There’s been a lot of talk about mezcal lately. Frankly, it’s been making us thirsty. So, we sat down and tasted through a few. (First, here’s a brief primer: All tequila is actually mezcal, but mezcal is not tequila. In other words, tequila is mezcal from the region surrounding the town of Tequila, the way Champagne is sparkling wine from Champagne or Cognac is brandy from Cognac. Got it? Here’s another nugget: Most mezcal is made from wild agave, unlike many tequila makers, who plant their agave like vineyards.)
Now, you may have reservations about mezcal because of the smokiness. This is valid, but there’s so much more to this rustic, handmade spirit than that one note. To our (pleasant) surprise, we’ve found that not all mezcals are smoke bombs. Here are five favorites of the moment:
Del Maguey Tobalá: If you know mezcal, you know Del Maguey. The company releases single-village bottlings by small, family producers. Tobalá is one of the rarest, a sweet, spicy spirit with notes of fruit and minerality. Don’t be surprised when a bar charges $30 for a glass — it retails at $125 per bottle.
Los Dazantes Espadín Joven: More savory than smoky, this one is a good beginner mezcal — and not just because it is milder than many offerings, but also for its affordability, at around $50 per bottle.
Mezcales de Leyenda Guerrero: It’s like the desert in a glass. Redolent of sagebrush, it tastes of hot peppers and bananas, with hints of citrus. With everything else going on there, the smoke gets pushed to the background. Buy it for $65.
Los Amantes Reposado: A purist will go for the blanco, but the repo can be good for mezcal virgins. Barrel-aging takes the edge off, imparting cinnamon and spice to the spirit. It’s fruity, but the fruit here is baked. Also about $65.
Pierde Almas Conejo: You’ve probably heard about the mezcals distilled with a chicken breast suspended in the rustic still. Well, this one gets a rabbit instead. Roasted meat flavors come through, with tons of fruitiness, too. Save your pennies for this one: It sells for a whopping $300 a bottle.
Have a favorite mezcal? Let us know in the comments section below!