Mezcal is tequila’s slightly less well-known cousin. To be a true mezcal, the distillers must produce the agave-based spirit in Oaxaca, Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Puebla, or Zacatecas.
Distillers generally make small batches of the spirit, using over 30 varieties of agave.
Mezcal’s name translates to “oven-cooked agave,” reflective of the process used to craft the beverage. As a result, the spirit has a smoky, savory flavor.
Different mezcals are more or less smoky.
We’ve collected the smokiest mezcals, looked at their histories, and provided a tasting guide to help you on your spirit journey.
Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
This mezcal is hand-made in San Luis Del Rio. The spirit uses espadin agave and has a spicy flavor, favoring ginger and cinnamon, with a soft tangerine undertone.
It’s worth noting that it has 42 percent abv, so sip responsibly.
Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal
Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal continues the Del Maguey tradition of supporting distilleries in small villages.
The distillery uses espadin agave harvested in San Baltazar Chichicapa, a little settlement nestled in a low valley.
The twice-distilled spirit is sweet and tastes of dried fruits and almonds. Chocolate and mint flavors round out the profile.
Doña Vega Espadín
Dona Vega dedicates considerable effort to crafting the perfect small-batch mezcal.
The distillery adheres to an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy, using a production method that hearkens back to the 1500s.
They wait until several years after the espadin agave ripens to harvest it.
Late harvesting creates a unique and incomparable sweetness sure to delight mezcal lovers.
The spirit is pleasantly smoky, with hints of white pepper and fruit.
Ilegal Mezcal Anejo
Four generations of mezcaleros contributed their expertise and know-how to Ilegal Mescal’s production.
The distillery uses ripe espadin agave to craft smoky and balanced spirits in Oaxaca’s Santiago Matatlan Valley.
Ilegal ages anejo mezcal in American oak casks for 13 months. The spirit tastes similar to cognac, with hints of maple, clove, and bitter orange.
Dark chocolate rounds out the flavor profile.
Del Maguey Pechuga
Del Maguey Pechuga is a special drinking experience with very particular production needs.
Pechuga uses ingredients that are only in season for a limited time.
Wild mountain apples and plums create pechuga’s distinct, smoky flavor.
The spirit is triple-distilled, with the final distillation occurring through a skinless suspended chicken breast.
Pechuga tastes similar to scotch. The spirit captures the lemon and fruit flavors.
Ilegal Joven Mezcal
Ilegal outdid itself with joven mezcal. The spirit earned the distillery a Double Platinum award from the American Spirit Counsel of Tasters.
Notably, they don’t age the spirit. The full-bodied mezcal has a medium-smoky flavor with eucalyptus and mineral tastes.
Green apples, red chiltepe, and fresh citrus round out the flavor profile.
Mezcal El Silencio Espadín
El Silencio mezcal espadin makes a strong first impression. El Silencio uses pure espadin agave to craft its high-end mezcal.
The spirit is a bit sharper than other mezcals on the list. The distillers produce small batches of the liquor using 10 to 12-year-old agave.
El Silencio mezcal is the perfect cocktail mixer. The spirit is a bit strong for sipping; however, drinkers who savor potent flavors may enjoy El Silencio straight.
Check out mezcal cocktails to make with this bottle!
Montelobos Mezcal Joven
Montelobos produces unique but traditional mezcal using 500-year-old methods.
The distillery focuses on sustainability, working hard to protect the environment and wild wolves.
This mezcal highlights four flavor profiles: green agave, smoke, cooked agave, and wild fermentation. In addition to its smokiness, it also tastes of green maguey and herbs.
To get the most out of this spirit, pair it with artisanal salt.
Alipus San Juan del Rio Mezcal
Don Joel Antonio began Alipus distilling in 1999.
The San Juan Del Rio-based company paired with Joel Antonio Cruz to produce Alipus San Juan del Rio mezcal.
The distiller uses espadin agave to craft the smooth beverage. The mezcal owes its distinct flavor to the red and white soil the agave grows in.
