When you think of mezcal, you might picture a smoky, strong spirit, perhaps even confused with tequila. But mezcal is so much more. It’s a drink steeped in tradition, crafted with care, and celebrated for its rich, complex flavors. Unlike tequila, which can only be made from blue agave, mezcal can be made from various types of agave, offering a wider range of taste experiences.

Mezcal is deeply rooted in Mexican culture, particularly in the region of Oaxaca, where it’s often referred to as the Spirit of Oaxaca. The production of this beloved spirit involves centuries-old techniques that are largely artisanal, preserving the essence of the land and the hands that craft it. Its unique heritage is what sets mezcal apart, making it a must-try for any spirit enthusiast.

Curious to learn more? Check out our mezcal guide and explore everything you need to know about the sought-after Spirit of Oaxaca, including how it’s made, why it’s worth adding to your collection, and how to enjoy it to its fullest. And who knows, you might just discover your new favorite drink!

The Heart of Mezcal: Agave

To truly understand mezcal, you need to start with its heart: the agave plant, often called maguey in Mexico. It is the foundation upon which all those amazing flavors are built. The type of agave used significantly impacts the taste and character of the mezcal you drink.

There are over 200 species of agave, but only a fraction are used to make mezcal. Here are some of the most common ones:


The most widely used agave for mezcal production, Espadín accounts for about 90% of all mezcal. It grows relatively quickly and is easy to cultivate. Espadín mezcals typically feature a balanced flavor profile with a mix of sweetness, smokiness, and earthiness.


Known as the king of mezcals, Tobalá is a wild agave that grows in rocky, shaded areas. Its smaller size and low yield make it rarer and more expensive. Tobalá mezcals are highly prized for their complex flavors, with notes of tropical fruit, floral undertones, and a rich, creamy texture.


Arroqueño can take up to 20 years to mature, resulting in a deep, robust flavor. Arroqueño mezcals often have earthy, vegetal notes with hints of spice and a long, smooth finish.


Another wild agave, Tepeztate, can take decades to reach maturity. It grows on steep, rocky cliffs, making it difficult to harvest. The resulting mezcal is known for its intense flavors, often described as herbal, mineral, and smoky.

Infographic image of common types of agave used in mezcal production

From Field to Bottle: The Traditional Mezcal Process

The production of mezcal is a labor of love, an art form passed down through generations. It’s a hands-on, artisanal process that takes time, patience, and a deep respect for tradition. Let’s take a closer look at how mezcal goes from the field to your bottle:

1. Harvesting

The process begins with the careful harvesting of agave plants, which can take anywhere from 8 to 20 years to mature, depending on the variety. The jimadores, skilled agave harvesters, use a tool called a coa to cut away the leaves, revealing the heart of the plant, known as the piña.

2. Roasting

The piñas are then roasted in earthen pits lined with volcanic rocks. The roasting process is what gives mezcal its signature smoky flavor. The piñas are slow-cooked for several days, allowing the sugars to caramelize and develop complex flavors.

3. Crushing

Once roasted, the softened piñas are crushed to extract their juices. Traditionally, it is done using a tahona, a large stone wheel pulled by a horse or mule, but some producers nowadays utilize modern mechanical mills to crush the piñas.

4. Fermentation

The crushed agave pulp is transferred to wooden fermentation tanks, where it’s mixed with water. Natural yeasts present in the environment kickstart the fermentation process, converting the sugars into alcohol, which can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

5. Distillation

After fermentation, the mixture is distilled, typically in copper or clay stills. Most mezcals undergo a double distillation process to refine the spirit and enhance its flavors. The first distillation produces a cloudy liquid known as ordinario, while the second distillation yields the clear, potent mezcal you’re familiar with.

Many producers, however, opt for a third distillation to further refine and elevate the flavor profile. Our Palomo mezcal, particularly the Destilado con Mole, for example, is distilled a third time after a four-week maceration with 30 ingredients, infusing it with rich notes of chiles, peanuts, spices, and herbal aftertaste.

Understanding the Labels: Types of Mezcal

As you browse the shelves of your favorite liquor store, you might encounter different types of mezcals labeled as Joven, Reposado, and Añejo. These classifications refer to how long the mezcal has been aged, which influences the flavor profile of the spirit.

    • Joven

Joven, meaning “young” in Spanish, refers to mezcal that is bottled shortly after distillation. It’s also known as blanco or silver mezcal. Joven mezcals retain the pure, unadulterated flavors of the agave, making it an excellent option for those who want to experience the essence of the spirit in its raw form. 

    • Reposado

Reposado mezcal is aged in wooden barrels or tanks for a period of time, typically between two months and one year. The brief aging period allows the spirit to mellow and develop more complexity. Reposado mezcals often exhibit subtle notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak, along with distinctive agave and smoky undertones.

    • Añejo

Añejo mezcal spends at least a year in oak barrels, resulting in a darker color and more pronounced wood-influenced flavors. The extended aging process brings out caramel, chocolate, and dried fruit notes with a velvety texture that lingers on the palate. If you’re seeking a mezcal with depth and character, it’s the perfect choice for you.

Keep in mind that aging doesn’t necessarily mean better – it simply changes the character of the mezcal. The best way to find your favorite is to try a few different types and see what appeals to your palate.

Embracing the Flavor: How to Enjoy Mezcal

Let’s get one thing straight: mezcal is not tequila. So, ditch the salt and lime. The best way to experience mezcal is to sip it neat at room temperature. Pour yourself a glass of Palomo mezcal, take a moment to appreciate its aroma, and then take a small sip. 

Let the liquid linger on your tongue, allowing the flavors to dance across your palate. Notice the texture, the warmth, and the interplay of sweet, smoky, and earthy notes. Discover new layers of complexity with each sip and savor the experience.

Try Simple Cocktails

While sipping mezcal neat is the way to go, don’t be afraid to experiment with simple cocktails. But keep it simple. Choose cocktail recipes that allow the flavor of mezcal to shine through. A few options include:

These cocktails highlight the smoky, citrusy flavors of mezcal while adding a refreshing twist. 

Get the Best; Get Palomo Mezcal

When it comes to mezcal, quality matters, so don’t settle for anything less than the best. For an authentic experience, choose Palomo mezcal. Every bottle is made with care and passion, using only the finest agave and time-honored production methods passed down through generations. Whether you’re sipping it neat or mixing up a cocktail, Palomo is sure to delight your senses and leave you craving more. Explore our range of exceptional mezcal expressions today and taste the true essence of the Spirit of Oaxaca. Use our convenient store locator to find Palomo mezcal near you.