If you’re a fan of agave spirits, you’ve probably found yourself wondering about the differences between mezcal and tequila. While both are distilled from agave plants, these beverages have distinct production methods and flavor profiles that set them apart. Let’s explore mezcal vs tequila to help you discover which one suits your palate best. 

Origins and Production: Understanding Mezcal and Tequila

Mezcal and tequila share a long history that dates back to the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The production of agave spirits began with the Aztecs, who created a fermented beverage from the agave plant called pulque. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, distillation was introduced, transforming pulque into what is now known as mezcal. Over time, different regions in Mexico began to develop their own variations of mezcal, leading to the birth of tequila.

Mezcal is predominantly produced in Oaxaca, although it can be made in other regions of Mexico. The rugged terrain and diverse climate of Oaxaca contribute to its unique flavors. Tequila, on the other hand, hails from the state of Jalisco, particularly the town of Tequila and its surrounding areas, with strict regulations dictating its production. The volcanic soil and arid climate of the region are perfect for cultivating blue agave, the only type of agave permitted for tequila production.

Key Differences in Agave Plants Used

The agave variety used is a major factor that sets mezcal and tequila apart. Mezcal can be made from several varieties of agave, including Espadín, Tobalá, and many others, each imparting its unique flavor profile to the spirit. Tequila, however, is much more restrictive in its agave use. It is exclusively produced from blue agave, or Agave tequilana, known for its high sugar content that gives tequila its signature flavor.

Production Processes: How Mezcal and Tequila Are Made

Mezcal and tequila share similar production methods, but there are some key differences that give each spirit its unique character. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process involved:


Both mezcal and tequila start with the harvesting of agave plants. Jimadores, skilled agave farmers, use a tool called a coa to trim the sharp leaves and extract the piñas, the heart of the agave.


Mezcal piñas are traditionally roasted in large, underground pits lined with rocks, imparting the spirit with its signature smoky flavor. Tequila piñas, on the other hand, are often steamed in industrial ovens or autoclaves, which preserves the natural sweetness of the blue agave.

Crushing and Extracting

Once roasted or steamed, the agave is crushed to extract the juices. Mezcal producers often use a traditional method involving a stone wheel called a tahona. Some tequila producers employ the same approach, but most have adopted modern mechanical mills for efficiency.


The extracted agave juice is then fermented, transforming the sugars into alcohol. For mezcal, fermentation often takes place in large wooden vats or open-air tanks with wild yeast, allowing for a wider range of flavors from the environment. Tequila fermentation usually occurs in stainless steel tanks, ensuring consistency and control over the process. 


Both mezcal and tequila undergo distillation, which purifies and concentrates the alcohol. In most cases, these spirits are distilled twice, sometimes more, to achieve the desired alcohol content and flavor. Our Destilado con Cacao, for example, undergoes a third distillation following a four-week maceration with homemade Oaxacan chocolate, imparting rich notes of chocolate into the spirit.

Infographic image of how mezcal and tequila are made

Flavor Profiles: What Sets Them Apart?

Mezcal is known for its smoky, earthy flavor profile, a direct result of the traditional pit-roasting method, where the piñas are infused with the essence of wood and charcoal. Depending on the type of agave used and the region it comes from, you might also detect hints of herbs, spices, or even tropical fruits. 

Tequila offers a different tasting experience. The use of blue agave results in a spirit that’s typically sweeter than mezcal. When you taste tequila, you might notice notes of honey, vanilla, and citrus fruits. Its flavor is generally lighter and more approachable, making it a versatile choice for a variety of cocktails.

Both spirits can be aged in oak barrels, leading to different classifications: joven or blanco, reposado, and añejo. Joven or blanco options are unaged and offer the purest expression of agave, while reposado and añejo varieties, aged for a certain period, gain additional flavors from the wood, such as vanilla, caramel, and spices.

Choosing Your Spirit: Mezcal or Tequila?

So, between mezcal vs tequila, which agave spirit should you choose? Well, it all boils down to your personal preferences and how you plan to enjoy your drink. If you’re drawn to smoky, earthy flavors and want to explore a broader range of aromas, mezcal is the way to go. It’s perfect for sipping neat or mixing into cocktails that can handle its bold personality.

But if you prefer a smoother, sweeter taste and enjoy classic cocktails, such as Margarita, Paloma, or Tequila Sunrise, tequila is a safe bet. Its versatility and easy-drinking nature make it a crowd-pleaser for any occasion.

Tips and Recommendations

    • Start Slow

If you’re new to spirits, start with a quality blanco or joven to get a sense of the pure agave flavor. As you explore further, try reposado and añejo to experience the impact of aging.

    • Sip and Savor 

Take your time and savor each sip. Notice the aromas, the way the flavors develop in your palate, and the lingering finish. Pay attention to how the spirit makes you feel overall.

    • Explore Brands

Each producer has its own unique approach to production, using different agave varieties and fermentation techniques. Try expressions from various brands to find your favorites. 

Elevate your mezcal experience with Palomo. Our award-winning mezcals, crafted with 100% agave and time-honored techniques, deliver a robust, smoky flavor profile that captures the essence of Oaxaca. Each sip is a testament to our unwavering commitment to quality and tradition. So, don’t settle for ordinary. Grab a bottle today! Check out our store locator to find Palomo mezcal near you.