What is the difference between Tequila and Mezcal?
Tequila and Mezcal are two renowned Mexican spirits, each with its own distinct character and unique production methods. While they both originate from the Agave plant, they offer distinct flavours and cultural significance. In this article, we will explore the key differences between Tequila and Mezcal, helping you appreciate and differentiate these two delicious libations.
Similarly to Champagne or Cognac, Tequila has a protected designation of origin. In 1974, the state of Mexico copyrighted the term "Tequila" and made it illegal to bottle and export spirits from outside of specific parts of the country. Tequila is primarily produced in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. In fact, to be called "Tequila," the spirit can only be produced in Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, or Tamaulipas. So even if you follow all of the rules of Tequila making but produce your drink outside of these regions, your spirit will have to be labelled as an ‘Agave Spirit’ or a Mezcal.
Mezcal, on the other hand, is crafted in various regions throughout Mexico. The production of Mezcal is not geographically restricted, which allows for a wider range of flavours and characteristics influenced by the Agave species used and the different local environments.
This means all Tequilas are part of the Mezcal family but not all Mezcals are parts of the Tequila family.
Tequila is typically made from the Blue Weber Agave (Agave Tequilana). This Agave variety imparts a sweet and mild flavour, which is one reason Tequila is often considered smoother and more approachable.
Mezcal can be produced from a variety of Agave species, each contributing distinct flavours to the final product. Whilst traditionally smokey in flavour, the different Agave species can lead to a broader spectrum of taste profiles, including earthy, fruity, floral and mineral.
The production of Tequila follows a more codified process. The Agave hearts (piñas) are typically baked in traditional ovens (Hornos), crushed, and then fermented with specific yeast strains. Tequila is often distilled twice in copper pot stills or column stills, resulting in a cleaner and more refined spirit.
Mezcal production is known for its artisanal and traditional methods. The Agave piñas are roasted in underground pits lined with rocks and filled with wood and charcoal, giving Mezcal its distinctive smoky flavour. It is usually distilled in clay or copper pot stills, giving it a more rustic taste.
Tequila tends to be sweeter and more citrus-forward, with notes of Agave, green pepper, and hints of vanilla. Blanco (unaged) Tequila is particularly crisp and fresh, while Reposado and Añejo versions offer added complexity from ageing in oak barrels.
Mezcal can be smoky and earthy, with flavours ranging from roasted Agave and tropical fruits to herbal and spicy notes. The distinct smokiness sets Mezcal apart and is a key characteristic appreciated by connoisseurs.
Tequila and Mezcal both have a wide range of alcohol content, but Tequila typically has a lower alcohol by volume (ABV) compared to Mezcal. Tequila usually ranges from 38-40% ABV, while Mezcal can vary from 40-50% ABV or even higher.
Tequila and Mezcal are deeply woven into the cultural fabric of Mexico. Tequila is often associated with vibrant fiestas and margaritas, while Mezcal is linked to the mystical and traditional rituals of the indigenous communities that produce it. Both spirits hold a special place in Mexican culture and heritage.
In conclusion, while Tequila and Mezcal share a common origin in the Agave plant, they offer distinct experiences in terms of flavour, production methods, and cultural significance. Whether you are sipping a smooth Tequila or savouring the smoky complexity of Mezcal, both spirits provide a rich taste of Mexico's diverse and rich traditions.
So, the next time you are visiting your favourite bar, you will know exactly what sets these two Agave-based spirits apart and can choose the one that suits your palate and mood. If you wish to get your hands on the best quality Tequila available in the UK, click here to buy Premium 100% Agave Tequila.
Remember to always drink responsibly, and enjoy your Tequila and Mezcal cocktails with moderation.