Mezcal vs Tequila (Breaking Down the Difference)

-Mezcal vs Tequila-

Tequila and mezcal are both distilled from the harvested core of the agave plant, also known as the “pia.” However, the similarities in production end there. Tequila is typically made by steaming agave in industrial ovens before distilling it twice or three times in copper pots. Read through to answer the question Mezcal vs Tequila.

What is Mezcal?

Mezcal is an agave-based liquor. There are 28 types of agave plants that are used to produce mezcal. In most cases, the agave plant’s heart, also known as the pia, is slow-roasted in a pit in the ground.

The agave hearts are mashed and fermented after they have been roasted. Some mezcal is aged, gaining an amber color and a richer flavor, while others are not.

Mezcal can be produced in any of Mexico’s nine states, but most mezcal shipped to the United States is produced in the state of Oaxaca. If agave is used to make liquor outside of those nine states, it cannot be labeled as mezcal.

What is Tequila?

Tequila is a subcategory of mezcal. They derive it from a single plant: blue agave, also known as agave tequilana. To make tequila, the pias of blue agave is usually roasted or steamed rather than cooked in a pit.

As a result, most tequilas lack the smoky undertones associated with mezcal. After cooking, they mashed the pias and fermented them. Tequila is a liquor that can only be made in certain parts of Mexico.

They produce most tequila in the state of Jalisco. They also produced tequila in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. The flavor of tequila is determined by how long it has been aged.

How are Tequila and Mezcal made?

Tequila and Mezcal are both distilled from the agave plant. Harvesting the agave plant is a labor of love that can take 6 – 10 years.

With its spiky appearance, someone frequently misidentified the agave as a cactus, but it is actually a succulent known as the century plant. Although Tequila and Mezcal are both made from agave, the similarities end there.

They produced tequila from the blue agave plant. Even today, hand farms the agave plant, and it takes generations of ‘know how’ to do so properly.

More Information on How are Tequila and Mezcal made?

They remove the leaves, and the agave’s heart, or “pina,” is used to make tequila. They then steamed the agave in an industrial oven, triggering a chemical reaction within the pia that converts complex carbohydrates into simple fermentable sugars.

The steaming process softens the agave, making the sugar extraction easier. Once cooked, the agave pinas are milled, which means I they crush them to release the liquid inside.

The fermented liquid and converted into alcohol before being distilled two or three times to produce Tequila. They can make mezcal from a wide range of agave plants.

What do Tequila and Mezcal Tastes like?

What do Tequila and Mezcal Taste like?

Tequila’s flavor will vary depending on where they grow the agave and how old the tequila is. Blanco tequilas have an earthy yet sweet flavor and they bottle them soon after distillation.

 Reposado tequila has a softer oak flavor and is more mellow than Blanco. The Anejo Tequila has been there for a long time and has a dark color and a smooth balance of agave and oak flavors.

Mezcal’s flavor, like tequila’s, varies depending on where they grow the agave and the age of the spirit. Mezcal has much more flavor variation than tequila because they make it from only blue agave. 

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Where are Tequila and Mezcal Made?

Despite some similarities, Mezcal and Tequila are produced in different parts of Mexico. They only produced tequila in the Mexican states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Jalisco, where the town of Tequila is located.

They produced mezcal in the following states: Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacán, Puebla, and Oaxaca.

What’s the Difference Between Tequila and Mezcal?

What's the Difference Between Tequila and Mezcal?

If you like Mexican spirits and alcohol, you’ve probably heard of and tried Tequila and its more sophisticated big brother, Mezcal.

They made both traditional Mexican spirits from Agave. These drinks may belong to the same family, but there are some key differences that every spirit connoisseur should know.

Below are the difference between Tequila and Mezcal.

1. Both are Made from the Agave Plant but the Type of Agave Differs

 Tequila technically falls under the umbrella term “mezcal,” because mezcal is simply the name for any agave-based liquor.

According to Food & Wine, they must make tequila from blue agave, whereas they can make mezcal from other types of agave such as tobalá, tobaziche, tepeztate, arroqueo, and espadn.

2. They’re Distilled Differently

Mezcal vs Tequila

Tequila and mezcal are both distilled from the harvested core of the agave plant, also known as the “pia.” However, the similarities in production end there.

They make Tequila by steaming agave in industrial ovens before distilling it twice or three times in copper pots.

They distilled mezcal in clay pots after being cooked in earthen pits lined with lava rocks and filled with wood and charcoal.

While some large-scale mezcal producers have adopted modern methods, artisanal mezcal makers continue to use this more traditional method, which handles the smokiness that is commonly associated with mezcal.

3. They’re Produced in Different Regions

While there is some overlap in geography, tequila and mezcal are primarily produced in different parts of Mexico.

They produce tequila in five states, according to McEvoy: Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Jalisco, where the town of Tequila is located.

They produce Mezcal in nine different regions of Mexico. Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacán, Puebla, and Oaxaca account for up to 85 percent of all mezcal production.

4. They’re Labeled Differently

Following the distillation process, they age both tequila and mezcal in oak barrels. However, the two spirits’ aging categories are defined slightly differently.

Tequila, for example, is available in three varieties: blanco (silver or plato/0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months), and anejo (1-3 years).

They also classified mezcal into three types based on its age: joven (blanco or abacado/0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months), and anejo (at least one year).

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5. They have Completely Different Flavor Profiles

Tequila is more agave-forward, resulting in a liquor that initially tastes semi-earthy and even a little sweet. Depending on the brand, the finished product may have been flavored or aged in oak barrels.

When you want an agave-forward, approachable flavor, use tequila in cocktails and dishes. Explaining flavor in mezcal is a little more difficult.

Most casual mezcal drinkers are familiar with Oaxacan mezcal, which has a woody, almost savory flavor because of the Espadn agave used in its production.

Connoisseurs may also detect floral, fruity, or earthy notes connoisseurs may also detect floral.

6. Price Range 

Tequila and mezcal, like any wine or spirit, can be found at a variety of price points. Because of its more industrial production method, tequila is generally less expensive than mescal.

 Though we don’t recommend going for the lowest rung on the ladder unless you’re looking for a hangover reminiscent of your college party days.

Stick to a price range you’re comfortable with, buy a bottle of each, and start tasting, comparing, and contrasting! You’ll be a Mexican spirits master in no time.

7. Process Of Making Them

Aside from the raw materials, the production of tequila and mezcal is quite different. The agave harvest is the starting point for both productions.

The jimador (harvester) uses a coa to remove the leaves from the plant, leaving only the plant’s pina behind. They then cooked the pinas in large stainless steel ovens called autoclaves for tequila.

The agave is then shredded, fermented, and distilled in copper pots after it has been cooked.

Conclusion 

Mezcal is a liquor made from the agave plant. Making mezcal usually involves smoking agave hearts, so the liquor often has smoky tones. 

Tequila is a specific type of mezcal, made only with the blue agave plant. To make tequila, the plant is usually steamed or baked before fermenting, so tequila doesn’t have the same smoky flavor. 

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