Just a few weeks ago, Mexico’s Ministry of Economy, Pro Mexico, rolled into town for a pair of events meant to promote mezcals that will soon be available in the U.S. This was all just in time for National Mezcal Day, coming up on October 21. And there are even more lining up, not to mentions the mezcals of Sonora (Bacanora), and the Puerto Vallarta area mescals known as raicilla.
The current mezcal appellation of Origen includes eight states: Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacan, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas. But there is traditional mezcal not recognized by the D.O. being produced in many other places, including Jalisco, Puebla. One of the best mezcals I ever tasted was one from Puebla at the now shuttered Red Fly in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma.
I recommend trying all mezcals, regardless of their origin, because the greatest thing about this lesser known Mexican beverage is its many agave varietals. Yes, varietals—just like wine.
Just a few years ago, the only Mexican mezcal you could find in the U.S. came from Oaxaca. A few U.S. based brands like Del Maguey (which is the brand responsible for putting mezcal on the map here in the United States) produced it as well. But nine times out of 10, it was made from the espadin agave.
There’s still plenty of espadin to quench our thirst for this increasingly popular Mexican spirit, but consider these three brands. Each used a different varietal of the agavaceae family. It's a lesson in plant distinction; expand your consciousness with each sip.
La Niña del Mezcal, agave madrecuixe: this wild, earthy agave has a robust taste. Owner Cecilia Murrietta’s newest entry into the U.S. market is an outstanding sophomore effort, and will arrive in stores once the government actually gets back to work.
Mezcal de Leyenda, agave cupreata: this expression of agave comes from the state of Guerrero, and packs an elegant, mineral quality with a pleasurable heat.
El Silencio, Ensemble, agaves espadin, tobasiche, and mexicano: it’s a smooth Oaxacan blend of succulents that’s ideal for your first time. This one hails from San Baltazar, Oaxaca, by Fausto Zapata.
Find these mezcals and more at finer spirit merchants like K and L Wines.