What is the difference between mescal and tequila? I’ve seen this question come up countless times. Not entirely wrong: aside from the taste, it’s actually difficult to tell the difference between these two Mexican-origin spirits, as they are made from similar plants. Tequila is also a type of mescal, as “mescal” (from Mexicali, Nahuatl for “schnapps”) is a very general term for agave-based distillates. Confusing isn’t it? But don’t worry: here are some tips to help you distinguish the two high-proof drinks like you had Mexico in your blood.
First difference: the plant
Although both mescal and tequila are made from agaves (also called maguey ), the types of agave used to differ. Tequila is made exclusively from the blue Weber agave (also called Agave Tequilana ), while Mescal can be produced from 160 different types of agave. Some of them are game species that grow in the mountains, such as Agave Tobalá , Madre-Cuixe, Sierra Negra, Tepextate, Jabalí or Coyote, others are more common, such as Espadín(lit. “small sword”), the only agave species that has been successfully cultivated so far.
Second difference: the origin
The famous designation of origin ( denominación de Origen ) is another indication of whether it is mescal or tequila. It shows the place where the agave species used occurs and where the respective distillate may be officially produced and sold.
The states authorized for the production of tequila due to the occurrence of agave tequilana are: Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. The following are approved for the production of mescal: Guanajuato, Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, Puebla and Michoacán. By the way: Oaxaca has the world’s largest variety of agave species and accounts for 80% of Mexican mescal production!
Third difference: the manufacturing
Mescal and tequila are both obtained by boiling the agave interior (also called piña, “pineapple”, or Cabeza , “head”). The difference lies in the type of cooking, fermentation, and distillation: While the agave tequilana is nowadays almost exclusively processed industrially in ovens and distillation systems made of copper and pressure vessels made of stainless steel, the majority of mescal production still comes from traditional underground production Stone ovens, wooden tubs, and sometimes even clay stills. Carts drawn by donkeys or horses are used for transport.
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Fourth difference: the ingredients
In order for mescal to be sold as such, it must consist of 100% agave sugar, while tequila can be mixed with other types of sugar.
Fifth difference: the categories
Mescal distinguishes between the following categories: Joven (“young”), reposado (“rested”, i.e. briefly matured), añejo (“matured”), ancestral (“ancient”), artisanal (“handmade”) and semi-industrial (” semi-industrial “). For tequila: blanco (“white”), joven (“young”), repos ado (“rested”), añejo (“matured”), extraañejo (“extra matured”).
Read about: The most important things in a nutshell:
- Tequila is a type of mescal, so every tequila is a mescal
- It must be made from 100% Blue Weber Agave
- Its forms and mescal must come from certain regions
Tequila and Mescal have a lot to offer in terms of taste. Unfortunately, many of us are somewhat damaged by the ominous Sierra Tequila (of course, there are also many who love and honor it and that is of course completely okay). Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to hear that someone has had too much tequila with lemon and can no longer smell the stuff. Since there wasn’t that much choice in our country, the Sierra had to hold out with the sombrero lid.
Fortunately, we now have the selection for you! With us you can buy mescal and tequila from regional manufacturers in Mexico online. Take a sip and enjoy the passion and craft that goes into these spirits.
For better enjoyment, you will find the most important facts about tequila and mescal here.
Tequila vs. Mescal: The Major Differences
All tequilas are mescals. Mescal, on the other hand, is a spirit made from agave. So tequila is also made from agave. Tequila is just a special type of mescal made exclusively from 100% Blue Weber Agave. Appropriately, this type of plant is also called Agave tequilana.
How nice when something that seems complicated is so uncomplicated after all.
By the way, there are over 30 types of agave that are used to make mescal. What this may be, to be able to call the result mescal, is stipulated by law. There are over 200 species of agave in total. Most of them are not so suitable for the production of mescal or tequila for various reasons.
The agave type is an important characteristic for mescal lovers, as the type used has a significant influence on the taste – just like the grape variety for wine, the bean for coffee or the type of grain for whiskey.
There are agaves that can grow up to 50 years. The care and management of these agaves is a job in itself. Accordingly, there are farmers who deal exclusively with it. By the way, the two most used agave species are Agave Angustifolia and Espadin.
Other differences between mescal and tequila
In addition to the agave variety, tequila must come from certain regions in Mexico: from the state of Jalisco or from isolated areas in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit or Tamaulipas.
Mescal, on the other hand, has to be produced in or around the city of Oaxaca or again in isolated areas of Guerrero, Guanajuato, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Michoacan or Zacatecas. Oaxaca is by far the most important region. About 80% of all mescals come from here.
Mescal and tequila are made from agaves, which must first be cooked. With Tequila, normal above-ground ovens are used for this. Traditional, underground fire pits (palenque) made of volcanic rock are used for mescal. The stones are heated with fire while the agaves lie in the pit for a few days to cook.
There is no difference in the maturation time and the corresponding designation of the distillates. Tequila and Mescal are divided into the following categories, depending on how long they were stored in wooden barrels:
- Blanco: not matured in the barrel or, in exceptional cases, less than 2 months
- Reposado: matured between 2 months and 1 year
- Anejo: aged between 12 and 36 months in wooden barrels
- Extra Anejo: matured in barrel for more than 36 months
Got the taste to determine the differences with your own taste buds? The Huizache Tequila Reposado is great for beginners and more experienced tequila drinkers. It was stored for 3 months in a Californian whiskey barrel and has developed, among other things, very fruity notes and aromas of vanilla and cherry. The awards he has received speak for themselves.
The recommendation for mescal is even easier than for tequila: Mescal Local Destilado con Pechuga has long been a hit in the USA and is slowly conquering our connoisseur hearts in Germany. Mescal Local is made from the well-known type of agave espadin but distilled with apples, peaches, bananas, and oranges – what a stroke of genius. It is 42% vol. Alcohol was very mild and full of fruit aromas.