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You Guide to Mezcal—And Why Agave Type Matters

Photo by Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg, Getty

Few spirits draw as many parallels with wine as mezcal. Microclimates, varying soil types, plant ripeness, fermentation and distillation techniques, along with the producers’ influence, play immense roles in mezcal production. That’s in addition to the many types of agave used to make mezcal, much like the various grape varieties used in wine.

Imagine a world where all wine was Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the case with tequila, which is but one type of mezcal made exclusively from one variety of Agave tequilana, known as “Weber Azul” or “Blue Agave.” Mezcal, on the other hand, refers to any agave distillate, and can be made anywhere in Mexico, although there are some legal restrictions on which regions can label it as such. More than 20 very different agave varieties are widely used in broader mezcal production.