Other Notable Mexican Distillates

02. The Three Categories of Mezcal


Categories of Mezcal


The generic classification for mezcal basically allows for highly industrialized, large-scale productions. The agave hearts can be cooked in stone pits, above-ground masonry ovens or autoclaves; crushed by tahona, mill, shredder, continuous mill or diffuser; fermented in wood, concrete or stainless steel tanks; and distilled in a continuous still, copper still or stainless steel column stills.

Mezcal Artisanal

Landing between the most industrial and most traditional, artisanal mezcal might be the most common kind of mezcal production in the industry today (representing 92% of the category in 2018). The classification allows for agave hearts to be cooked in underground stone pit or above-ground masonry oven; crushed by hand, tahona, mills or mechanical shredder; fermented in clay, earth, wood, stone or animal skin; distillation must be over direct fire in copper pot stills, clay pot stills or stainless steel – agave fibers may be included.

Mezcal Ancestral

The most traditional production methods are required to be called ancestral. This represents a very small percentage of the overall industry. Agave hearts must be roasted in pit ovens only; crushed by hand, tahona, Chilean or Egyptian mill; fermented in stone, earth, wood, clay or animal skins; distillation must happen in clay pots over direct fire and may include agave fibers.

STONE PIT — Mezcal has earned a reputation as a smoky” agave spirit thanks to the traditional production technique of cooking agave piñas in stone-lined, underground pits, where the agave comes in direct contact with smoke from hot coals.