Best Mezcals to Buy
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.