It looks like the tides are turning in the world of Mexican spirits, as mezcal is clipping at the heels of older brother tequila’s popularity. It comes as no surprise, then, that numerous mezcal brands from across the seven states in which it can be produced are getting in on the act of the smoky spirit, being increasingly found on edgy cocktail bar menus across the world. Here are the eleven Mexican mezcal brands you need in your life.
A relative new comer to the scene, Pensador attributes its difference to the quality of its terroir, and the care of its mezcalero. In contrast to the wide ranges of some brands, Pensador has drawn a variety of flavours into one release by combining two agaves: Espadin and Madrecuishe. The name – meaning “thinker” – is based on the location of the distillery on the Calle Pensamientos, but also serves as a reminder to customers to take it slow and think about what they are drinking. And at 48% ABV it would be dangerous to do anything else!
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Perhaps the Mexican mezcal brand with one of the most effective and on-the-money advertising techniques we’ve ever seen is Ilegal Mezcal (who famously poked fun at Trump), its name being a tongue-in-cheek reference to owner John Rexer’s past smuggling Mexican mezcal across the border into Guatemala. Now the brand offers a range of different mezcals, from a strong joven to a fruity, spicy anejo. Known for distinctly unconventional flavor combinations, this is an established mezcal brand you don’t want to miss.
The brand behind the famous Oaxaca mezcalería of the same name, Los Amantes is a great starter mezcal for those who are worried about the strength of the spirit, given that it offers a slightly lower alcohol volume than many others. Los Amantes has just three mezcals, a joven (with hints of tobacco that combine excellently with its classic mezcal smokiness) and reposado (a far more floral, oaky affair), although don’t let that put you off and finally, anejo – (more aged and arguably tastier) – they’ve most certainly gone for quality over quantity.
Del Maguey is unique in that it’s cleverly marketed itself as a so-called organic, ‘single village’ brand (despite all mezcals being more or less ‘single village’). In layman’s terms, this translates as ‘each Del Maguey blend comes from a different village in Oaxaca’, which ensures an entirely unique flavor across the product range and – unlike their cocktail focused line VIDA – a typically higher alcohol content. Fun fact: The owner of Del Maguey, Ron Cooper, was a key player in the marketing and selling of mezcal beyond the Mexican border.
If Del Maguey has it’s ‘unique’ selling point and Ilegal Mezcal has great, social media-friendly advertising, Alipús surely has some of the most beautiful packaging we’ve ever seen. Elaborately decorated, in a manner that plays into the edgy, underground nature mezcal boasts (or, at least, did boast), Alipús has a wide range of joven mezcals to choose from, with each bottle as exquisitely flavoursome as it is designed. You can find Alipús’ mezcalerías in Condesa or Tlalpan, Mexico City.
Hailing from Oaxaca, as with the majority of the mezcals on this guide, Fidencio offers a range of products made from three different agave plants: Espadín, Tobalá and Madrecuixe. Like Alipús, Fidencio only offers joven mezcals currently, but the true selling point here is the unusual production process. A raw chicken breast is hung above the Fidencio Pechuga mezcal on the third distillation, which, along with some fruit, apparently helps the final flavor. If you don’t like smoky mezcal, Fidencio has the ideal version as its agave isn’t roasted over wood.
A branch of the exceptional Los Danzantes distillery, Los Nahuales brand mezcals runs the gamut from joven to (very limited edition) añejo. In fact, less than 400 bottles of the latter are produced annually. If you enjoy a deeply smoky mezcal, then their joven is a great starting point, but if you’re feeling fancy, try and get your hands on the añejo, which is aged in French oak barrels and offers a richly spiced, woody taste.
The flagship mezcalería/boutique of Nakawé brand mezcal is to be found in Tulum, tucked away on a quaint and atmospheric terrace; that should give you some impression of the small-scale nature of this excellent artisanal mezcal brand. Their aim is to work with the producers, who are located in various parts of the country, in order to market and sell their top-quality products. So, if you want an under-the-radar brand, then this is the one to check out.
Only available as a joven, Sombra is a 45 ABV, quirkily packaged mezcal brand that offers an uncomprimising drinking experience – let’s just say if the smokiness of mezcal isn’t for you, you might want to stay well away from Sombra. However, don’t write it off too quickly, because it also has an oddly creamy character at times. Made only with organically farmed Espadín agave in San Juan, Oaxaca, Sombra is likely to be a brand to keep an eye on in the future.
Pierde Almas is another Mexican mezcal brand that centres its products on the popular Espadín variety of agave, which is revered for its roasting technique. As one of the more established and well-known mezcal brands on this guide, Pierde Almas also has the distinct advantage of offering a larger portfolio of products, and as such you can find a mezcal to suit every taste, from the slightly sweet DoBaDaan to the more out there Mezcal de Conejo or Mezcal de Venado.
With a repertoire of nine elegantly packaged varieties, El Jolgorio brand mezcals are made from a combination of wild and semi-wild agaves, which are then twice distilled and bottled. If you’re really interested in the origin of your mezcal, then take note that El Jolgorio even names the mezcalero (mezcal maker) on the bottle. Try out their single village Mezcal Tobala if you want to push the boat out and experience some really unique flavors.
Mezcales de Leyenda
This is quite possibly the only mezcal brand on our guide which doesn’t source and produce the agave and mezcal solely in Oaxaca, but rather from almost all of the other six states and territories in which it’s produced. In fact, Mezcales de Leyenda source from Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Puebla and even Durango, and will soon be launching Zacatecas mezcal too. Basically, if you want to try a mezcal that’s a little out of the ordinary, consider Mezcales de Leyenda the perfect starting point.
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