Mérida, Yucatán, (March 16, 2021).- Mezcal is the name of an alcoholic beverage that results from the distillation of plants that we know as magueys or agaves; the word mezcal comes from the Nahuatl word “mexcalli”, which results from the composition of “metl” (agave, maguey) and “ixcali” (cooked).
México is considered the king of these plants, because of the nearly 330 species that exist in the world, 250 are found in our country. Mezcal can be made with different species of agave, the most used is the “espadín” agave (Agave angustifolia), which in 2019 represented 84% of the use of mezcal agaves. There are rarer and highly sought-after species such as the “tobalá” (Agave potatorum), which fortunately is already cultivated and represents 2.3% of use.
The designation of origin for mezcal, which can be produced from any type of agave, was given in 1994, leaving the producing region in the states of Durango, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Tamaulipas and Oaxaca.
In the last 10 years, the state of Oaxaca has produced 90% of the country’s mezcal. The differences between the agave species, as well as the various regional methodologies for its production (mostly artisanal), give mezcal differential notes in its flavor that complement this delicious smoked bouquet.
By the way, tequila being an agave distillate, technically it is a mezcal, which must be obtained only from blue agave (Agave tequilana). This drink was the first Mexican product with a designation of origin (1974) and the producing region was circumscribed to the entire state of Jalisco and part of the states of Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato and Nayarit. It is extremely interesting, as the history of mezcal had the same development as that of tequila, that they went from little appreciated drinks and considered in bad taste to have world renown and a great appreciation for their flavor and originality.
There are currently 1,479 brands of tequila in Mexico, while for 2017 there were 514 brands of mezcal.
Additionally, there are two other mezcals with their own designation of origin, “Raicilla” and “Bacanora”.
The “Raicilla” (denomination of origin in 2019), with a production area in 16 coastal and highland municipalities in Jalisco and Bahía de Banderas in Nayarit, is made from various species of Agave.
For its part, the “Bacanora” (denomination of origin in 2000) is distilled from Agave angustifolia and is produced in 35 municipalities of Sonora.
Sotol is often confused with a mezcal, but this drink is not obtained from agaves but from a nolinácea; but we will drink that story another time.
For now, let’s toast in moderation savoring a tasty mezcal.
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