Additionally, Alipus ferments the spirit for a long time to develop the best taste.
The mezcal tastes smoky and a little sweet.
Creyente Mezcal Joven
Creyente uses 100 percent Espadin agave from Oaxaca, Mexico, to craft its incredibly smooth mezcal.
It’s actually a blend of two spirits. The fusion relies on agave harvested in the Sierra Sur and Valles Centrales regions.
The resulting flavor is sweet and smoky, the perfect cocktail mixer.
Banhez pechuga uses unconventional methods to infuse its mezcal with unique and distinct flavors.
Banhez single-distills its spirit through a raw turkey breast in a copper still equipped with a refrescadora.
The foul, paired with indigenous fruits, creates a distinct and unusual flavor.
The mezcal tastes of apple, guava, licorice, and just a hint of turkey.
Mezcal Amarás Espadín Joven
Mezcal Amaras Espadin Joven is a great introduction to the spirit.
Amaras distillers focus heavily on maintaining the environment, growing and harvesting their own agave.
Not only does this process benefit the world at large, but it also creates a distinctly flavored spirit.
The smoky mezcal tastes of herbs and cracked pepper.
El Jolgorio Madrecuixe Mezcal
El jolgorio are multi-purpose festivals held in the mountainous regions of Oaxaca. El Jolgorio Mardrecuixe mezcal is indeed a celebration.
The distillers use maguey Madrecuishe agave to craft the spirit’s distinctive flavor.
The plant has a low-water content and dense core, which lends floral and herbal notes to the flavor profile.
Neta Espadín Mezcal
NETA distillers work closely with local farmers and twelve palenqueros from Miahuatlan, Oaxaca.
Neta means “the real deal,” and the brand delivers with authentic, carefully crafted spirits.
Neta distilled Espadin mezcal in 2015. The company harvested the agave for the small-batch spirit in the nighttime, adding a touch of romance to the tasty beverage.
The smoky mezcal tastes of cinnamon, grapefruit, lemon, and bananas.
Davos Brands acquired Sombra mezcal in 2017. That same year, the distiller became one of the rare brands to own and operate its own palenque.
Sombra uses environmentally sustainable methods to produce its agave.
Additionally, the brand relies on solar-powered millstones to crush the plant instead of depending on donkey labor.
The award-winning mezcal is lightly smoky with sweet, fruity undertones. The spirit is ideal for mixing.
Pierde Almas La Puritita Verda Mezcal
Rodolfo Hernandez produces Pierde Almas La Puritita Verda Mezcal in San Juan del Rio.
The family-run business uses a hands-on approach to mezcal distillation. The company actively works to regrow the agave it uses to make its spirits.
They use Espalon agave to create a distinct flavor. In addition, the spirit is smoky and savory and best enjoyed as a cocktail mixer.
Mezcal Vago Tobala
Vago mezcal began with a love story. Judah Kuper fell in love with his nurse, whose farmer father produced the spirit.
Kuper went into business with his eventual father-in-law, Aquilino Garcia, and Dylan Sloan.
This mezcal is great if you prefer something mild, with a soft, smoky flavor. The spirit tastes subtly of nutmeg and cloves.
- Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
- Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal
- Doña Vega Espadín
- Ilegal Mezcal Anejo
- Del Maguey Pechuga
- Ilegal Joven Mezcal
- Mezcal El Silencio – Espadín
- Montelobos Mezcal Joven
- Alipus San Juan del Rio Mezcal
- Creyente Mezcal Joven
- Banhez Pechuga
- Mezcal Amarás Espadín Joven
- El Jolgorio Madrecuixe Mezcal
- Neta Espadín Mezcal
- Sombra Mezcal
- Pierde Almas La Puritita Verda Mezcal
- Mezcal Vago Tobala
What’s Your Favorite Mezcal?
Try these extra smokey mezcals and tell us what you think!
If you’re on a budget, check out some of the best inexpensive mezcals to try.
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