What Is Mezcal!
Of course, the most basic questions are: What is mezcal? The word mezcal comes from the Nahuatl words 'metl' and 'ixcalli', which taken together mean "oven cooked agave."
The Spaniards were the first to distill cooked Agave, around the 16th Century, although Mezcal was the first spirit distilled. Mezcal is made from the agave plant. The agave is also used to make tequila but in a different process and the Mezcal is made almost exclusively to Oaxaca. The Aztecs had cultivated a certain species of agave plant for juice which they would ferment into what they called pulque.
In order to be called a Mezcal, the spirit must meet certain requirements outlined by COMERCAM, the governing body for mezcal.
And how does it differ from tequila? Both are distillates from the fruit of agave plants. Tequila is a form of mezcal that by law can be produced only in several designated areas centered on the state of Jalisco in western Mexico. It is made from the blue agave, and while the law requires only that tequila be 51 percent agave, all good tequilas are 100 percent blue agave. Mezcal comes from the vicinity of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. While mezcal can be made from any number of varieties of agave, the vast proportion uses the espadin agave. Tequila is mostly produced in factories, but most if not all good mezcals are essentially handmade in small family operations. The agave for tequila is generally roasted in large commercial ovens. For mezcal, the agave is usually roasted in palenques, or rock-lined pits, accounting for its characteristic smokiness.
Put it another way: “Mezcal is to Tequila what Champaign is to Wine” Mezcal is NOT Tequila but all Tequila is Mezcal. Yes to some degree that sounds confusing but maybe elevates Mezcal is the father of Tequila…
While comparisons may give you a sense of where mezcal stands, the only way to really know is to taste a few. For me, the flavors in mezcal are unlike those in any other spirit, especially the commercialized tequila.
More and more no one needs to whisper their feelings about mezcal. Some may feel that Mezcal is so immersed in legend and colorful misrepresentation that it’s a shame to spoil it all with truth. And yet the truth needs to be told (shouted if you like) so that Mezcal can proudly come out of the closet.
Mezcal is one of the world’s great spirits: complex, gorgeous and endlessly intriguing, distinguished like great wines by a strong sense of place. Mezcal is little known, however, and even less understood, but paradoxically has been anointed in the last few years as the Next Big Thing.
Mezcal — good mezcal — is made in minute quantities and is relatively expensive.
Discovering mezcal offers a wonderful opportunity to question our definition of greatness. Mezcal, even more so than its sibling tequila, takes greatness to a new level where flavor rules.
Each of the villages producing Mezcal have a slightly different production method, and the results are highly distinctive.
The big question is how will Mezcal, a spirit that has largely been made on an artisanal scale for local consumption, come to terms with global recognition.
Looks like mezcal is indeed going to be the Next Big Thing? And once the general public has tasted the quality and the uniqueness of RoCa Roadrunner Mezcal it will be the next big thing.
Yes the time is ripe to explore mezcal, not in a haphazard salt-shot-and-lime sort of way, but with care and thought. It may well be that mezcal, even the Roca Roadrunner Mezcal collection, may not appeal to everybody’s taste, but it is and will continue to without a doubt worthy of everyone’s respect.