What is the difference between Mezcal vs Tequila?

Mezcal magueys from Oaxaca, Mexico with cactus in the background


So, What’s the Diff?

Plants, people.

Tequila comes from blue agave (or maguey) which can take up to seven years to grow before it’s farmed. Mezcal—tequila’s cooler cousin—can be made from over fifty different kinds of agave, Espadín being the most common, which can take almost ten years before it’s good to go.

Some wild-harvested agave, like Tepeztate and Karawinskii, don’t reach maturity for—get this—thirty years before they’re magically turned to mezcal. And in case you were wondering, yes, this is the stuff you generally have to shell out for.

Simply put, tequila is the legal name for one type of mezcal. Both come from different agave plants. 

Sip Like a Mezcalero

First you smell. Then, you swish.

Just like wine, you can pick up all the smoky, woodsy, spicy aromas that can skew anywhere from sweet and mineral-y to sour and acidic—just by taking a big whiff. Swish for a few seconds while you let the vapors escape your nose, swallow, and see what you taste.

Mezcal has a way of heatin’ things up (you can thank the high alcohol content for that), leaving all those deliciously complex flavors tangoing around your tongue.  

Before You Buy

Know your stuff.

Speaking of flavors, as our friends at Mezcaloteca in Oaxaca once said: Never buy reposado, barrel-aged, or anything amber in color. Why? The wood, which actually works to cancel out said complex flavors from above.