The 12 Best Mezcals to Buy in 2023

By Gayot Editors

What is Mezcal?

All tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. Tequila might be the most internationally recognized Mexican export, but its country cousin, mezcal, has been passed around at south-of-the-border gatherings for much longer.

Mezcal can be made from several types of agave, and is mainly produced in Oaxaca. Tequila, on the other hand, is made from the blue agave plant, or agave tequilana, and is primarily produced in the state of Jalisco. Modern aficionados seek out mezcal for the staggering array of nuances summoned by variables such as soil, village spring water and the type of agave used.

Some producers, called palenqueros, even include “secret” seasonal items during distillation such as local nuts, plums and the occasional conejo (that is, rabbit). But not worms. The squirmy little caterpillar was a U.S. marketing gimmick introduced back in the 1950s and has since inched its way to obsolescence.

What you will find inside the best mezcales, however, are complex, earthy, rich, smoky aromas and palate-pleasing flavors — sometimes reminiscent of the best peaty Islay whisky — that have made this Mexican staple one of today’s most coveted premium spirits.

> Check out GAYOT’s 4 Mezcal Cocktail Recipes to Make at Home, includes step-by-step video recipe.

1. Benesin Mezcal Añejo-Espadin

Origin: Oaxaca, Mexico
Price: $65 for 750 ml.
ABV: 45%

Roughly translated from the ancient indigenous Zapotec language, tobala means “agave that grows in the shade.”

For modern connoisseurs, it also signifies round notes and a refined palate that define this expression from Benesin. The brainchild of Efrain Nolasco, a former construction worker and native Oaxacan, Benesin uses wild-harvested agave in this certified organic mezcal, which impresses with smoky subtlety and floral notes.

For more information, visit the Benesin official website.

2. Del Maguey Ibérico Mezcal

Del Maguey Ibérico

Origin: Oaxaca, Mexico
Price: $215 for 750 ml.
ABV: 49%

Ron Cooper, Del Maguey’s founder, is recognized by many as the person most responsible for bringing premium mezcal out of the mountains of Oaxaca and into the tumblers of discerning aficionados around the world.

He’s also known for ceaselessly seeking out new interpretations. For Del Maguey’s Ibérico expression, he collaborated with famed Spanish chef José Andrés, whose creative director, Ruben Garcia, suggested Ibérico ham instead of the traditional turkey breast used in “pechuga” mezcal. The result is a sensory symphony that offers a spicy floral nose and wide palate dominated by flavors of smoky caramel and roasted vegetables with a splash of sea foam. Olé!

For more information, visit the Del Maguey official website.

3. Despacio Mezcal

Origin: Oaxaca, Mexico
Price: $65 for 750 ml.
ABV: 45%

100% agave, 100% organic.

Despacio Mezcal is a new brand, created in 2021, but its Maestro Mezcalero comes from a long line of mezcal producers. He has created a smooth mezcal with the right amount of smokiness.

Learn more about it with our exclusive video interviews with founder Juan Morales Esquer and follow their recipes to create mezcal cocktails at home.

For more information and to buy, visit the Despacio Mezcal official website.

Reviewed by Sophie Gayot

4. El Jolgorio Arroqueño Mezcal

El Jolgorio Arroqueno

Origin: Miahuatlán, Mexico
Price: $165 for 750 ml.
ABV: 53.7%

Depending on the flavor profile sought by the mezcalero, some mezcals can pack a high-proof punch — like this 100-plus proof offering made from wild-harvested arroqueño agave.

Still, the sipping is surprisingly smooth, as the arroqueño varietal is known for its silky viscosity. El Jolgorio Arroqueño boasts a Carmen Miranda fruit basket-worth of tropical aromas and flavors that dance deliciously on the palate with notes of juicy roasted agave and mesquite smoke.

For more information, visit the El Jolgorio official website.

5. Hedonistas de la Fe Mezcal “Tepeztate”

Origin: Matatlan, Oaxaca, Mexico
Price: $259.99 for 750 ml.
ABV: 46%

Hedonistas de la Fe is the result of a love affair for mezcal by friends Bhalin Singh and Jim Beaubien. They entered the distilled agave world with the motto of making a mark it on by creating a label with distinctive flavors — not an easy endeavor as the market is already quite crowded. After sampling Gerardo “Kaín” Santiago Hernandez’s liquid work, their minds were set. The fourth-generation mezcalero is now in charge of the distillery producing four deep, nuanced and rich mezcals exclusively for Hedonistas de la Fe. “Kaín,” who was born in Matatlan and raised in the agave fields, is crafting deep, rich and complex mezcals from proprietary and family recipes handed down from four generations. The traditions are kept: hand-made and in small batches according to a 500-year-old heritage; from harvest to distillation, the process is non-mechanized. The agave is toasted in earthen mounds, mashed with a stone wheel, and fermented in traditional open-air wooden vats.

Three varietals are made from wild agave: TOBALA (Agave Potatorum), priced at $98.99; the elegant CUISHE (Agave Karwinskii), $119.99; and the complex TEPEZTATE (Agave Marmorata), priced at $259.99. The cultivated one is the ESPADIN (Agave Angustifolia), $58.99 a bottle. Each varietal embodies unique flavors reflecting the terroir and craftsmanship of the Santiago family recipes.

Since the list is about the “Best Mezcals,” we have chosen the Tepeztate. The agave plant used has 20- to 22-year maturation (hence the price). This is a complex mezcal. Soft and floral vapors, with light smoke and saké, show off in the nose. On the palate, it is creamy and round (reminds us Calvados); the finish is strong and long.

> Check out 3 Mezcal Cocktail Recipes by Hedonistas de la Fe

For more information, visit the Hedonistas de la Fe official website.

