Maybe you're asking yourself, what is mezcal, anyway?
Mezcal is, tragically, one of the most misunderstood liquors around, likely because of the misleading similarity to its far more popular cousin, tequila. Mezcal, like tequila, is made from agave, a relative of the yucca plant. But while tequila can only come from the Tequila region of Mexico (and can only be made with the Weber/blue agave), mezcal is usually produced in Oaxaca from a variety of different types of agave. The other major difference is how it’s produced, as mezcal distillers slow-roast the agave in pits filled with hot rocks. This method creates mezcal’s signature flavor profile: smoke, stone, oak, and earth. While it can be an acquired taste, for the initiate there’s nothing like a small-batch mezcal served neat. It may also have the fringe benefit of making you appear cultured and mysterious. Obviously if you’re a fan of tequila Mezcal is going to be a natural side step for you. But also, if you’re a scotch drinker and a fan of the complex, smoky flavor profile of Islay’s finest, we highly recommend a foray into the brave new world of mezcal.
In order to properly serve you, the reader, we did the tough work of taste-testing and evaluating some of the best mezcals we could get our hands on. Fear not those on a budget, there’s an option for every price point. Here are our favorites…
El Bujo (From $34.99)
El Bujo mezcal is a little like drinking bottled smoke, and we mean that in the best possible way. It begins with an earthy vegetal taste, but the sweetness and spice of the long finish make this affordable mezcal a true flavor experience meant to be savored.
Montelobos (From $59.99)
The Montelobos master-distiller apparently throws chili peppers into the agave pits to ward off evil spirits. While we like the lore, what we’re really into is the exceptionally smooth and smoky flavor of Montelobos’ mezcal. Its rounded flavor makes it an exceptional entry point for the mezcal-curious, while the surprising notes of anise will keep even the seasoned drinker coming back for more.
Los Amantes Anejo (From $79.99)
Los Amantes, which means “the lovers”, ages their Anejo mezcal for over a year and a half in French oak barrels, imparting a complex and utterly unique flavor with notes of caramel, vanilla, wood, coffee, and even dried fruit. We recommend Los Amantes for the semi-seasoned mezcal drinker -- someone aware of the basics but ready to step up to a new level of sophisticated flavor.
Vago Tobala (From $130)
When you’ve had the rest and you want to experience the best, it’s time to bring out the heavy artillery. That means it’s time to consider Vago Tobala. Distilled in clay pots in Sola de Vega by Tio Rey, Vago Tobala’s cooked agave is hand-mashed in a century-old fermentation vat crafted by Rey’s grandfather. But you’re getting a lot more than a rich history here -- Vago Tobala is a complex and full-bodied mezcal with a mild pine nose and flavors that slowly reveal themselves, building towards a glorious harmony of nutmeg, peat smoke, and cloves. The more you drink Vago Tobala, the more you’ll discover it offers, it’s being serenaded by a mariachi quartet at a private bonfire with Sofia Vergara on a deserted Mayan beach. It’s that good.