Other Notable Mexican Distillates

03. The Six Classes of Mezcal

04

Classes of Mezcal

Blanco or Joven

Unaged mezcal

Madurado en Vidrio

This is a classification that means the mezcal was aged in glass vessels for more than 12 months, either buried underground or in a space with little variation in light, temperature and humidity.

Reposado

Mezcal aged between 2 and 12 months.

Añejo

Mezcal aged more than 12 months.

Abocado con

Mezcal producers may include ingredients to add flavor after distillation, such as the herb damiana, orange, mango, el gusano del maguey (the agave worm), and others.

Destilado con

This category covers the mezcal commonly called pechuga, which includes ingredients added during the distillation process to add flavor to the final product. Meats like chicken, turkey, rabbit and deer are common in different regions; in others, fruits and spices are used for seasonal releases (like mole).

Today, Oaxaca is still the most prominent producer of mezcal, making 92% of the country’s commercial mezcal as of 2018. Most mezcal is still made with the espadín variety (over 75% as of 2018), an agave that comes from the Agave angustifolia family. For this reason, most of the literature you’ll find today on mezcal is also about production traditions and trends taking place within Oaxaca, though that’s changing as producers are starting to commercialize mezcal from other states and people are increasingly turning their attention to the quirks and characteristics of these mezcales as well.

A clear bottle of tequila with an agave worm inside.

EL GUSANO — The agave worm is a pest that can infect an agave plant, and can also be found at the bottom of some bottles of mezcal or tequila.