First things first, let’s get our terminology right. When it comes to talking about tequila and mezcal, it’s important to understand the big difference. In short, mezcal is a spirit distilled from the agave plant. Tequila is the name given to a spirit made from specific agave ingredients and a specific distillation process. This means that all tequila is technically mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. Got it? For another, more familiar comparison, bourbon is to whiskey as tequila is to mezcal.
Another big difference between mezcal and tequila is the delivery method. Where a large percentage of tequila is taken as a shot in combination with a slice of lime and a dose of salt, mezcal can be sipped from a shot glass accompanied by an orange wheel sprinkled with sal de gusano, used as a cocktail ingredient or drank straight.
Whether you’re just starting your journey into the world of mezcal or have loved it for years, we’ve put together a list of the top six mezcal brands for you to enjoy. There are options for newcomers and experienced drinkers alike. Pick your poison and discover the delights of a good mezcal.
1. Ilegal Mezcal Joven
The Ilegal Mezcal Joven is one of Ilegal’s three major mezcal products. It’s un-aged, made from 100% agave and has a full-bodied flavor. It also possesses a light smoke and lingering heat, which makes it a good choice for first time drinkers and a versatile option to be used in cocktails, too. You’ll also notice delightful notes of eucalyptus and mineral aromas which are complemented by additional hints of fresh citrus and green apple. It really is a delight for your senses.
2. Mezcal Union Joven
Made from Espadin and Cirial agaves, this Mezcal Union Joven is the ideal choice for anyone looking for a “regular” Mezcal. Not only is it more budget-friendly than many other offerings, the lighter flavor gives it a fresh taste, which is great for newcomers. In addition, the well-balanced flavor is completed by a mild sweetness. Much of the flavor’s success can be attributed to the four-day agave process used in production. This particular mezcal was also named the winner of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2017.
3. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
BEST FOR COCKTAILS
Branded as a great introduction to mezcal, the Del Maguey Vida Mezcal is a pleasant and budget-friendly choice. It’s hand-crafted, twice-distilled and produced using wood-fired copper stills, which help to bring out the fruity and sweet aromas in the agave. To taste, you’ll notice a range of flavor notes, including honey, vanilla, cinnamon, banana and more. This bottle is the ideal mezcal choice for cocktail lovers as it adds a delicious dose of flavor without overpowering any mixture. Try a Sierra Madre Sunrise and find out for yourself how well mezcal works as a mixer.
4. Casamigos Joven Mezcal
Launched by George Clooney and Rande Gerber, the Casamigos Joven Mezcal is produced in Oaxaca using 100% espadin agaves. The taste is well balanced and elegant with a number of delightful flavors. Whether it’s tamarind, bananas, pomegranate or mango, there’s something in each sip to please your taste buds. Hints of herbal mint, dried oregano and thyme add further depth to the taste. Plus, for an individual touch, each bottle has been crafted by hand using a unique process to ensure no two bottles are exactly the same.
5. Mezcal Vago Elote
The Mezcal Vago Elote is famous for its uniquely intoxicating taste. This is achieved by infusing the mezcal with roasted sweetcorn before distilling it for a third time. This additional distillation also adds to the percentage, giving it 50.1% alcohol content, which is greater than many other mezcals. Taste-wise, the drink delivers a sensory enriching experience with hints of tropical fruits, vanilla, earth, smoke, and, of course, sweetcorn. This mezcal truly has a flavor you won’t forget.
6. Wahaka Joven Ensamble
Wahaka Joven Ensamble may be the most expensive mezcal on our list, but this top shelf bottle is a serial award winner. It doesn’t just taste great, it takes your taste buds on a journey. This popular mezcal uses a mix of espadín, madre cuishe and tobalá agaves, which is why you’ll notice a slight difference in experience while drinking this mezcal versus others. All three agaves add different aspects of taste to give Wahaka Joven Ensamble its characteristic flavor. The Tobalá has a definite floral bouquet, while the madre cuishe provides notes of earth, mineral and citrus. Wahaka Joven Ensamble may be more for your wallet, but it’ll be more for your taste buds, too.
7. El Silencio Mezcal Espadin
El Silencio Mezcal Espadin has a rich, smoky flavor best for those who want something bold and unique. Featuring flavors of roasted figs, slow cooked agave, and sweet potatoes, this mezcal’s subtle bite is sure to add some heat to a fun and adventurous evening. The spiced notes give this mezcal its bold flavor, but its not the only feature to make this mezcal a delicious, sensory experience: with a finish of charred stone fruit and earthy clay, and an aroma of spiced citrus and greens, nothing about this mezcal is bland or boring. And while El Silencio’s mezcal is a tasty way to spice up any cocktail or margarita, it’s also smooth and flavorful enough to enjoy on its own.