Mexico/Oaxaca: Don Agave Mezcal Distillery
For many, Oaxaca is associated primarily with mezcal, the rugged brother of the more famous tequila. While tequila is produced mostly in the state of Jalisco and exclusively from the blue agave, mezcal is much more spread out and much more artisanal and varied in nature. Most of mezcal in Mexico is produced in Oaxaca. The word “mezcal” literally means “overcooked agave” – unlike tequila where agave is heated up and then mashed, in mezcal preparation agave is burned on fire and charred before the mashing, hence giving the drink a very smoky and strong taste and flavor. Internationally, mezcal has been recognized as an Appelation of Origin (AO, DO) since 1994. Mezcal is made from over 30 agave species, varieties, and subvarieties, of which only few are grown (like Espadin or Arroqueno) and the rest are wild. Mezcal comes in four main varieties – joven (un-aged), reposado (aged), anejo (aged in barrels for many years) and gusano (with the mezcal worm inside). At the Don Agave Mezcal distillery we got a full A to Z tour of the entire process and the vast agave fields, followed by a very generous tasting.