Reviewed by Sophie Gayot

6. Los Amantes Añejo Mezcal

Los Amantes Añejo

Origin: Tlacolula, Mexico
Price: $71 for 750 ml.
ABV: 40%

In Spanish, Los Amantes means “the lovers” which is quite appropriate for this much-loved marque.

Traditionally, mezcals are un-aged, but in this expression, the agave is triple-distilled in clay and copper stills, then rested for two years in French and American Oak. This results in a suave, full-bodied spirit showing notes of vanilla, butter and wild florals on the nose. But the palate is where this refined mezcal truly reveals its agile complexity, with balanced flavors of tarragon and other herbs playing nicely with wild honey and caramel. A smooth, woody finish, accented with a touch of market fresh peppers, makes this mezcal worthy of a slow clap.

For more information, visit the Los Amantes official website.

7. Los Danzantes Reposado Mezcal

Origin: Oaxaca, Mexico
Price: $70 for 750 ml.
ABV: 43%

It’s the agave espadín, a close relative of tequila’s Weber agave, that is the workhorse of mezcal production.

In the hands of Los Danzantes, this spiny desert plant is transformed into a rich and smoky spirit that is unique to the Oaxacan highlands. Double-distilled in pot stills after being cooked in stone-lined earthen pits, this reposado — or rested mezcal — is then aged in French oak barrels for a mellow finish. The flavor profile starts with hints of delicious mesquite, but it’s the minerality of the terroir and lingering vanilla of the oak you’ll remember the most.

For more information, visit the Los Danzantes official website.

8. Mezcal Amarás

Mezcal Amarás was founded in 2010 by a group of friends who set out on a journey to honor the agave and Mexico. They created a portfolio of mezcals that are grounded in sustainability “from seed to sip,” and reflect the passion of their farmers and Master Distillers.

For more information, visit the Mezcal Amarás official website.

Mezcal Amarás Cupreata

Origin: Guerrero, Mexico
Price: $60 for 750 ml
ABV: 43%

The Mezcal Amarás Cupreata truly celebrates the agave cupreata. Harvested in the forests of Guerrero, this unique species of wild agave comes to life in the distilling process. Its rich characteristics prevail through complex vegetal flavors that are rooted in herbaceous notes with hints of sweetness.

Mezcal Amarás Espadín Reposado

Origin: Oaxaca, Mexico
Price: $49 for 750 ml
ABV: 40%

The Mezcal Amarás Espadín Reposado can best be characterized as a warm embrace under the Mexican sun. It creates an entry to the world of mezcal with its refined, subtle and smooth artisanal notes that include vanilla and caramel. Its amber tone derives from its maturation process of basking in barrels carved from two different types of oak.

Reviewed by Dirk Smits, GAYOT Wine & Spirits Editor

9. Tosba Pechuga Mezcal

Mezcal Tosba Pechuga

Origin: Oaxaca, Mexico
Price: $94 for 750 ml.
ABV: 46%

A homegrown business overseen by two cousins from Oaxaca’s Sierra Juarez mountains, Tosba was created with the single-minded mission to keep traditional mezcal production alive in the family’s village.

In short, it has succeeded. The pechuga, made from triple-distilled espadín agave, is as traditional as they come, with ingredients like wild pineapple, banana and rice paired with turkey breast to produce an exquisitely full-mouthed expression. Enjoy notes and flavors of almond, bitter chocolate and herbs as you raise your glass and say, “Viva tradición.”

For more information, visit the Mezcal Tosba official website.

10. Mezcales de Leyenda Ancho Maguey Guerrero

Origin: Mexico City, Mexico
Price: $87 for 750 ml.
ABV: 45%

Oaxaca is the heart of mezcal production in Mexico, but surrounding states such as Guerrero are also known for their fine mezcales.

If you’re interested in sampling mezcal from other parts of Mexico and you happen to be an agave purist, then your cup will runneth over for the Mezcales de Leyenda brand. They focus exclusively on unblended, un-aged jovens from small batch producers like Guerrero’s Jose Cienfuegos. Crafted from agave cupreata, this Leyenda is on the macho side, opening with moderate smoke and leather before boldly dominating the palate with chile and straight-no-chaser agave.

For more information, visit the Mezcales de Leyenda official website.

11. Pierde Almas Conejo Mezcal

Origin: Oaxaca, Mexico
Price: $226 for 750 ml.
ABV: 50-52%

The Pierde Almas brand likes to push the limits.

Everything from their bottle labels (made of locally sourced indigenous materials) to the crystalline mezcal inside, is made with a deep appreciation for culture and tradition. That doesn’t mean they can’t up the ante, though. Case in point: their limited edition Conejo, which uses wild rabbit in place of turkey or chicken breast in the distillation process. It’s paired with wild dried fruits and herbs to create a dizzyingly delicious sensory feast that showcases subtle gamey notes to appease your wild side.

For more information, visit the Pierde Almas Instagram account.

12. Santo Mezquila

Origin: Tequila El Viejito, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Price: $69.00 for 750ml
ABV: 40%

Founded in 2019, Santo Mezquila was created by Guy Fieri, the Food Network star and permanent Mayor of Flavortown, and Sammy Hagar, the hard-rocking former Van Halen frontman.

The agave-based spirit is expertly crafted by Juan Eduardo Nunes, the same third-generation master distiller that brought Hagar’s first tequila to market under his Cabo Wabo brand a decade ago. This mix of mezcal and tequila is made of 50% Blue Agave (tequila) and 50% Espadin Agave (Mezcal).

This blend, the first of its kind, is a clear spirit with a honey-like, mildly smoky scent. The palate shows vanilla, almond, honey, pepper and a gentle smoky, slightly salty finish.

For more information, visit the Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar official website.

Reviewed by Dirk Smits, GAYOT Wine & Spirits Editor