it adds an extra layer of complexity and richness to the spirit. Mezcal is typically aged in wooden barrels, which impart flavors of caramel and cinnamon, among others. The aging process of mezcal is key to the development of its unique terroir characteristics, and it allows the spirit to mellow and develop a well-rounded and complex palate.

The Impact of Aging on Tequila’s Taste

Similarly, aging is an integral part of tequila production and it brings out the nuances of the blue weber agave. Tequila is aged in barrels, often bourbon barrels, which add notes of vanilla and caramel to the spirit. The aging process of tequila smooths out the spirit, enhances the agave aroma, and allows the spirit to mellow and develop a well-rounded and complex palate. Different aging periods, such as blanco, reposado, and anejo, offer distinct taste profiles and cater to different preferences of tequila enthusiasts.

How Does the Taste of Mezcal Differ from Tequila?

Now, let's compare the tastes of mezcal vs tequila and uncover the key differences between the two spirits: tequila vs mezcal.

Mezcal offers a variety of agave varieties, resulting in diverse and unique tastes. It is known for its smoky and earthy notes, with floral and fruity undertones, which are a testament to the production process and the terroir of the agave plant. Mezcal is an agave spirit with character, making it the spirit of choice for adventurous palates.

Tequila, on the other hand, is characterized by its clean and crisp taste, showcasing the nuances of the blue weber agave. While tequila can also have notes of caramel and vanilla, it is generally milder and smoother compared to mezcal. The production process of real tequila, including the cooking method and distillation, contributes to its distinctive flavor profile. Tequila is the spirit of choice for margarita lovers and is an essential ingredient in many classic and contemporary cocktails.

Is mezcal stronger than tequila?

While both mezcal and tequila are made from the blue weber agave plant, mezcal tends to have a higher alcohol content than tequila. Mezcal typically ranges between 40% to 55% alcohol by volume (ABV), whereas tequila usually falls around 38% to 40% ABV.

However, it's important to note that the strength of the spirit can vary depending on the brand and specific bottling. Ultimately, whether mezcal vs tequila is stronger comes down to the individual product and its production methods.

Cocktail Conclusion

So there you have it, the key differences between tequila and mezcal. From their origins and production processes to the influence of terroir and aging, these spirits offer unique flavors and experiences. Whether you prefer the smoky complexity of Mezcal or the crisp, earthy notes of Tequila, both have a place in your cocktail repertoire. So next time you're at a bar, impress your friends with your knowledge of these spirits and order with confidence. Cheers to exploring the wonderful world of Mezcal vs Tequila! And remember, drink responsibly and savor every sip.