Tequila and mezcal both belong to the agave family and are spirits which can only be produced and bottled in Mexico. Although this category is commonly and unfortunately associated with shots and headaches, actually both tequila and mezcal are extremely complex spirits, with subtle flavours which allow its raw ingredients to shine.
Tequila is produced exclusively from a single variety of agave, the Tequilana Weber, or ‘blue agave’, whilst mezcal can be produced from around thirty different varieties of agave. The materials are cooked, crushed, fermented and distilled with many different techniques inbetween. Tequilas are considered ‘puro’ or ‘mixto’ depending on their level of agave content, and Blanco, Plata, Joven, Reposado, Añejo and Extra-Añejo correspond to the length of time maturing in the cask. Expect aromas of lemon, pepper and a fuel-like quality.
Mezcal agave require much longer to reach maturity and be able to be harvested. The most commonly used variety is 'swordfish', both for its aromatic qualities and the fact that it reaches maturity between 6 and 12 years. For mezcal, the agave is cooked in wood-fired ovens, which results in a smoky spirit which is becoming increasingly popular in mixology.